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Iran organized funerals for 400 soldiers killed in the 1980s Iran-Iraq war

Thousands of Iranians attended a state-organized funeral Tuesday for 400 soldiers killed in the 1980 Iran-Iraq war. Meanwhile, Iran’s president lashed out at the United States and its allies, accusing them of stoking anti-government protests that have been ongoing in Iran for more than three months

Coffins containing the remains of “unidentified martyrs” were draped in Iranian flags and carried in mass processions. For many Iranian families, the painful legacy of the conflict drags on in the constant wait for news of loved ones who are still “missing”.

In January, 250 Iranian soldiers killed in the 1980-1988 war were buried in similar ceremonies.

Iran has been rocked by mass protests since mid-September over the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman who died after being detained by the country’s morality police. The protests quickly escalated into calls to overthrow Iran’s theocracy, established after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, in one of the biggest challenges to Iran’s clerical rule in more than four decades.

At least 507 protesters have been killed and more than 18,500 people have been arrested, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that has closely monitored the unrest. Iranian authorities have not released figures on those killed or arrested.

In the capital Tehran on Tuesday, 200 soldiers whose remains were recently recovered from former battlefields along the Iraq-Iran border paid their last respects. Funerals for another 200 soldiers were held in other cities and towns across Iran. None of the soldiers were identified and their remains were to be buried as “unknown martyrs” in mass burials.

From outside the University of Tehran, lorries carrying coffins drove through the streets. Men and women in black huddled in coffins, many weeping for those lost in the bloody, stalemated war launched in 1980 by Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and his Ba’ath Party.

Iran and Iraq sporadically exchange remains of soldiers recovered from the border area, which has seen heavy fighting in a war that has claimed more than a million lives on both sides.

Iranian state television said the remains buried Tuesday were of soldiers killed on four battlefields, including two locations inside Iraq. Along with the Iranian flag, many people also carried photos of Iran’s top general Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a January 2020 US drone strike in Baghdad.

President Ebrahim Raisi and other top officials attended the ceremonies and praised the “martyrs”, saying they were helping lift the mood of the nation, according to media reports.

Raisi said during the ceremony that efforts by the nation’s enemies — a reference to the U.S. and its allies — had tried to “put pressure on Iran during the recent protests” but had met with failure. Iranian authorities blame its foreign adversaries, including the US and Israel, for the unrest.

“In the recent unrest, the arrogance [of the US and its allies] has been shown in full force,” Raisi said, but “all pressures against the Islamic Republic have been doomed to failure.”

Earlier in December, Iran executed two prisoners, both aged 23 and accused in connection with the mass protests. The first was Mohsen Shekari, accused by an Iranian court of blocking a street in Tehran and attacking a member of the security forces there with a machete.

The other was Majidreza Rahnavard, whose body was left hanging from a construction crane as a dire warning to others. Authorities alleged that Rahnavard stabbed two members of his paramilitary force. The executions sparked international outrage. Dozens more are said to remain on the list for execution.

Tuesday’s funerals come just days before the third anniversary of the downing of a Ukrainian airliner by Iran’s military with two surface-to-air missiles, killing all 176 people on board – a tragedy that sparked unrest across Iran and further damaged its relations with the West.

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