Following the United States airstrike that eliminated the hated Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) ‘Quds Force’ commander General Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian regime erected billboards glorifying Soleimani across Iran to coincide with three days of mourning for the infamous criminal. In the southwestern region of Ahwaz, whose Ahwazi population has been terrorised, persecuted and killed for decades by Soleimani’s thugs for demanding freedom and human rights, locals expressed their opinion of the glorification of the mass killer – hated across the country and region – by setting fire to it, leaving the billboard burning.
Setting fire to the Soleimani’s billboard in Ahwaz
This comes as Ahwaz is witness to a new arbitrary campaign of restrictions being threatened by the Iranian security services, who have specifically threatened Ahwazis with mass arrests if they don’t collectively attend his funeral ceremonies to be held tomorrow in the capital city of Ahwaz. Since Friday, Ahwaz has been witnessing wide-ranging pressure campaigns imposed by Iranian security services against Ahwazi activists and pundits known for their integrity and passion for the just Ahwazi cause.
The campaign is aimed at activists, freedom fighters, pundits and columnists, who are facing immense pressure by security forces for standing up to Iranian terrorism and criminal policies within Ahwaz, and throughout the region and the world. Iranian security services are exerting this pressure directly upon Ahwazi activists and their families, asking those families to show up at police stations in order to force them to attend Soleimani’s funeral.
According to our credible sources, security services threatened Ahwazi activists, and poets with facing if they skip the funeral, and also threatened to terminate their employment and deprive them of any ability to provide for their families if they don’t follow the orders given to them by security forces. Therefore, the Ahwazis call on the US, world nations, and rights organisations, to put an end to this continued pressure, along with the preexisting systemic injustice and terrorism being perpetrated against the Ahwazis, including activists and pundits. Iranian security forces routinely force activists to give access to their social media accounts in order to monitor their activities. This is a cowardly and morally reprehensible act being flagrantly committed against the people of Ahwaz, which must be utterly rejected as a grave human rights violation.
The people of Ahwaz must also speak out against those who have foolishly emerged after Soleimani’s death to reflexively criticise the United States, or worse yet, to lionise the murderer as a ‘foreign official’ or ‘beloved’ military leader. As one Ahwazi pointed out, “How many of these so-called activists took to the street to oppose Iranian terrorism, violence, mass killings and hangings!? How many of you took to the streets to call on the Ayatollahs to end the violence and killing of innocent Kurds, Ahwazis, Baluchis and others? How many of you took to the street to call on the Ayatollahs to end gender and ethnic/racial violence?! Pack up your little signs and go read a book or two about the death and destruction of the ayatollahs!!!” Others have asked “What is happening to our country? How can anyone in this great country of ours support and sympathise with the Ayatollahs in Tehran? Soleimani is responsible for death and destruction across Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Iran! These regime sympathisers are a threat to all of us who fled because of the Ayatollahs’ violence, racism and sexism!” Perhaps part of the divide lies in the fact that citizens of free countries can sit back and wonder how this will affect them, whether they actually know anything about it or not. For the people of Ahwaz, as with countless other populations across the Middle East who have directly suffered under Soleimani’s boot, there is a simpler calculation.
The brutal and gleeful murderer of family members, friends and colleagues, the man who ordered torture, imprisonment and mutilation without any hesitation or moral compunction, is amazingly gone. The regime for which he stood still stands, but is teetering on the brink even more than a month ago, when he and his minions opened fire on peaceful demonstrators throughout Iran. “Threatening people with arrest to force them to attend the funeral of one of their most hated oppressors exposes the rotten heart of the Iranian regime and its ludicrous claims that Iran’s public is engaged in a ‘spontaneous show of grief’ for Suleimani, a mass killer and terror mastermind used by the leaders in Tehran to mercilessly crush dissent at home and abroad,” said Ruth Riegler, a Scottish writer and editor. “This is a grotesque parody of mourning like the Iranian regime’s grotesque parody of ‘democracy’, effectively a show at gunpoint manufactured for media.” And so the people of Ahwaz have been forced to realise that the world is slow to act, and that many will be forced to attend the funeral ceremonies of their oppressor, so that the regime can once again manufacture videos and photographic ‘evidence’ that this murderous thug is being ‘mourned’ across the land.
And so the world must understand the pressure that is being exerted to compel people to appear in the streets, and not be foolishly misled into thinking this is anything but the result of a brutal and authoritarian regime desperate to hide the truth. To use how Ms Riegler so aptly put it, the world must call this grotesque parody exactly what it is, and use that as a means of rejecting the parody represented by the regime itself.
Rahim Hamid is an Ahwazi author, freelance journalist and human rights advocate. You can follow him on his twitter account: https://twitter.com/samireza42
Aaron Eitan Meyer is an attorney admitted to practice in New York State and before the United State Supreme Court, and a researcher and analyst. He has written extensively on lawfare, international humanitarian, and human rights law. You can follow him on his twitter account: https://twitter.com/aaronemeyer
The opinions expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of the Dur Untash Studies Centre.