Rare expressions of dissent at former Iranian president’s funeral
Thousands gathered on Tuesday for the funeral of the former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (Atta Kenare/ AFP)
Mourners at the funeral former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on Tuesday chanted the names of opposition leaders in a rare expression of dissent.
Some in the crowds reportedly chanted the slogans “our message is clear: House arrests must end” and “O, Hossein, Mir Hossein”, in reference to reformist and former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi.
Mousavi, who stood as a presidential candidate in 2009, was placed under house arrest in 2011 after he encouraged Iranians to organize demonstrations in support of the Arab Spring uprisings. He is the leader of the pro-reform Green Party.
Others shouted “Long Live Khatami!” referring to former President Mohammed Khatami, another reformist, who was reportedly banned from the event. Khatami, a supporter of Mousavi and the Green movement, has recently had restrictions placed on his movement.
State television apparently attempted to drown out the mourners by turning up the background music. Other reports suggest that the broadcast was interrupted in response to the impromptu protests.
The funeral, which attracted thousands to the Tehran University campus, was hosted by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei, despite recent disagreements between him and the late Rafsanjani. The majority of the politicians in attendance were critical of Rafsanjani’s reformist ideas during his lifetime.
Meanwhile, there were separate reports of anti-Russian slogans being chanted during the event.
The slogans of “death to Russia” and the “Russian embassy is a den of spies” represent an uncommonly daring criticism of the Iranian ally. Iran and Russia are both currently providing political and military support for Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
Many have expressed fears that Rafsanjani’s death will tilt the balance of power towards hard-liners in the country, drowning out reformist voices. The protests yesterday suggest that such a shift would not go without resistance.