By Syed Zafar Mehdi
Two years ago, millions of grief-stricken people poured into the streets – from Tehran to Beirut, Karachi to Kashmir – to bid tearful adieu to the man they considered their own.
Spectacular scenes were witnessed not only in Iran, but also in faraway places, as people with moist eyes and heavy hearts carried banners and chanted vociferous slogans against the “Big Satan”.
Social media was inundated with posts paying tribute to the fallen hero and calls for “severe revenge” reverberated far and wide. Even those who had never seen him saw his death as a personal loss.
Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the ‘commander of hearts’ who singlehandedly confronted the global hegemonic powers and valiantly spearheaded the fight against terrorists in Syria and Iraq, was a lynchpin of the resistance axis and hero for the campaigners of truth and justice around the world.
Sajjad Kargili, a prominent political and human rights activist from Indian administered Kashmir’s Kargil city, considers Gen. Soleimani as one of his “biggest inspirations”.
Kargil, a landlocked city surrounded by majestic mountains, saw mass demonstrations following the assassination of Gen. Soleimani and his associates, including the top Iraqi resistance commander Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, in a US drone strike in Baghdad on Jan. 3, 2020.
The streets in this bustling Himalayan city of 170,000 people are still dotted with posters and banners eulogizing the Jan. 3 martyrs.
“Haj Qassem Solemani and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis were the two larger-than-life lynchpins of resistance against Takfiri terrorism and Western imperialism,” Kargili tells Press TV website. “Their strong and unwavering stand against ISIS (Daesh) and its western backers including the US, Israel and some Arab regimes has been registered in history.”
Kargili, who contested India’s 2019 parliamentary elections and nearly defeated his main rival from the ruling far-right party, says the onus now lies on the new generation of pro-resistance figures “to carry the torch forward” and to “disseminate the stories of their heroism”.
“These heroes led the fight against Daesh, crushed it and saved many regional countries, and even the West, from the blood-thirsty terrorists,” asserts Kargili, recounting the role both Gen. Soleimani and Abu Mahdi played in Iraq and Syria. “They were the saviors, liberators.”
A hero forever
To invoke the leader of Islamic Revolution, Seyyed Ali Khamenei, Gen. Soleimani was a luminous example of those groomed in Islam and the school of Imam Khomeini, the architect of the Islamic Revolution.
That’s perhaps why he caught the imagination of people everywhere in a way very few have throughout history.
“Gen. Soleimani represents free nations’ resistance to imperialism and autocracy worldwide,” Agha Syed Hassan Mosavi, a senior pro-freedom leader in Indian controlled Kashmir, tells Press TV website, paying tribute to the “resistance hero.
He says Gen. Soleimani achieved martyrdom for resisting the “sinister plots of oppressors” and for “protecting the rights and dignity of the oppressed” worldwide.
“His supreme sacrifice infused new life in resistance against injustice, hypocrisy, and dehumanization,” Mosavi adds, hailing him as “the voice” of all nations who are “not ready to surrender” before arrogant powers.
Uzma Sherazi, former president of the Imamia Students Organization (ISO), one of the largest student organizations in Pakistan, calls Gen. Soleimani “a beacon of light.
“When we study his life, we understand that martyrdom was sweeter to him than honey,” she tells Press TV website. “Much like the young and brave warrior of Karbala he was named after – Qassem ibn Hassan.
ISO is planning to hold a series of events across Pakistan to mark the second anniversary of the passing of Gen. Soleimani.
Mubashar Naqvi, a journalist and media researcher based in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, hails him as a “role model in bravery, loyalty and commitment to a cause.
“He courageously confronted the gangsters of the world, outmaneuvering them in both the field and diplomacy, while being loyal and committed to the ideals of Islamic Revolution,” Naqvi tells Press TV website.
“That made him an iconic figure not only in Iran, but everywhere from South American to South Asia, particularly those struggling for freedom and justice.
Sana Batool Zaidi, a Karachi-based journalist and academic, says Gen. Soleimani will be remembered as “a hero who decimated Daesh and made the safe pilgrimage to both Iraq and Syria possible again”.
