In an attempt to mobilize public opinion and gain support for its outreach in Syria and Iraq, over the weekend Iran released a four-minute video clip praising Mohsen Hojaji, a 25-year-old-member of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps who was recently beheaded by the Islamic State militants in Iraq.
Hajaji was captured in an ambush near the border with Iraq on August 7.
The video clip, titled “Beheaded Prideful”, has been aired several times on various TV channels in Iran, including the State Television. According to Article 44 of Iran’s Constitution, TV channels in Iran are fully controlled by the state.
Images of Hojaji’s capture and beheading by IS in Iraq went viral in state-linked social media platforms and TV channels, and turned him into a symbol of national solidarity and detestation against IS brutality.
Reaction to his death was not limited to state media. Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei posted Hojaji’s picture on his Persian Twitter account.
The reaction to his death soon became a national trend and many political figures, artists, and some well-known athletes responded to his death.
Soccer players of Tehran Persepolis had his image printed on fans’ jerseys and honored him in two of their major matches in the current season.
Senior officials, including IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari and parliament speaker Ali Larijani attended Hojaji’s memorial services in his hometown of Najafabad. Quds Force commander, Major General Qassem Soleimani vowed to take revenge for the beheading of Hojaji, who according to Iranian state media was a member of Iran's advisory support team in Syria.
Some analysts say that by using his impressive image, Iran wants to unite citizens behind its ideological strategy and advance its regional ambition.
“Iranian government has often glorified its military involvement in Syria. This impressive and heartbreaking image will leave people with no choice but to support Tehran’s fight against IS,” Nureddin Yousefi, a Tehran based TV and movie critic, said.
Tehran has played a major role in Syria and acted as a major ally of the Syrian regime in Damascus, and backed Syrian troops in their war against rebel groups across the country since 2012.