A stampede at the funeral procession for slain Iranian General Qassem Soleimani has killed at least 40 people, according to The Wall Street Journal. You can see video from the scene in this article, but it’s disturbing because it shows rescue workers helping the victims.
The newspaper also reported that another 200 people were injured in the funeral stampede as the crowds ballooned. The Journal reported on January 7, 2020 that the stampede was caused by “overcrowding” in the city of Kerman, Pirhossein Koulivand. That’s the community where Soleimani was born.
The Washington Post ran a similar report with the same numbers, attributing the information to Iranian state news agencies. According to The Post, Soleimani’s burial was postponed as a result.
Some earlier reports had the number of dead at 35.
The Soleimani funeral processions have been intense affairs and, some believe, meant as a propaganda message by Iran, designed to prove to the world that Soleimani was beloved by the Iranian people. Earlier, the eulogist at the funeral procession for Soleimani placed an $80 million bounty on President Donald Trump’s head on live state TV, according to Al Arabiya. However, contrary to some reports, the government of Iran itself did not place a bounty on Trump’s head.
According to the Financial Times, another speaker in Mashhad told the massive crowds, “We shall see the uprooting of the US in the region. You crazy, yellow-haired man [Trump]! Listen carefully! ‘Down with the US’ . . . You Israelis! We will send you death . . . every single drop of our tears will turn into a missile into your land.”
Here’s what you need to know:
The Funeral Procession Has Traveled Through Different Cities Before Winding Its Way to Soleimani’s Hometown
Soleimani’s body is being moved through different cities on its way to Tehran. However, The Times of Israel reported that the Iranian government had canceled a Tehran ceremony to honor Soleimani because so many mourners turned out in Mashhad. Mourners also flooded the streets of Ahvaz, and, in Mashhad, some chanted to the US, “Be afraid of your own shadow,” according to Times of Israel, adding that marchers chanted “Death to America.”
“Hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets Sunday in Iran to walk alongside a casket carrying the remains of Soleimani,” the Miami Herald reported. Radio Farda reported that Mashhad is “the second-largest Iranian city and a bastion of conservatism and pro-government political groups.”
According to the Financial Times, the four-day funeral started in Iraq and will take Soleimani’s body “to five of the holiest sites for Shia Muslims — four of which are in Iraq and one in Mashhad.”
Soleimani was an Iranian Major-General, head of the elite, powerful Quds force and architect of Iran’s strategy throughout the Middle East. He was killed by an U.S. air strike ordered by Trump. The death of the powerful general marks what many experts are calling a potential turning point in the Middle East that is likely to generate retaliation from Iran against the United States.
Trump, as Iran’s rhetoric escalated after the Soleimani death, wrote on Twitter, “Iran is talking very boldly about targeting certain USA assets as revenge for our ridding the world of their terrorist leader who had just killed an American, & badly wounded many others, not to mention all of the people he had killed over his lifetime, including recently hundreds of Iranian protesters. He was already attacking our Embassy, and preparing for additional hits in other locations. Iran has been nothing but problems for many years. Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!”
He later elaborated, writing, “General Qassem Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more…but got caught! He was directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people, including the recent large number of PROTESTERS killed in Iran itself. While Iran will never be able to properly admit it, Soleimani was both hated and feared within the country. They are not nearly as saddened as the leaders will let the outside world believe. He should have been taken out many years ago!”
Soleimani’s early biography was pretty provincial, according to an article by Ali Soufan for the Counterterrorism Center at West Point. The article says Qassem Soleimani was born in the mountain village in southeast Iran near the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It’s an area dominated by tribal politicians, and his father, a farmer, once owed the government a lot of money after a “botched land reform” of the Shah.
His parents were named Hassan Soleimani and Fatemeh Soleimani. His mother is deceased.
According to Soufan, Soleimani had to work in construction and abandon school as a teenager to help his family survive as a result of the land reform issue and later became a technician with a municipal water authority. The Islamic Revolution in 1978 appears to have sparked his interest in political affairs, Soufan reported.
“He found his calling,” wrote Soufan, starting out as a recruit instructor.
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