Rafsanjani's death is heavy loss for Iran

Iran has declared three days of national mourning due to the death of the former president of Iran Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, making Tuesday a public holiday for his burial.

Rafsanjani has died aged 82 on January 8 due to heart complications at the Shohadaye Tajrish hospital. On Sunday night, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and others visited the hospital to see Rafsanjani one final time before his body was taken to a mosque ahead of burial. His son Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was jailed in 2015 after being convicted of "security offences and financial crimes", was also allowed to visit him.

"The different opinions and interpretations at time in this long period could never entirely break up the friendship between us," Ayatollah Khamenei said.

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was born in 1934 in south-eastern Iran to a family of farmers. He studied theology in the holy city of Qom with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. In the last year of the 1980-88 war with Iraq, Ayatollah Khomeini appointed him acting commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

Rafsanjani was a pivotal figure in the foundation of the Islamic republic in 1979, and served as president from 1989 to 1997.

He was seen as the main mover behind Iran's acceptance of the UN Security Council resolution that ended the war. Rafsanjani was also a key player in the development of Iran's nuclear programme, and recently gave staunch support to the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

A senior research fellow of the Institute for Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Sazhin, speaking with a correspondent of Vestnik Kavkaza, said that Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani's death is a severe psychological loss for the supporters of a more liberal policy of Iran, despite the fact that the ex-president cannot be considered a liberal.

"Rafsanjani was a prominent political figure in Iran, I would call him one of the key figures of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Of course, this man was faithful to the ideals of the Islamic revolution. At the same time, unlike many other Iranian politicians and ayatollahs, he was always pragmatic and understand both the internal and international situation in Iran. Being a president of Iran for 8 years, Rafsanjani has done a lot in terms of economic recovery after the devastating Iran-Iraq war," Vladimir Sazhin noted.

"After moving away from the presidency, he held senior positions in various Islamic structures, being one of Iran's leaders, exerting an active influence on all aspects of Iranian life. He was one of his opponents of the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and did everything possible to ensure that the country actively fitted into the global economy. In recent years, he has taken a more liberal stance. Many of his statements and actions suggest that he welcomed and supported the course of the current President Hassan Rouhani. That is why it is a great loss for Iran," the expert stressed.

Iran will really miss such a strong statesman like Rafsanjani, however, we should not expect radical changes in the current policy of the republic because of this," Vladimir Sazhin concluded.

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