Iranians attend the funeral ceremony of IRGC commander Brig-Gen Hossein Hamedani in Tehran. (Supplied)

May 15, 2019

Hossein Hamedani is best known for his role in suppressing protests in Iran following the 2009 election, and for his presence in Syria, where he became the highest-ranking Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander to be killed in the ongoing civil war there.

His last name by birth was Shah-Kuhi, but the IRGC Commander in the West, Mohammad Boroujerdi, called him Hamedani, and the name stuck. Young Hossein Hamedani was under the influence of a revolutionary mullah, Ayatollah Mir Asad Allah Madani, who was exiled to Hamedan and after the revolution became the Friday prayer leader for the city. In his youth, Hamedani worked in a variety of different jobs, including doing grueling physical labor, and as a bus driver for a transit company traveling between Hamedan and Tehran. Later, Hamedani would state that this driving job had been a cover for transporting weapons and ammunition.

After the revolution, he was sent to Kurdistan under the Command of Marzieh Hadidchi Dabbagh, a fellow native from Hamedan. His next post was as the Logistic Commander of IRGC in Hamedan, where he developed a close relationship with his commander, Mahmoud Shahbazi. Their working relationship was such that Hamedani even commanded some major operations on behalf of Shahbazi.

When Mahmoud Shahbazi, Ahmad Motevaselia, and Ebrahim Hemmat decided to establish the Mohammad Rasoul Allah Regiment, Hamedani joined them at their base in Dokuheh. He was supposed to be deployed to Syria to help train and command soldiers in southern Lebanon in the fight against Israel, but a last-minute change meant that Ebrahim Hemmat went instead. Soon after, he took command of a new corps in Gilan, the Quds Corps, and he was injured three times while in that role and during the war with Iraq.

Hamedani was one of four IRGC commanders who went to the army’s educational institution after the war — along with Hossein Salami (who has recently been appointed as the commander of the IRGC) Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam and Commander Yazdan. After his education, he was deployed to Pakistan for a short time, his first assignment outside the country.

After seven years, he was appointed as the Commander of the IRGC in Hamedan and of the Ansar-al-Hossein Corps. Hamedani’s wife later told an anecdote from after the Iran-Iraq War: “One day Hossein came home happy as a child and said, ‘Iraq is releasing our POWs. I want to go to the border and welcome them.’ Then he took his IRGC uniform off and put his work clothes on and told me, ‘Iraqis only let the drivers in to take the boys, Mr. Ghalibaf and I want to go as drivers and bring our boys home.’”

After the War and the Green Movement 

After the war, Hamedani became the first IRGC Commander from the conflict with Iraq to fight against the People’s Mojahedin Organization (MEK). Previously, he had served as Commander of the 4th Regiment of Besat and Najaf Command Center in Kermanshah. His next position was as the head of the IRGC Ground Force Coordination.

IRGC Chief Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari was living in a two-story home at that time, and he invited the Hamedani family to occupy the second floor. “Hossein and Mr. Ali were very close. They understood each other and spent a lot of time together,” his wife recounted.

Next he was appointed as the Chief Deputy of the Basij Organization. While there, Ghasem Soleimani ordered him on a mission to the Congo in Africa to establish a Basij-like organization of locals to fight against alleged Israeli influence there. The mission was short-lived, however, as he soon contracted malaria and was forced to return to Iran.

Later he was appointed as the head of the 27th Regiment of Mohammad Rasoul Allah. He was tasked with his next mission abroad, visiting other countries’ war memorial museums to get ideas for building one in the city of Hamedan. He visited Syria, China and North Korea.

Following this assignment, he was appointed as the Deputy Commander of the Basij once again. This time the appointment coincided with the Green Movement and the protests that followed the 2009 election. Mohammad Ali Jafari asked him to manage the IRGC Tehran headquarters during the crisis. One of Hamedani’s most infamous moves was employing the most vicious criminals and thugs to beat up peaceful protesters. “We had identified and monitored 5,000 violent criminals and firstly, ordered all of them to stay at home when there was any protest,” Hamedani was quoted as saying. “But later I thought: why not employ these thugs? So I organized them in three regiments to engage with the protesters on our behalf. They proved me right … if we want to train Mujahids, we need these types of violent people who are not afraid of a few drops of blood.”

According to Hamedani, there were more than 45,000 Basijis involved in suppressing the Green Movement. “In the meeting before Ashura, everyone believed the Ashura ceremonies would be peaceful in Tehran, but I knew something would happen. So I put everyone on call and rented out all the movie theaters, schools, and mosques across the city. I ordered my agents out to the streets in plain black clothes and asked every religious association that I was in contact with to go toward the university.”

Hamedani in Syria

Hamedani was considered the second most important IRGC figure in Syria after Ghasem Soleimani. He first visited the country with Soleimani and in 2011 he was deployed there as a “Supreme Counselor.” He was tasked with establishing a Basij-like organization in the country and according to IRGC commanders, managed to train 150 volunteers during his three years of service. He also established an operations headquarters, organizing the deployments of Shia fighters from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq as well as local Syrians to fight under the title of “Haram Defenders.”

His nickname in Syria was “Abu-Vahab” because his son’s name is Vahab. He was expected to do what Ahmad Motevaselian had done in Lebanon and build a second Hezbollah in Syria.

There is some discrepancy between what Tasmin News and Hamedani’s family say about the date of his deployment to Syria. According to his wife, she and her children joined Hamedani in Damascus several months after he was deployed and while the city was still not safe.

In January 2012, she and her two daughters were about to leave Iran to see Hamedani when the passport agent told them their passports had expired and they couldn’t leave. She managed to get the airport’s intelligence agents involved, and they soon resolved the issue for her.

On October 7, 2015, Hamedani was shot multiple times by a machine gun while patrolling Aleppo’s suburbs. He succumbed to his wounds several hours later and died.

Iran Wire

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Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.