Sunday, January 8, 2017

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani 1934-2017

Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani died on Sunday at the age of 82, a big blow to moderates and reformists deprived now of a most influential supporter in the Islamic establishment.
His pragmatic policies – economic liberalization, better relations with the West and empowering elected bodies - appealed to many Iranians but were despised by hardliners.Few have wielded such influence in modern Iran. But since 2009 Rafsanjani and his family faced political isolation over their support for the opposition movement which lost a disputed election that year to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Rafsanjani headed the Expediency Council, a body which is intended to resolve disputes between the parliament and the Guardian Council. He was also a member of the Assembly of Experts, the clerical body that selects the supreme leader, Iran's most powerful figure. His absence from that debate, whenever it happens, means the chances of a pragmatist emerging as the next supreme leader are reduced. His death ahead of May's presidential elections is a blow to moderate president Hassan Rouhani who allied himself with Rafsanjani to win the 2013 election and went on to resolve Iran's long standoff with the West on the nuclear program.

The soul of the great man of the Revolution, symbol of patience and resistance has gone to Heaven," Rouhani tweeted.
"Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani was taken to hospital after a heart attack and more than an hour long efforts by doctors to revive him were not successful," deputy health minister Mohammad Aghajani was quoted. Rafsanjani's body was taken to Jamaran prayer hall, the famous residence of the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Rohullah Khomeini, where many politicians and religious figures gathered to pay their last respects.
Rafsanjani's belief that reforms would help prolong Iran's Islamic governance contrasted with those of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who fears such changes could hasten its demise. Voicing his condolences, Khamenei said that political differences never overshadowed his nearly 60 years of friendship with Rafsanjani. "Attempts by wicked people who tried to take advantage of our differences of opinion never affected his deep personal warmth towards me," Khamenei said in a statement.
Rafsanjani's funeral will be held in Tehran on Tuesday. Iran has announced three days of mourning including a public holiday on Tuesday, for Rafsanjani, who was president from 1989 to 1997.

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