Millions of people flooded the streets to mourn ex-president Rafsanjani

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The ceremony of Iran’s late head of state, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani transformed into a rare display of public protest as millions flooded the streets to pay tribute to a man whose passing has upset the country’s political equilibrium.
10 Jan 2017 – The Guardian

In what was thought to be the biggest crowd honouring a politician since the death in 1989 of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iranians from across the political spectrum attended the funeral.

All attempted to claim Rafsanjani, who died on Sunday aged 82, as their own as he was buried alongside Khomeini in a sumptuous shrine in south Tehran.

The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, led the funeral prayers at Tehran University campus as critics and supporters stood behind him, bidding farewell to a man who was considered a pillar of the Islamic republic, a crucial mediator and, more recently, an advocate of political openness and better relations with the west.

But in the streets outside, mourners sympathetic to the opposition and supporters of Iran’s pro-reform Green movement, which was suppressed in bloody unrest in 2009, voiced dissent, chanting in support of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, opposition leaders under house arrest.

A video taken from the funeral that was posted on social networks showed a group of mourners saying “death to Russia”, in unusually strident criticism of the state’s staunch ally. “The Russian embassy is a den of spies,” shouted another group, a chant reminiscent of post-revolutionary tirades previously reserved for the US.

Large numbers of Iranians are critical of their country’s role in the Syrian war, in which it is closely aligned with Moscow, but do not often have a chance to express their views.

Many mourners wore green wristbands, the emblem of the Green movement, and could face reprisals as a result.

Rafsanjani, who died due to heart complications, was Iran’s greatest political survivor and a leading force in its politics.

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