2 million bid farewell to Iran's Rafsanjani

Tehran: Hundreds of thousands of black clad mourners streamed into the streets of Iranian capital Tuesday to pay their final respects to Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a veteran Iranian politician, viewed by many as a pillar of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

A massive mourning ceremony was held for the late cleric at the sprawling grounds of Tehran University.

Rafsanjani, a close aide of founder of the Islamic Republic Imam Ruhollah Khomeini, served as president of the country for two terms and was chairman of the Expediency Council at the time of his death.

President Hassan Rouhani besides government ministers, lawmakers, military top brass as well as a number of foreign ambassadors were present at the funeral prayers which were led by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.

In a funeral procession symbolic of Rafsanjani's amazingly complex persona thousands upon thousands of Iranians of all walks of life were present. According to Kay Armin Serjoie of Time magazine, from devoted revolutionaries to dissidents, from the staunchly pious to those who barely observed the Islamic hijab, from the lower to the affluent middle classes, everyone saw something they respected or cherished in Rafsanjani's six decades in politics.

Rafsanjani, who held a unique place in Iran's political firmament, was buried beside his mentor Imam Khomeini in the sprawling cemetery in downtown Tehran where many of his comrades of the 1979 Islamic revolution are buried.

Ayatollah Rafsanjani was admitted to Shohada Hospital in northern Tehran on Sunday after suffering a heart attack. He passed away later in the day. He was 82.

Iran is observing three days of national mourning in his honor.

Rafsanjani helped establish the Combatant Clergy Association in 1977, which proved fatefully instrumental in the victory of the Islamic Revolution two years later.

He became Iran's first Speaker of Parliament after the Revolution, serving until 1989.

In the same year, he was elected president, in which position he functioned until 1997.

He was also the chairman of the Expediency Council, a position he kept until his demise.

While in power, Rafsanjani advocated better relations with Iran's Arab neighbours. Officials from Turkey, Afghanistan, Bahrain - a country currently at odds with Iran - and even the White House press secretary expressed condolences

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