People mourn and pay respect to Mohsen Hojaji after his body arrived in Tehran more than six weeks after being killed in Syria. Photo: Tasnim
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — At a state funeral in Tehran, Iranians are again mourning the death of a young member of the country’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) who was beheaded by ISIS in Iraq. Iran maintains the IRGC are only in Syria in advisory roles.
The repatriation and funeral of 25-year-old Mohsen Hojaji was scheduled to be held on September 2, the Iran’s Tasnim News agency reported, but was postponed “due to some unannounced reasons.”
His funeral brought Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who prayed near his Iranian-flag-wrapped casket on Wednesday. A number of high-ranking officials and IRGC commanders also were present at the airport.
Iran’s Foundation of Martyrs reported in March that 2,100 combatants have been killed in Syria “defending the shrine” with more than 1,000 of those being Iranian nationals.
Hojaji was taken hostage by ISIS on August 7 and was beheaded two days later “near the Iraqi border,” according to Tasnim.
Lebanese Hezbollah received his body on August 31 from ISIS after the negotiation of a ceasefire deal between both parties and the transfer of “Lebanon’s captured soldiers and two martyrs, as well as the body of Martyr Hojaji,” reported Tasnim of the “holy shrine defender.”
Hojaji's death has been memorialized in videos and paintings. Acts of mourning and acknowledging sacrifices are a sacred aspect of Shiite Islam.
“Iranian military advisers have played a decisive role in the protection of the holy shrine against terrorist attacks,” read the report, adding that the shrine of Sayyida Zeinab, a sister of Imam Hossein (AS), the third Shiite Imam, is located in Damascus.
Hojaji and other Iranian troops are deployed in Iraq to fight ISIS and Syria to support the regime of forces loyal to President Bashar Assad.
Hezbollah intervened in mid-2013 directly on the battlefield. IRGC personnel have coordinated offensives and have been seen on the ground in Syria. However Tehran stresses that its military personnel in Syria are there on a purely advisory role.