Ayatollah Ali Khameni, the country’s supreme leader wept openly as he recited prayers over the caskets of General Qassem Suleimani and others killed on Friday in Baghdad. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians gathered on Tehran’s streets on Monday to mourn the country’s top general.
Thousands more in various cities around the country held ceremonies for the commander who was killed in a US drone strike, which has heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington dramatically.
The mood on the streets swung between mourning, anger and a desire for retribution. Among the procession, a four-year-old girl led chants of “death to America” and mourners shouted “neither mediation nor surrender” while groups of uniformed security officers and secret service agents weaved their way through the crowds.
Huge crowds of mourners clad in black slowly passed Suleimani’s flag-draped coffin over their heads, and roads across the city were blocked by heavy traffic as the procession made its way toward Azadi Square.
The huge processions to mourn to the former leader of the Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds force mark the first time Iran has honoured an individual with ceremonies in various cities.
Suleimani’s body was flown back to Iran on Sunday, when mourners gathered in Ahvaz and Mashhad. His coffin will be taken to the holy city of Qom before being buried in his hometown of Kerman on Tuesday.
“Have you EVER seen such a sea of humanity in your life?” Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, asked Donald Trump in a tweet. “Do you still want to listen to the clowns advising you on our region? And do you still imagine you can break the will of this great nation?”
State media said millions of people had poured onto the streets of the capital. The crowds shown on television appeared to be the biggest since the 1989 funeral of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic.
Suleimani, who was widely considered one of the most important figures in the Middle East and second only to Khamenei inside Iran, was a decorated veteran of Iran’s eight-year war with Iraq and later the prime architect of Iranian influence abroad. He is seen by many as a national hero who saved the region from Islamic State.
Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of the Hamas authorities in Gaza, made a surprise visit to Tehran for the ceremony, where he described Suleimani in his address as the “martyr of Jerusalem”.
“Many countries owe their existence to [Suleimani]. Syria, Iraq and Yemen would collapse without him,” one elderly man in the crowd said.
“We’re all followers and will follow his way. His mission will be accomplished someday with the liberation of Palestine,” a woman said.
At Suleimani’s funeral, speakers repeatedly told the crowds that the commander’s death would not go unavenged. In a fiery address, Zeinab Suleimani, his daughter, said: “America and Zionism should know that my father’s martyrdom will lead to … a dark day for them and flatten their homes. Crazy Trump, don’t think that everything is over with my father’s martyrdom.” (Source: The Guardian)