Thousands gather in Iran to mourn death of former president Rafsanjani

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The coffin of former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, is carried on a truck surrounded by mourners during his funeral in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Hundreds of thousands mourned the late Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on Tuesday, wailing in grief as his body was interred at a Tehran shrine alongside the leader of the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

CGTN’s Jessica Stone reports.

Thousands gather in Iran to mourn death of former president Rafsanjani

Thousands gather in Iran to mourn death of former president Rafsanjani

Hundreds of thousands mourned the late Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on Tuesday, wailing in grief as his body was interred at a Tehran shrine alongside the leader of the country's 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Rafsanjani’s final resting place near the late Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, reflected his legacy as one of the pillars of Iran’s clerical-dominated political system, as he served in later years as a go-between for hard-liners and reformists.

But even his hours-long funeral highlighted the divisions still at play. Parts of the crowd along his funeral procession at one point chanted in support of opposition leaders under house arrest. Other politicians did not attend the memorial.

Throngs filled main thoroughfares of the capital, with many chanting, beating their chests and wailing in the style of mourning common among Shiite Muslims.

The funeral for Rafsanjani, who died Sunday at age 82 after a heart attack, drew both the elite and ordinary people. Shops and schools were closed in national mourning.

Top government and clerical officials first held a funeral service at Tehran University. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei prayed by Rafsanjani’s casket, as other dignitaries knelt before the coffin on which his white cleric’s turban was placed. Mourners reached out their hands toward the coffin.

Just behind Khamenei was President Hassan Rouhani, whose moderate administration reached the recent nuclear deal with world powers. Rouhani, who is all but certain to run for re-election in May, is viewed as embodying Rafsanjani’s realist vision.

Hard-liners also took part in the ceremony Tuesday, like the head of Iran’s judiciary, Sadeq Larijani, who stood near his moderate brother, parliament speaker Ali Larijani.

Also among them was Qassem Soleimani, a general who heads the Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force, which focuses on foreign operations like the war in Syria.

Both Soleimani and Rafsanjani are from Iran’s southeastern province of Kerman and worked together during the war with Iraq in the 1980s.

“In my opinion, Mr. Hashemi remained the same person from the beginning until the end and held his line in all stages of his life,” Soleimani told state television in a rare public interview. “Nevertheless, Mr. Hashemi sometimes used different tactics.”

Story by The Associated Press


Moshen Milani on Rafsanjani legacy, funeral

CGTN’s Mike Walter interviewed Mohsen Milani on former Iranian president Rafsanjani’s legacy and funeral details. Milani is the executive director of the USF World Center for Strategic and Diplomatic Studies at the University of South Florida.