Iran: Qassem Soleimani’s remains arrive in Kerman for burial

Funeral marks the end of a three-day mourning period for Quds Force commander, who was killed in US air raid in Iraq.

Iranian mourners gather for the burial of slain top general Qasem Soleimani in his hometown Kerman on January 7, 2020. Soleimani was killed outside Baghdad airport Friday in a drone strike ordered by
Iranian mourners gather for the burial of commander Qassem Soleimani in his hometown of Kerman [Atta Kenare/AFP]

The remains of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani arrived in his hometown of Kerman for burial early on Tuesday, a day after millions of mourners gathered in the capital Tehran and the city of Qom in an emotionally-charged funeral procession.

State television showed tens of thousands of people on Kerman’s streets, carrying Iranian flags and images of the general, as hymns of mourning blasted from loudspeakers.

Tuesday’s ceremonies mark the end of a three-day mourning period for the Quds Force commander, who was assassinated on Friday in a US air attack in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

Al Jazeera’s Assed Beig, reporting from Tehran, said the calls from the streets of Kerman are the same calls heard “all over the country”. 

“People on the streets are calling for revenge,” Beig said. 

“Emotions are very high; it will be very difficult for the government not to listen to the thousands and thousands of people that are on the streets.” 

At the funeral in Kerman, Hossein Salami, leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, made a pledge before the crowd to “set ablaze” places supported by the US.

Salami praised Soleimani’s exploits and said as a martyr, he represented an even greater threat to Iran’s enemies.

“We will take revenge. We will ablaze where they like,” Salami said, drawing the cries of “Death to Israel!” from the crowd.

Soleimani, 62, was born into a poor family in Kerman province in the country’s southeast.

He started working as a 13-year-old to support his family, spending his free time attending sermons.

As a young man during the Iranian revolution in 1979, Soleimani began his ascent through the Iranian military, although he did not finish school.

Soleimani emerged from the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s a national hero for the missions he led across Iraq’s border.

Ending ‘US hegemony’

Speaking to Al Jazeera from the Iranian capital, University of Tehran Professor Foad Izadi said the killing of Soleimani has “rejuvenated the spirit of revolution, the spirit of resistance, and the spirit of fighting the oppressors” in the country. 

“His legacy is going to be the goals that he had – one of the goals he had was to end US hegemony in the Middle East,” Izadi siad, adding that there is going to be a “wave of anti-American policies”. 

Soleimani opposed US governemnt policies in the region, as well as the support they provide Israel with, Izadi said.   

Despite people in Iran facing economic pressures, what is more important to them is the “security of the country,” he said.

“When you hit a general whose job was to protect the borders, they’re going to get upset,” Izadi said, referring to the Iranian people rallying in the streets. 

On Monday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wept openly as he led funeral prayers in Tehran.

The assassination of Soleimani triggered a dramatic escalation of tensions in the region and marked the most significant confrontation between the United States and Iran in recent years.

The friction is rooted in the 2018 US decision to withdraw from a nuclear deal signed in 2015 between Iran and world powers.

Khamenei has pledged “severe revenge” for the killing while other pro-Iran figures in the region, including the head of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement Hassan Nasrallah, have also promised retaliation.

Although it is unclear how or when Iran may respond, any response is likely to come once the mourning period comes to an end.

US President Donald Trump has defended the killing of Soleimani and threatened more retaliatory actions if Iran targets US citizens or assets.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies