Rafsanjani, Iran’s Ex-President Dies Aged 82

He was a staunch supporter of better ties with the West

Iran’s ex-president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani died at the age of 82. He served as the president of Iran from 1989 to 1997 and was a dominant figure in Iranian politics since 1980s. He died of heart attack, according to media reports.

Mr. Rafsanjani ran for the presidency again in 2005 but lost to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He was regarded as a “pragmatic conservative” who was open to improving ties with the West, although he was part of the religious establishment.

He was now heading the Expediency Council which tries to resolve disputes between the parliament and the Guardian Council, but the position had limited overall influence.

Mr. Rafsanjani was disqualified from running for presidency in 2013 by a 12-member council, a dominant force in Iran which interprets Constitution. He had denounced the disqualification, calling it “ignorant,” and added that “I don’t think the country could have been run worse.”

After the incident, Mr. Rafsanjani gave support to the newly elected President Hassan Rouhani who ran his presidential campaign on the slogan “moderation and prudence” which raised suspicion among hardliners. The two had a close relationship, and Mr. Rouhani was reported to be at the Tehran’s Shohada Hospital shortly before the death was announced. There were also reports that people gathered at the hospital after the announcement.

After losing the election of 2005, Mr. Rafsanjani became an active critic of the then elected President Ahmadinejad. He also sided with reformers who disputed the election results of 2009, but Ahmadinejad was successful in winning a second term.

Mr. Rafsanjani was vocal in demanding the release of political prisoners and also demanded more political freedom for political parties that work within the constitution.

Mr. Rafsanjani’s family made headlines, when his daughter, Faezeh Hashemi met Bahai religious minority leader last year, the group is considered as a heretical sect by Iran’s leadership. The meeting was met with intense criticism by the hardliners. His son, Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani was jailed in 2015 after being convicted of “security offenses and financial crimes.”

Akbar Rafsanjani was born in south-eastern Iran in 1934 to a family of farmers. He studied theology with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini – who led the Iranian Islamic Revolution in 1979. He was appointed as the acting commander-in-chief during the last years of 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war by the Supreme Leader.  He played a significant part in the acceptance of UN Security Council resolution which ended the war, and he was also seen as a key player in the development of Iran’s nuclear program.

He was well known for his quick-witted personality, but he could also be ruthless at times.

He strongly advocated improvement in infrastructure, encouraged private businesses, and supported progressive economic policies. His own business holdings had been widespread.

The announcement on Sunday by Iran’s state-run network Irinn on Sunday stated that:

“Mr. Rafsanjani had passed away after a lifetime of fighting and constant efforts in line with fulfilling the goals of Islam and the revolution”.