Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a staunch political survivor despite his support for moderates, died on Sunday after suffering a heart attack, at the age of 82.
He was a pivotal figure in the foundation of the Islamic Republic in 1979, and served as President from 1989 to 1997.
He was part of the Expediency Council, Iran’s main political arbitration body which Mr. Rafsanjani chaired.
Mr. Rafsanjani’s death is a huge loss for both reformists and moderates, as he stood as a pillar for the two camps.
Born on August 25, 1934, in the village of Nough in southern Iran into a wealthy family, Rafsanjani studied theology in the holy city of Qom before entering politics in 1963 after Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s police arrested the founder of the Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
A confidant of Khomeini, Mr. Rafsanjani was the Speaker of Parliament for two consecutive terms until Khomeini’s death in 1989. Towards the end of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, his presidency was marked by reconstruction, cautious reform and repairs to Iran’s relations with its Arab neighbours.
But 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 Khomeini.
Serving a maximum of 2 consecutive terms, he supported reformist Mohammad Khatami, who succeeded him as President from 1997 to 2005.
Mr. Rafsanjani was always a member of Iran’s top clerical body, the Assembly of Experts, charged with appointing - and if required dismissing - the country’s supreme leader.