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Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader

Iranians mourn as former leader Rafsanjani interred

Profile image for By Nasser Karimi and Jon Gambrell
By Nasser Karimi and Jon Gambrell

TEHRAN, Iran — Hundreds of thousands mourned former 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 hourslong 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.