Among the mourners who attended the funeral of Qassem Soleimani in Tehran, I saw many odd presences. There were political figures who had earned a reputation for their generally critical voices. There were migrant families, most likely undocumented. There were boys with hip-hop T-shirts. There were girls who didn’t conform to proper Islamic dress code. There were southerners who had traveled over a thousand kilometers in order not to miss a last farewell. There were senior citizens on wheelchairs for whom the whole ceremony, in its hectic rhythm, could be overwhelming, as well as infants who wondered what was happening.
There was a secular Iraqi fighter, Abbas, who had joined the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces when Daesh killed his nieces in Mosul. And then, there was Elias.
His appearance didn’t make him stand out, but his background certainly did, albeit only to those who knew him. A U.S.-born Iranian Jew, well into his forties, almost entirely oblivious to nuances of sociopolitical matters, which usually serve to divide people in one of the most complicated contemporary theatres of human contention, the Middle East, he had found a comfortable watch post along the road preset for paying a collective respect to the late general.
“What are you doing here?” I asked him.
“What everybody else is doing.”
“Honoring one of the few people whom I have ever found worthy of admiration.”
“You are known to have set a world record in ignorance about politics, Elias,” I said, only half-jokingly.
“This man was a hero beyond politics. In their spectacular arrogance, powerful American statesmen were afraid of him, afraid enough to kill him in such a cowardly, ungentlemanly manner.”
Then he paused before concluding, “I may not know much about politics but I do know that I don’t like the arrogant. This man was both powerful and humble. Quite a rare breed.”
General Soleimani was quite a rare breed. Throughout his life, he had managed to attract people of all walks of life and stripes who had one thing in common, namely, a deep sympathy for the downtrodden across the globe. He had alienated many whose interests lay in preserving a tyrannical global status quo and crushing the grassroots resistance. He was charismatic, a symbol of the eternal fight against evil. Such symbols do not simply die out.
When an unstable U.S. president, from the safety of the Situation Room, ordered a pilot in God-knows-where to fire a missile from an unmanned drone to kill a general who had practically never made his whereabouts a state secret, the American strongman might have taken a comfortable breath – for a moment. But it was a miscalculated move, and a miscalculated breath of comfort. The resistance against the arrogant hegemony of the U.S., the prime example of evil in our time, has never been a systematic war, dependent upon one single soul, which could be undermined by removing one piece. Rather, it’s an utterly, and inherently, asymmetric fight, in which the death of Qassem Soleimani would only lead to the creation of an army of Soleimanis. It’s a deal about which arrogant American statesmen are seriously confused, and it’s an art about which they know nothing.
Imam Khomeini once said, “To wage jihad for God without making political fuss or subscribing to evil pretensions, to sacrifice one’s life for the ultimate goal rather than personal whims; that should be properly called art, which belongs to the true men of God.”
Those words which were about a U.S.-educated commander of Iranian forces in the Iran-Iraq war, who had also fought alongside Palestinian and Lebanese freedom fighters, and died on the battlefield, Mostafa Chamran, equally apply to Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani.
This in itself bears witness to the fact that Soleimani was just the latest incarnation of the heroes of the eternal, global fight against evil.
*Mojtaba Koohsari is a political analyst based in Isfahan.