“At one point in 2014, Daesh terrorists held about a third of Syria and 40 percent of Iraq, and then Soleimani appeared on the scene,” she tells Press TV website. “Now is the time for Americans to pack up and leave.”
While Gen. Soleimani plotted the downfall of Daesh in Iraq and Syria, and played a key role in the Israeli regime’s disgraceful defeat against Hezbollah in the 33-day war in 2006, he also left a deep imprint in neighboring Afghanistan back in 1990s.
Rehman Malikzada, a former member of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan’s Panjshir province, recalls Gen. Soleimani’s visits to the mountainous Hindu Kush valley in late 1990s and his close cooperation with Ahmad Shah Massoud.
“Afghans will never forget what Gen. Soleimani did for them, going out of his way to offer help in extremely trying times,” Malikzada tells Press TV website. “He is a legend and legends never die.”
Nemesis of evil
Gen. Soleimani avoided limelight and rarely spoke to media. He was a private person, deeply immersed in his job, which created a mysterious aura around him.
Western saw him as a shadowy, mysterious figure who plotted the downfall and defeat of Daesh in the region while escaping multiple, bids on his life.
A former CIA officer in Sep. 2013 called him “the single most powerful operative in the Middle East”. In Dec. 2014, Newsweek cover acknowledged that he was a ‘nemesis’ — for both Americans and Daesh.
But he had and continues to have many admirers in the West, like Mick Wallace, a firebrand Irish politician and member of the European Parliament.
Speaking to Press TV website, Wallace says he spent a week in Iraq earlier this year meeting people who are trying to build a “sustainable independent state”.
“The name of Gen. Soleimani was never far from their lips,” he remarks. “He was too young to die – but for the US imperialism, he was too effective, too powerful, too good to be allowed to live.”
According to the Irish politician, nobody did more to defeat Daesh in Iraq than Gen. Soleimani, while the US and its allies were responsible for the rise of terrorist groups.
The news of Gen. Soleimani’s death on the morning of Jan. 3 was shocking and in direct contravention of international legal conventions. It led to unprecedented tensions in the region, and drove Iran and the US to the verge of military confrontation.
Hanieh Tarkian, an Italy-based geopolitical analyst and Islamic lecturer, says her first reaction after receiving the news on that fateful morning was “to cry”.
“On that morning, many cried as if they had lost a childhood friend or a father, it took time to sink in,” she recalls in conversation with Press TV website.
“Some, on the other hand, seemed to have freed themselves of great weight, the weight of their conscience, as if killing those who foiled the destabilization plot in the Middle East could stop those who would later follow on the General’s footsteps.”
The living martyr” had on several occasions spoken about his desire for attaining martyrdom, she notes.
“For those who believe, death is not the end, rather a new beginning. Martyrdom is not the end of a revolution or a movement, but the strengthening of the same,” says Tarkian.
Iranian authorities have vowed to pursue the case at the highest level and bring the perpetrators to justice.
In a statement on Friday, Iran’s foreign ministry said the US government has a “definite international responsibility” in assassination of Gen. Soleimani and his associates.
Afreen Rizvi, a UK-based student and researcher of human rights and international law, tells Press TV website that both international human rights law and international humanitarian law apply under the framework of an armed conflict.
“The acting state, in this case the US, needed to prove that the drone strike that killed Gen. Soleimani was proportionate and necessary,” she remarks, providing a legal perspective.
“The acting state is prohibited from using targeted killings as a preventative measure. The strike that was conducted in Baghdad did not kill a legitimate target as it included the premeditated use of lethal force by one state against a military commander so it constitutes a flagrant violation of international law,” she hastens to add.
Rizvi, who examined the “extrajudicial killing” of Gen. Soleimani in her BA final paper recently, says America’s ‘war on terror’ campaign has “consistently deprived civilians of their right to life.”
“The US should have been sanctioned not only for conducting an illegal strike and unlawfully killing a military commander – but for simultaneously violating the sovereignty of Iraq in the process,” she asserts.
Syed Zafar Mehdi is a Tehran-based journalist, editor and blogger with over 12 years of experience.