Huge turnout for former Iran President’s funeral

Tehran, Jan 10 (IANS) Hundreds of thousands of Iranians turned out in the capital Tehran as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei led mass prayers at the funeral of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on Tuesday, IRNA news agency reported.

The funeral procession started at 10 a.m. (local time) at Tehran University on Tuesday.

According to an official, the former President will be buried next to late Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini.

Heads of the three branches of the government, senior Iranian military commanders and and a huge number of Iranians from all walks of life attended the ceremony.

Rafsanjani, President from 1989 to 1997, died of a heart attack on Sunday at the age of 82.

He was a close ally of the Father of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Khomeini and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei. Rafsanjani was a veteran cleric, a pillar of the Islamic Revolution and an influential politician, who served in different positions in the post-1979 Islamic Revolution era.

Rafsanjani was a key supporter of President Hassan Rouhani and had backed Iran’s landmark deal with world powers over its nuclear programme.

President Rouhani was reportedly at Rafsanjani’s hospital bedside in Tehran on Sunday where doctors had fought to save him.

“Islam lost a valuable treasure, Iran an outstanding general, the Islamic revolution a courageous flag-bearer and the Islamic system a rare sage,” Rouhani said.

Tributes and condolences came from around the world.

The US State Department described Rafsanjani as a “prominent figure” in Iranian history.

Rafsanjani’s youngest son Yaser, 46, thanked those mourning his father for their “loyalty and kindness”.

“I see scenes of affection that I cannot believe. People’s prayers for our father console our hearts,” he said.

Cuban President Raúl Castro in a message said, “During his political career, Ayatollah Rafsanjani contributed to establishing friendly and closer ties between Iran and Cuba and during his presidency, bilateral cooperation in scientific and trade fields started.”

Meanwhile, Iran’s embassy in Vietnam had opened a memorial book for Rafsanjani to be signed by Vietnamese figures and resident diplomats.

Head of the Unicef office in Hanoi, the Algerian ambassador and Indonesian diplomats were among those who signed the book first.

Vietnam’s former President Truong Tan Sang said that Vietnamese people think of Rafsanjani as the architect of ties between the two countries.