Iran: Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani dies at 82
The pugnacious ayatollah Iran’s former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani died on Saturday at the age of 82. He was a pivotal figure in the foundation of the Islamic republic in 1979 and he continued to shape it.
According to the reports, he was pronounced dead at a hospital in northern Tehran after suffering a heart attack.
He was the fourth president of Iran from August 1989 until August 1997. His presidency is believed to have been a breathing space after the end of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war and was marked by reconstruction, cautious reform and repairs to Iran’s relations with its Arab neighbours.
However, it was also marred by human rights violations, rampant inflation and difficult relations with Europe, not least with Britain after the “death sentence”, or fatwa handed down to writer Salman Rushdie by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the revolution.Later on he also played an important role in the election of the reformist Mohammad Khatami, who succeeded him as president from 1997 to 2005.
Later on, he also played an important role in the election of the reformist Mohammad Khatami, who succeeded him as president from 1997 to 2005. Rafsanjani was thrashed in the 2005 presidential election by hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a conservative backlash.
Rather than retreating from public view because of that humiliation, he remained in the limelight, emerging as a moderate counter-figure to the ultra-hardliners clustered around Ahmadinejad, under whom Iran’s relations with the West plummeted.
Test of his recovery came in the 2013 presidential elections, seen as a confrontation between hardliners and more moderate forces, whom he supported. However, his candidature was controversially rejected on the basis of his age.
Rafsanjani, son of a wealthy pistachio farmer, had impeccable revolutionary credentials: he studied theology in the Shiite clerical nerve center of Qom, was frequently arrested by the shah’s secret police and became an early follower of Khomeini.
While all his offspring have taken positions in public life, his wife Efat Marashi has remained in the shadows. His wife and five children survive him.