0540 GMT February 18, 2018
Millions of mourners turned out in the capital Tehran on Tuesday to bid a final farewell to former president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
High-ranking state and military officials, including President Hassan Rouhani, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani and Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani, stood in rows behind Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei who led the funeral prayer for his “old friend, comrade and ally” at University of Tehran.
After the prayer, the Leader sat at Ayatollah Rafsanjani’s coffin for the last farewell. Other dignitaries and family members followed suit.
In his condolence message, Ayatollah Khamenei said Rafsanjani’s “loss is hard and overwhelming”.
Outside the university, mourners flooded Enqelab Avenue as a truck carrying Rafsanjani's casket topped with his white clerical turban inched down the iconic thoroughfare along which black banners and posters showing the two-time president were raised. Some of them read “goodbye old combatant”.
The pallbearers yelled slogans in a show of sympathy and unity with mourners weeping and beating their chests in grief.
Officials said more than 2.5 million people attended the ceremony.
The cortege finally made its way through the throngs to reach the mausoleum of Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini, the late founding father of the Islamic Republic, in the south of Tehran where the body of Ayatollah Rafsanjani was laid to rest.
Popularly known as a “Pillar of the Revolution”, Ayatollah Rafsanjani played a pivotal role in the course of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the ensuing years. He served as president from 1989 to 1997 and had been the chair of the State Expediency Council since he left office.
The ayatollah died on Sunday after suffering a heart attack. Since his passing, condolence messages have poured in both from home and abroad.