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Iranians mourn death of soldier beheaded by Daesh
September 28, 2017
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TEHRAN: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and thousands of others on Wednesday mourned a young Revolutionary Guard soldier beheaded by the Daesh militant group.

The slaying of 25-year-old Mohsen Hojaji captured the imagination of many in Iran, a nation whose  religion considers as acts of mourning and acknowledging sacrifices a sacred act.

Since his death, artists and others have memorialised Hojaji in videos and paintings, while discussion of his slaying has muted domestic criticism of Iran’s foreign military operations, especially in Syria.

His funeral in Tehran brought Khamenei, who prayed near his Iranian-flag-wrapped casket. Mourners later lay flowers atop his coffin, while on the street soldiers with the paramilitary Guard mixed with men wearing black and women in long black chadors. Many carried drawn portraits of Hojaji, while others unfurled the black flags common during Muharram, a Shiite mourning period.

Many current and former government officials, including parliament speaker Ali Larijani and former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, attended the funeral.

A cleric alleged Israel and the US were behind the Daesh group, drawing cries of “Death to Israel” and “down with the US” from the audience.

“We swear on blood of Hojaji we will not rest until destroying Israel,” cleric Ali Reza Pahanhian said from the podium.

“Israel, we swear on the head of Hojaji that we will behead your leaders. Guards! Prepare your missiles for annihilation of Israel.”

Hojaji is one of many Guard members and volunteers to be killed in Iraq while advising Shiite militias battling the Daesh group in Syria.

An image of Hojaji from a Daesh video, showing him stoically standing after his capture with smoke rising behind him in the Syrian desert, inspired a sense of patriotism in an Iran in which some have grown tired of its military operations abroad.

“Look at the photo, there is no sign of weakness despite him being shot and captured,” his 23-year-old widow Zahra Abbasi earlier told Iranian media. “There is no fear in the eyes. It is all bravery, courage. He is like a mountain.”

Khamenei himself even referred to Hojaji as a “dear martyr” in a speech.

“God emboldened Hojaji as an evidence of numerous young people” willing to fight and be killed defending Islam, the supreme leader said.

Associated Press
 

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