According to Iranian state-run media, millions of Iranians attended the funeral of the regime’s top military commander today in Tehran. These media outlets published dozens of aerial images of massive crowds at Qasem Soleimani’s funeral, saying that the sheer number of participants showed that Iran’s masses actually supported the regime and its chief terrorist.
Western mainstream media were quick to push the regime’s agenda and according to the New York Times, “The general’s funeral was attended by a broad swath of Iranians, including reformers who oppose the government of President Hassan Rouhani but who perceived the killing as an attack on all of Iran.”
What mainstream media fail to mention is the most fundamental feature of the current Iranian state. It’s a theocracy and dictators are good at forcing the masses to attend propaganda gatherings. A quick look into the past will tell you that.
Massive crowds “showed up” for the funeral of the main mastermind of the Holocaust, Reinhard Heydrich in Nazi Germany. The same was true for Joseph Stalin’s funeral and of course the funeral of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-il, where people were seen wailing and beating the ground in “grief”.
The size of funeral crowds in authoritarian regimes is not an indication of popular support. In fact, the opposite is true. All those dictatorships are just trying to overcompensate for their lack of legitimacy. Let’s call it Legitimacy Envy. Soleimani’s funeral is no different. https://t.co/Abk6vmt6HQ pic.twitter.com/amyaTa5H63— Len Khodorkovsky (@MessageFromLen) January 6, 2020
Measures taken by the regime
The regime literally shut down the cities where Soleimani’s funeral procession was to be held. Numerous reports said that shop owners were forced to close shop and put up images of Qasem Soleimani, the second most powerful man in the regime, on their store windows.
Around 80% of Iranians live under the line of poverty thanks to the regime’s policies in the region and its institutionalized financial corruption. Many people can’t even afford food. So it’s a big deal for them when free food is handed out at Soleimani’s funeral. University students were enticed to attend with promises of good grades. Military personnel, soldiers, the regime’s security forces, employees of government institutions etc. were bussed in from various areas to Tehran to make up the “millions” that would serve the regime’s propaganda machine. The “millions” that the regime desperately needs to pass for its nonexistent legitimacy.
OMG! Massive crowd at funeral of TERMINATED TERRORIST-IN-CHIEF, Soleimani. LOL! Tehran has a pop. of 12m. Regime offered free ride, breakfast, lunch & promised students "good" grades to entice ppl. to attend. Attached notice from #Iran's Industries Univ. @NCRIUS @iran_policy pic.twitter.com/CKUJiSrrZ2— Ali Safavi (@amsafavi) January 6, 2020
The truth is that ordinary Iranians were overjoyed with the death of the terrorist they call “the child-killer”, who was the mastermind behind the regime’s destructive strategy in the region. The strategy for which the regime spends billions while ordinary Iranians live in poverty. It’s no wonder that one of the most popular chants in Iran protests is “No to Gaza and Lebanon, my life is only for Iran” and “leave Syria and think of us”.
Locals in Ahvaz, SW #Iran dancing and celebrating the death of IRGC commander Soleimani. It's worth noting that the IRGC slaughtered 40-100 Arab-Iranian civilians in Mahshahr during Nov. 2019 #IranProtests. Many of them have yet to be identified. pic.twitter.com/DmDqFSu82T— Iran News Wire (@IranNW) January 4, 2020
Video shows young men offering to stencil Qasem Soleimani's name on passing cars in #Iran. All the cars ignore the boys as they go by. Voice says he's been there for 2 hrs and only around 10 cars accepted the offer. Don't let the media fool you, #Iranians hate Soleimani. pic.twitter.com/MM4fUCLl7I— Iran News Wire (@IranNW) January 6, 2020
Hundreds of images and videos published on social media showed Iranians celebrating the death of Qasem Soleimani with pastries and sweets from the safety of their homes. Many of them thanked US President Trump for ridding the world of the “child-killer”.
By far the happiest of all Iranians were the families of the 1,500 civilians killed during recent November 2019 protests that erupted in 190 cities with most saying that they hadn’t been this happy in a very long time. They blame the IRGC and the likes of Soleimani for the death of their loved ones. And rightly so. When Soleimani went to Iraq during the height of popular protests, AP said that he made a surprise visit to Iraq to demand that Iraqi officials quell protests.
“We in Iran know how to deal with protests,” Soleimani told the Iraqi officials, according to two senior officials familiar with the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the secret gathering. “This happened in Iran and we got it under control.”
Many Iranians are also angry that while the regime banned funerals for those killed by security forces during the recent protests, even going as far as violently arresting mourners or the families of fallen protesters, regime elites were encouraged and organized to mourn the death of their terrorist.
Women in #Iran watching Soleimani's funeral: "As they're allowed to come to the streets, they should let us take to the streets &hand out sweets &flowers &chant and be happy. We're very happy right now. God willing, every single IRGC commander is (killed). Amen." #FreeIran2020 pic.twitter.com/FCSuW9f1GP— Iran News Wire (@IranNW) January 5, 2020
Naivety or intentionally misleading?
Taking the sheer number of attendees to a funeral organized by a theocratic state for a terrorist as a sign of the regime’s legitimacy among the majority of Iranians or support for Soleimani is at least naïve or at most intentionally misleading and dangerous.
One would not expect western media to actually push the regime’s propaganda agenda. This is at the very least, insulting to the people of Iran who bravely took to the streets and lost at least 1,500 of their loved ones.
The regime knows that it doesn’t stand a chance against the US’s military might and there are speculations that the reason behind this propaganda spectacle is to make up for the lack of response to the US killing the second most powerful man in Iran.
The death of Qasem Soleimani has greatly weakened the IRGC and the regime. The first to notice this weakness are the people of Iran and they will take action in the next round of Iran protests.