RFL/RE – The funeral of former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is being held in Tehran. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians jammed streets around Tehran University, where Rafsanjani was laying in state on January 10. A national holiday has been declared.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, held prayers over Rafsanjani’s casket. According to state television, Khamenei participated in the ceremony despite his “differences” with Rafsanjani, who was widely considered a reformist moderate.
President Hassan Rohani, parliament speaker Ali Larijani, and his brother, judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, were also among the officials who took part in the events.
Major General Qassem Suleimani, the hard-line conservative leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ foreign-operations division, also attended.
The streets of the capital were festooned with black banners and portraits of Rafsanjani. Fares for public transport were waived.
Some videos posted on social media seem to show mourners chanting slogans in support of former President Mohammad Khatami, a political ally of Rafsanjani who is out of favor with the country’s current leadership, and reformist leader Hossein Musavi.
Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi, both reformist candidates who lost the country’s controversial 2009 presidential election, have been under house arrest since 2011 for their role in postelection protests.
On January 9, U.S. President Obama’s administration issued a statement calling Rafsanjani a “prominent figure throughout the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran” and sending condolences “to his family and loved ones.”
Rafsanjani will be buried in the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the father of the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.