But what to make of the crowds of flag-waving mourners streaming across TV screens? Without doubt, Soleimani had support among hard-liners and regime loyalists. The regime is not taking any chances, though. In the city of Ahvaz, where large numbers of people turned out to mourn Soleimani, the government has forced students and officials to attend. It provided free transport and ordered shops to shut down. According to videos sent to me by people inside the country, the authorities are making little kids write essays praising the fallen commander. First-graders who didn’t know how to write were encouraged to cry for Soleimani.
Some Iranians have compared the funeral services for Soleimani to those held for the Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich, the Butcher of Prague, killed by Allied agents during World War II.
Soleimani was not a benign official. In 1999, he was among the Revolutionary Guard leaders who demanded that then-President Mohammad Khatami crush university student demonstrations or face the consequences. Current Supreme Leader Khamenei praised Soleimani for his staunch defense of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, who has killed hundreds of thousands of his own people. Few Syrians are mourning him.