While Rafsanjani served as the fourth president of Iran from 1989 until 1997, head of the Assembly of Experts from 2007 until 2011, and Chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council from 1989 until his death, he was shaping the reactionary and sectarian tone of contemporary Iranian politics
Rafsanjani was elected chairman of the Iranian parliament in 1980 and served until 1989. He became president of Iranian regime in 1987 as a nominally reformist candidate. His presidency occurred during a particularly trying moment for Iran as its economy reeled from the disastrous Iran-Iraq war.
Yet his often brutal repression of dissenting voices provided a stark contrast with his superficially pro-western policies.
During his tenure as president, Iran executed political dissidents of many stripes. Rafsanjani was the head of parliament during 1988 prison massacres in Iran that claimed the lives of over 30,000 members of the Iranian Mojahiden (PMOI, or MEK), many of whom were re-arrested before being rounded up and hanged over several months.
Regarding the events, he said in 1989:
"God's law prescribes four punishments for them (the Mojahedin). 1-Kill them. 2-Hang them, 3-Cut off their hands and feet 4-Banish them. If we had killed two hundred of them right after the Revolution, their numbers would not have mounted this way. I repeat that according to the Quran, we are determined to destroy all [Mojahedin] who display enmity against Islam".
Rafsanjani ran for a third term as President in 2005 but lost to the more explicitly hardline conservative Mahmoud Ahmadenijad. Later in life he remained influential in Iranian politics, aligning himself with current President In 2006, Argentinian investigators discovered Rafsanjani's direct implication in a 1994 suicide truck bombing on the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people. The act was one of the largest examples of Iran's terrorist attacks committed on foreign soil.
The reports issued by the investigators accused Iran of using the Lebanese Hezbollah, a proxy group, to conduct the attack. They issued arrest warrants for Rafsanjani and other cabinet officials.
While Interpol issued red notices (or arrest warrants) for many of the Iranians involved in the attack, they did not do so for Rafsanjani. Arrest warrants for Rafsanjani and several other Iranian officials remain open in Argentina.
The incident in Argentina was only one of countless terrorist attacks carried out by Iran around the world during Rafsanjani's presidency. Rafsanjani, who also acted as head of the Supreme National Security Council, which oversees Iran's terrorist activities, oversaw the assassination of four Kurdish dissidents in a restaurant in Berlin in 1992. His administration was also found to responsible for the bombing of a tower block in Saudi Arabia in 1996 by the FBI; the attack resulted in the deaths of19 American servicemen.
Rafsanjani was also responsible for a major acceleration in Iran's nuclear programme. Rafsanjani, who believed that nuclear power would preserve the Islamic Republic, increased Iran's cooperation with other nascent nuclear powers, like the People's Republic of North Korea, to achieve his aims.
Iranian political dissidents, who were brutally suppressed and killed by Rafsanjani while he was President, hope that his death would be the removal of a lynchpin holding Iran's government together.
"With the death of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the two pillars and key to the equilibrium of the religious fascism ruling Iran has collapsed and the regime in its entirety is approaching overthrow", said Maryam Rajavi, head of the National Council of the Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
"Over the past 38 years, whether under Khomeini or afterwards, Rafsanjani played a critical role in suppression at home and export of terrorism abroad as well as in the quest to acquire nuclear weapons", she added in a statement.
"Rafsanjani, who had always been the regime’s number two, acted as its balancing factor and played a decisive role in its preservation. Now, the regime will lose its internal and external equilibrium."
Maryam Rajavi's full statement can be found here.