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Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani born in 1934 in the city of Rafsanjan, located in central Iran to a family of farmers, he studied theology in the holy city of Qom with Ayatollah Khomeini, whose close follower he became.
Rafsanjani began his political activism in the 1960s and 1970s when he was part of the Islamic student movement opposed to the Western-backed regime of the Shah. He was imprisoned several times under the Shah. He became a trusted aide and friend of Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of the Islamic revolution which toppled the government 1979 and established a new, theocratic regime.
Rafsanjani was a key member of Iran’s Revolutionary Council at the beginning of the new Islamic Republic, together with Mohammad Javad Bahonar, Mohammad Beheshti, Morteza Motahhari, and Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardebili
Mr. Rafsanjani was Majlis speaker from 1980-89. In the last year of the 1980-88 war with Iraq, Ayatollah Khomeini appointed him acting commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He is seen as the main mover behind Iran’s acceptance of the UN Security Council resolution which ended the war.
Rafsanjani is a relatively moderate Iranian cleric who served two terms as president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, from August 17, 1989 to 1997. As president, Mr. Rafsanjani sought to encourage a rapprochement with the West and re-establish Iran as a regional power. His influence in Lebanon helped to bring about the release of Western hostages there in the early 1990s.
Domestically, he has sought to move Iran from the state-controlled economy of the war years to a more market-based system. Rafsanjani was the first president of Iran to step down officially after finishing his term.
In 2000, in the first Parliamentary General Election after the expiration of his two presidential terms, he did candidate himself for the Parliament seat, but was not among the 30 representatives of Tehran successfully elected, as announced by the Ministry of Interior. The Council of Guardians then ruled numerous ballots “void” and was able to get him chosen as the 30th candidate. He became a member of parliament again, but resigned before swearing-in as an MP. He explained his reason as “being able to serve the people better in other posts”.
In 2002, Rafsanjani was appointed and currently is the Chairman of the Expediency Council that arbitrates and resolves legislative disputes and issues between the Parliament (Majlis) and the Council of Guardians and advises the supreme leader on matters of national policy.
In 2005 Rafsanjani again ran for the presidency, but despite support from reformists in the runoff election he lost to Tehran Mayor and conservative candidate Dr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
On 17 July 2009 following the unrests, caused by dispute over the landslide victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi, Rafsanjani publicly addressed the election crisis, freedom of expression and mass arrests during Friday prayer. He argued:
“All of us the establishment, the security forces, police, parliament and even protestors should move within the framework of law… We should open the doors to debates. We should not keep so many people in prison. We should free them to take care of their families. … It is impossible to restore public confidence overnight, but we have to let everyone speak out. … We should have logical and brotherly discussions and our people will make their judgments. … We should let our media write within the framework of the law and we should not impose restrictions on them. … We should let our media even criticize us. Our security forces, our police and other organs have to guarantee such a climate for criticism.”
From a marriage in 1958, Rafsanjani has three sons Mohsen, Mehdi, and Yasser (who was named after Yasser Arafat), and also two daughters Fatemeh and Faezeh. Rafsanjani is one of, if not the richest man in Iran he owns many properties in Iran around the town of Rafsanjan plus he has many connections in Iran’s huge Oil industry, however no solid information regarding his wealth or his business’s in Iran and abroad could be confirmed due to strict Iranian government control of high class members of governments personal information and lack of free uncontrolled independent media.
Rafsanjani has authored a few books; most importantly including a book on Amir Kabir titled Amir Kabir, the Hero of Fighting against Imperialism.
Ayatollah Rafsanjani died on 8 January 2017, following a heart attack in Shohada-ye Tajrish Hospital in north Tehran.