TEHRAN, Iran (Kurdistan24) – A funeral turned into an opportunity to voice dissent on Tuesday as an estimated two million gathered on the streets in the Iranian capital to mourn the death of their former President.
Iran’s ex-president Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, an influential figure in the theocratic government for nearly three decades, died Sunday aged 82 because of a cardiac arrest.
He was one of the founders of the Islamic Republic of Iran, supported by then supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who made him the acting commander-in-chief during the last year of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.
Rafsanjani was president from 1989 to 1997 and established himself as a pragmatic ruthless politician, also known for his immense wealth.
During his elaborate funeral, the hardliners chanted pro-government slogans while others asked for the release of political prisoners and hunger strikers, eyewitness reported.
A group also replaced the usual “Death to America” chants with “Death to Russia,” Iran’s ally in the mass killings in Syria.
Ali Khatami, Iran’s former president and a leader of so-called “reform,” was absent from the funeral.
“Reformists” are also clergies and officials approved by the theocratic government but they are known for championing moderate causes such as the nuclear deal that lifted sanctions in return for limiting the country’s nuclear activities.
Some of the protestors also reportedly chanted about another reformist, Mousavi, who led the green movement in 2009 and has been under house arrest since February 2011.
Iran placed former senior Iranian officials and 2009 presidential election candidates Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, as well as Mousavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, under house arrest without formally charging them with any crimes.
Rafsanjani was criticized by Iranians and the international community for corruption and for killing dissidents.
In 1997, a German court concluded the highest levels of Iran’s political leadership had ordered the killing of four exiled Iranian Kurdish dissidents in Berlin five years earlier.
The main victim who was assassinated in 1991 in Mykonos was then leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) Sadeq Sharafkandi.
His predecessor Abdulrahman Ghassemlou was killed three years earlier in Vienna while negotiating with Iranian agents.
Argentina also accused Rafsanjani and other senior Iranian politicians of complicity in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires where 85 people died.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany