Farewell, Commander

January 6, 2020 - 20:59

TEHRAN - Spectacular scenes were witnessed in the packed streets of Tehran on Monday as millions came out to bid a tearful adieu to their beloved commander, Lt. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, and his comrades.

Eyes were moist and hearts were heavy as people marched in unison from Enghelab Square to Azadi Square, two iconic landmarks of Tehran, with the caskets of martyrs draped in their national flags perched atop floral minibusses. 

All the streets connecting to the Enghelab-Azadi stretch were teeming with young and old mourners wearing black dresses and carrying posters and placards of Gen. Soleimani and his long-time aide Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, leader of Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi. 

Both of them played a pivotal role in the disgraceful defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. And both were killed by a rogue regime that has made common cause with groups like ISIS. To keep the pot boiling in the region, both need each other and people like Soleimani and Muhandis are their common enemies.

Millions of people who poured into the streets of Mashhad on Sunday and Tehran on Monday vowed to uphold the principles exemplified by these two revolutionary warriors. They pledged to continue the unfinished mission of the duo free the sacred land of Jerusalem from the illegal occupation of Zionists and offer prayers in Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Interestingly, it was the first time someone was honored with a multi-city funeral ceremony in Iran since the death of the architect of the Islamic Revolution Imam Khomeini. After funeral processions in the Iraqi cities of Kadhimiya, Najaf, and Karbala, the martyrs were taken to Ahvaz, Mashhad, and Tehran. On Tuesday, Gen. Soleimani will be buried at a local cemetery in his hometown Kerman. 

Much has been said and written about the astounding popularity of Gen. Soleimani, also referred to as Haj Qassem, in Iran and the region. For Iranians, he was a national icon, a great symbol of resistance against the arrogant powers of the world, and a loyal servant of the Islamic revolution. 

For the world, he was a shadowy figure who plotted the downfall of ISIS in the region and miraculously escaped multiple assassination bids over the years. Top news magazines in the West featured him on their cover, marveling at his battlefield stratagems and political acumen. World’s most notorious spy agencies had been gunning for him for decades, but he always walked with his head held high. 

For resistance groups in the region, from Palestine to Iraq to Yemen to Syria to Lebanon and elsewhere, he was an irreplaceable asset. At his funeral on Monday, Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas, described him as the martyr of Quds and termed his killing a brutal crime. 

A day before, Hezbollah supremo Sayed Hasan Nasrallah paid glowing tributes to Haj Qassem and hailed his role in crushing ISIS in the region. In a fiery speech broadcast live, he warned that the U.S. would have to face its consequences.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Sayed Ali Khamenei, who shared a special relationship with the slain military commander, has already vowed hard revenge for this dastardly act of war. Iran’s top security body has also given its go-ahead. 

Leading the funeral prayers on Monday morning at Tehran University, the Leader momentarily broke down and his voice choked with tears. Standing behind him in the first row were foreign dignitaries, top Iranian political and military officials and family members of Haj Qassem.

The Leader is known to maintain exemplary composure under most difficult situations but Haj Qassem was no ordinary man, no ordinary soldier. He was in a league of his own. He belonged to all the campaigners of truth and justice, all those who are resisting the hegemonic forces around the world. 

As the Leader remarked, he had conquered the fear of death and wished martyrdom for himself. Whenever there was a mention of martyrs, tears would well up in his eyes. In one of his interviews, he says he envies his fellow soldiers who were martyred and then breaks down. He would ask everyone he met to pray that his ultimate fate is martyrdom. We are a nation of martyrdom, nation of Imam Hussain (as), he would say. 

As the crowd of mourners marched towards Azadi Square today, the anger was evident. Amidst tears and sobs, there were vociferous slogans of revenge for the killing of Haj Qassem. Hey the US, you started it, we will end it, read one of the posters, quoting words of the martyr.  Hard revenge, was written on another poster, quoting words of the Leader. In between slogans of revenge and retaliation, there was a war-cry of sorts: until death, no humiliation.

Iranians took great pride in Haj Qassem the way Lebanese take pride in Hassan Nasrallah, both resistance leaders of repute. In the 34-day war between Hezbollah and Zionists in the summer of 2006, Haj Qassem, on the instructions of the Leader, had played a key role in the defeat of Zionists. Both had been great comrades over the years and both had tremendous respect for each other. So, no surprise why the daughter of Haj Qassem asked her dear uncle to avenge the blood of her father. 

On Monday, before the funeral prayers, she addressed the crowd with the eloquence and courage of her great father. The name of Haj Qassem is now shaking the nests of Zionism, Takfirism and the hegemonic powers, she said. Americans and Zionists should know that my father’s martyrdom will make life a nightmare for them and shatter their spider houses.

Top Iranian political and military officials have also made strong statements over the past few days. Moderate and conservative politicians have closed ranks to form a common front against the enemies. Iran has finally walked out of the nuclear deal. Iraq has voted to expel U.S. forces from the country. Resistance groups in the region have renewed their pledge to confront Americans and Zionists. That’s what Haj Qassem can do even after his death?

Everyone is waiting with bated breath for the vowed retaliation and it will be at the place and time of Iran’s choosing. The blood of Haj Qassem has to be avenged. The tears of the Leader are precious. Those who brought tears to his eyes have to pay its heavy cost. That is the war-cry loud and clear. 

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