If you watched last week's news, you may have seen pictures of Qassem Soleimani's funeral. The "huge" crowds surrounding his coffin seemed to give credence to repeated allegations about the commander of the terrorist force Quds of Iran. For his role in fighting a wide variety of "enemies" of the Iranian regime, he was allegedly regarded as something that it approached a sense of worship. Supreme leader Ali Khamenei wept openly at the ceremony, amid vengeance vows that he insisted would be supported by the Iranian people.
But if you got on Twitter while the funeral was in progress, you may have found a very different narrative about the Quds Force commander and the impact of his death. There, hundreds of thousands of people tweeted using the hashtag #IraniansDetestSoleimani. Many posts included descriptions of the carnage he performed, both in his home country and in the wider region. And in a repeat of eyewitness testimony about the recent protests against the government, many of the verbal accounts were supported by images.
In the last two months alone, more than 1,500 Iranians have been killed at the hands of state suppressive security forces, mainly the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The tactics exposed in these killings were remarkably similar to those used against Iraqi protesters from mid-October. It was around this time that Soleimani was dispatched to Baghdad to help postpone demonstrations that began to clearly target Iran's influence on the Iraqi government.
In both Iraq and Iran, human rights groups determined that suppressing forces used royal ammunition and fired to kill. In Iran, more than 4,000 protesters were also injured and 12,000 arrested. The death toll could still rise as prisoners face explicit death penalty threats for their role in encouraging popular dissent. The scale of ongoing repression will no doubt be commensurate with the extent of IRGC involvement. Hardline paramilitaries – such as the IRGC – and the judiciary are the regime's preferred tools to crush popular dissent and silence pro-democracy voices.
All of this remains in the minds of the Iranian people, even when Soleimani is rested. Indeed, as the Twitter discussion indicates, his death can only bring greater attention to the brutality still being visited by Iranian activists nearly two months after the nationwide protests began. As leader of IRGC's foreign special operations division, Soleimani was a tough line par excellence. And by extension, he was a symbol of the worst impulses of the Iranian regime, both at home and abroad.
As perhaps the most revered figure within the IRGC, their activities across Iran's borders have been an inspiration to those whose fanaticism has made them committed to ending dissent at home as well.
Explaining this month's drone attack, the White House noted that Soleimani had blood on his hands for the deaths of hundreds of Americans in Iraq, as well as Iraqi security forces and several other victims of Iran-backed terrorism. It may be added that he is also somehow responsible for the deaths of numerous Iranians – and the Iranian people know this better than anyone.
So despite anything you may have seen on television this week, ordinary Iranians are not mourning Soleimani. To the extent that they were present on the streets of Tehran during their funeral, it was largely because the regime is masterful in managing public demonstrations and shaping a propaganda narrative around them. They, like other dictatorships in history, have done this countless times in the past, often in the form of counter-protests arising in support of the theocratic system after several groups of popular protesters called for its downfall.
These feigned counter-protests were, of course, seen in the midst of the revolt that began on November 15. The first week of this uprising was virtually a blind spot in international reports as the government and authorities in Iran cut off all Internet access to prevent the spread of objective information. But once connectivity was restored, state media rushed to portray protesters as outperforming the voices of "protesters" and "bandits."
Even so, demonstrations against the regime went on for weeks, and it would be premature to say that order was fully restored. Indeed, regime officials remain fearful of resurgent protests as they arrest and threaten the families of the dead by their suppressive security forces since November 15, warning them against holding public memorials that could turn into meeting points for new expressions. of anger and dissent against the clerical regime.
Suleimani's funeral is a mirror image of those funerals that were never allowed to happen. Tehran is doing everything possible to increase its media coverage. Authorities have provided absurd estimates of a crowd size in the millions, hoping that this event will be seen as a meeting place. But anti-Western sentiment will not arise following Soleimani's death, because the truth is that the Iranians hated him and all that he stood for.
To the extent that Iranians can freely access the Internet today, many are telling the truth online about the Quds Force commander. The truth is revealed by exiled Iranians and members of pro-democracy opposition groups such as Iran's Mojahedin People's Organization (PMOI-MEK) and the broader opposition coalition, Iran's National Resistance Council (NCRI). These people will gladly tell the world about Qassem Soleimani's crimes and how they have damaged Iran and the Middle East as a whole.
But you don't see that feeling on television broadcasts from the streets of Iran. There, the flow of information is tightly controlled, procedures are closely managed, and people are afraid to speak. It may seem that these people were in mourning last week. But with rare exceptions, they were at the place of Soleimani's funeral under duress. And when it was over, they just went home.
The protests against the regime in Iran last weekend reflect the genuine attitudes of the Iranian people. These protests are a continuation of those beginning in November and continuing until December, repeatedly reforming in the face of severe repression and 1,500 deaths. Iranians may not be willing to risk their lives to participate in a state-mandated memorial service, but they will do so to gather another day and repudiate what this dead terrorist represents.
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. (tagsToTranslate) qassem soleimani (t) martyr's funeral (t) CONFLICT BETWEEN IRAN AND US (t) Tehran (t) Ali Khamenei (t) Donald Trump