Millions of mourners have thronged the streets in Iran’s southeastern city of Kerman, the hometown of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, to attend a final funeral and burial rituals for the top defense strategist, who was assassinated by the US military during a visit to neighboring Iraq.
The remains of General Soleimani and one of his companions Major General Hossein Pourjafari, who was also martyred in the same US assassination operation, arrived at the Kerman airport, following massive funeral processions in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad, Karbala and Najaf as well as the cities of Ahvaz, Mashhad, Tehran and Qom in Iran.
On Monday in Tehran, the Iranians with extremely massive presence held funeral service to General Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis as well as eight other martyrs. An estimated seven million mourners took part in Monday’s funeral in the capital, according to the Coordination Council for Islamic Propagation.
In the historic event, Iran’s Leader Sayed Ali Khamenei held an unprecedented prayer for the martyrs and made pauses several times as he cried.
The prayer followed hours of the procession of the "sea of people" who arrived from across the country to the capital.
The streets around the University of Tehran were packed by huge mourning crowds holding the Iranian flag and the posters of the general and those assassinated with him by the American strike. They chanted various slogans, from "down with America" and "down with Israel" to "I will kill who killed my brother" and "no compromises, no surrender, we fight against America." The essence of the chants was clear: revenge for the blood of their martyrs.
The bodies after the prayer were marched by the people to the landmark Meydan Azadi, or Freedom Square, of Tehran and then were sent to the holy city of Qom for another service and then to Kerman, the birthplace of the General for a burial service there.
General Soleimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Forces, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a commander in the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), were killed by a terrorist raid ordered by the US President Donald Trump targeting their two-car convoy just outside Baghdad Airport on Friday.
The Axis of Resistance’s epic in Iran and Iraq
Before ceremonies in Iran, the Iraqis on Saturday held huge funeral service in Baghdad. The ceremony for the bodies of General Soleimani, al-Muhandis, and other martyrs of the PMF started from Baghdad and continued as the bodies were sent to the holy city of Karbala where they received tremendous turnout by the people and the Iraqi politicians and leaders. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, Secretary-General of Badr Organization and potential al-Muhandis successor Hadi al-Amiri, as well as the Secretary-General of Sayyed Al-Shohada Brigades Abu Ala’a al-Wilaee, were among the leaders joined the marches.
In Karbala, Sheikh Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalai and Sayed Ahmed al-Safi, both representatives of the grand Shiite cleric Ayatollah Sayyed Ali al-Sistani, joined the procession alongside the masses. The funeral service ended as the bodies of the martyrs arrived in the holy city of Najaf where they were buried near the holy shrine of Imam Ali on Sunday when the Iranian bodies were prepared to be sent to Iran. In Najaf, the top Shiite cleric and scholar Ayatollah Bashir al-Najafi led the prayer for the bodies. Ayatollah Sayyed Mohamad Reza, the son of Sayyed al-Sistani, also joined the historic ceremony.
A funeral service was planned to be held for the bodies in the holy city of Mashhad upon their arrival to Iran. But the plan changed as, according to the Spokesman to the IRGC Major General Ramazan Sharif, the people of Khuzestan in southern Iran as the symbol of the country’s "sacred defense and resistance" called for funeral service to be hosted by the provincial capital Ahwaz, a request approved by the IRGC’s commander Major General Hussein Salami.
The bodies arrived Sunday morning to Ahwaz and were received by hundreds of provincial and national officials who came to honor the martyrs among the big population.
The same epic was repeated in Ahwaz as hundreds of thousands attended the funeral service and chanted "I kill who killed my brother", "O great General, welcome to Ahwaz" to show their respect and honor to General Soleimani.
After a spectacular service, the bodies were flown to Mashhad, where hundreds of thousands of people from across the province and the neighboring provinces arrived to take part. In Mashhad, too, the procession was big and impressive.
The unprecedented epic was created in Tehran, however, as millions joined to honor their national heroes who for years "fought for the oppressed" in the region by standing in the face of the "tyrant" US.
What did General Soleimani’s daughter say?
In Tehran, Zaynab Soleimani, the daughter of the top general, addressed the mourners.
"My Father Hajj Qassem said we will sacrifice our children in the path of velayat [faqih] so that you [Leader] feel not alone. My father bravely fought the enemies in the ship of Ashura [in the right course of helping the oppressed and fighting the oppressors] for over forty years with a great passion for martyrdom. He was a sympathetic father for his children and the children of the whole martyrs. He was the devoted soldier of the velayat. My father was the most generous and passionate husband. He was a brave mujahed and devoted soldier to velayet and found obedience the real condition for allegiance."
She, addressing the Leader, said: "Dear sir, my father’s martyrdom should not bring sadness to your face." Hajj Qassem was the biggest and most strategic man in the enemies’ calculations of power and behavior. In the battle, the love of martyrdom took him to the closest lines with the enemies. His belief in God made the enemies trivial in his view."
Hamas political office head Ismail Haniyeh address in Tehran
Ismail Haniyeh, the political chief of Gaza-based Hamas, also addressed the million procession in Tehran. He said: "we have come from Palestine and land of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) to offer condolences to the Leader of the Islamic Revolution and the Islamic Iran for the martyrdom of General Qassem Soleimani."
He continued: "the crime of the assassination of General Soleimani is expressive of the criminal self and overhearing spirit of the US. The assassination of General Soleimani helps open the Israeli hands in the crimes against Palestine and the assassination of the Palestinian leaders."
Haniyeh added that this horrible crime should be condemned by the whole world and the criminals should be brought to justice. The resistance in Palestine will not be undermined in the face of Zionist and American plots. It continues until the full obliteration of the occupiers.
"Martyr Soleimani devoted his life to support the resistance. He is the martyr of Al-Quds. He backed the resistance that won in Lebanon and in Gaza continues to fight the Zionism project," Haniyeh told the mourners.