Iranian commander’s death sparks speculation

High-ranking Quds Force deputy commander Brig. Gen. Mohammad Hejazi has died.

Iranian media announced the death of the Quds Force deputy over the weekend. However, the words used to describe his death have left doubts among citizens and led to speculation about the true cause of his death.

Mohammad Hejazi, 62, reportedly died of a heart attack according to Iranian media. Immediately after the announcement, some media outlets began referring to him as a “martyr,” which is a reference only used for individuals who are killed while engaged in official duty. On state television, another theory was put forward. The presenter suggested that Hejazi had no previous illnesses and had died within 24 hours after contracting a virus. He added that the virus was not the coronavirus, which continues to spread wildly across the country.

Ramazan Sharif, spokesman for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the Quds Force operates under, attempted to clarify the matter on Monday, April 19, over Hejazi’s death. Sharif said that Hejazi had been exposed to chemical attacks during the war, presumably the Iran-Iraq War, and had not only suffered throughout his life due to this but had been hospitalized numerous times. In Iran, veterans who are injured and die later as a result of those injuries, such as Iran-Iraq War veterans who were gassed but die decades later due to complications of the original attack, are still referred to as “martyrs” when they die.

Sharif added that Hejazi had also contracted the coronavirus a few months prior to his death but had recovered. Sharif said that in the last eight years of his life, Hejazi was “present in the frontline against the Zionists” and had become a well-known face, which led to various speculations that Israel was behind his sudden death.

Regardless of the official explanation, Hejazi’s sudden death is a very big blow to the IRGC. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whom the IRGC reports to, issued a statement of condolence today. The head of the IRGC, Hossein Salami, also issued a statement of condolence.

Many Iranian media outlets posted obituaries. Hejazi joined the IRGC when it was formed and held various important positions in the organization. He worked alongside former Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani in Syria. An article in Tasnim News Agency wrote that “His role in strengthening Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the resistance front” contributed to Israel seeking his assassination.

Meanwhile, Iran is currently reeling from its fourth wave of coronavirus. Nearly 400 people died in the last 24 hours. Not too long ago, Iran had brought COVID-19 deaths to below triple digits. However, the Nowruz holidays in March involved travel and many family gatherings, which sparked the recent uptick in cases, according to officials. Iran’s parliament was forced to cancel sessions for two weeks as cases grew and parliamentarians were contracting the virus. Iran’s Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi is the latest high-profile Iranian official to contract the virus.

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