An Iranian politician and founder of the Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah has died as a result of COVID-19, marking the end of another highly influential figure of the Iranian Islamic Revolution‘s old guard.
According to Iranian state media, Ali Akbar Mohtashamipur reportedly succumbed to the respiratory virus after being hospitalised in northern Tehran, at the age of 74.
Having been a student of Ayatollah Khomeini who he accompanied in exile around the world, Mohtashamipur became a key figure in Iran’s revolution that toppled the Shah’s government over 40 years ago.
He then served as Iran’s ambassador to Syria from 1982 to 1986, and then as the Minister of Interior from 1985 to 1989. He also played a major role in founding and forming the Iranian Revolutionary Guards
During his time as ambassador in Damascus, the cleric used his prior experience in the Arab world and his role in forming the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) to facilitate the transfer of Iranian military officials and guard members to Lebanon.
With no ambassador in Beirut at the time and with the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon still in full swing, he founded Hezbollah as a Shia resistance group based in the country and backed by Iran.
In 1984, he lost a hand as a result of an assassination attempt in the form of a bomb hidden in a book, suspected of being planned and carried out by Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad.
Following his roles as an ambassador and Interior Minister, Mohtashamipur then served as an adviser to President Sayyid Mohammad Khatami from 1997 to 1999, largely taking a backseat approach while supporting reformist movements in Iran’s political scene.
Things changed in 2009, though, when he lent his support to Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi – his former boss and the prime minister who he served under as interior minister – in the elections. Following their loss and the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, however, the ‘Green Movement’ took off and protests erupted throughout the country, posing a threat to the government that was then brutally suppressed.
Mousavi was subsequently placed under house arrest, which he remains in until today, while Mohtashamipur retired from public and political life and is reported to have spent most of his remaining years in the Shia holy city of Najaf in Iraq before recently returning to Iran.
The news of Mohtashamipur’s death as a result of coronavirus comes a week after reports circulated online claiming that the head of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, had also contracted the virus and was either dead or in deteriorating health. The group denied those rumours last week, however, saying that Nasrallah is set to give a speech today.