In a video posted on Sunday evening, Qatar’s Al Jazeera posted a video praising the late Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani.
Al Jazeera called him a “warrior in the path of God.” Soleimani is widely reviled by some in the Middle East for his role in supporting the Syrian regime and suppressing dissent in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.
The US killed Soleimani in a January airstrike. Iran has vowed revenge for the killing. Qatar hosts US forces and has welcomed the Taliban and other terrorists over the years, including Hamas.
The video of Soleimani, showing him in an animated clip where he is portrayed as a kind of victim and hero, a religious warrior serving Iran, caught many by surprise. Al Jazeera was once seen as sympathetic to protests in the Middle East during the Arab spring and was even accused of being too sympathetic to Sunni extremists, including groups that supported suicide bombings.
However, Qatar has been involved in a spat with neighboring Saudi Arabia since 2017 and it has drifted to be closer to Iran and also the pro-Muslim Brotherhood leadership in Ankara.
This has led to a more sympathetic view of Iranian-backed groups, including Hezbollah and the IRGC. This may be why programming at Al Jazeera has shifted from supporting protests, to supporting more authoritarian regimes that Qatar is allied with.
The podcast, which appeared to be uncritical and a kind of hagiography of Soleimani, was then deleted on Monday. Numerous voices on social media expressed disgust about the Al Jazeera video. One user pointed out that Soleimani was involved in killing Americans. Others pointed out he was responsible for killing thousands of Arabs.
The text of the video reads “I’m the soldier who dedicated his life to serving Islam and the Islamic revolution with pride and dignity, a warrior in the path of God, commander of the IRGC, a name feared most by the Great Satan and the Zionist enemy and supporters of bullying in the region.” It then shows Soleimani saying “martyrdom for the sake of Allah.”Al Jazeera presents itself in English as progressive and supporting progressive causes in the West. But in Arabic, as in this podcast with an animation that appeared geared towards youth, it speaks about martyrdom for God, being a warrior for God, and fighting the US and Israel. In this video the message appears to promote militancy and far-right religious extremist causes. Gone is the progressive and critical pretense.
The podcast was apparently deleted after critiques of the pro-Soleimani video became widespread. It is unclear why Al Jazeera created the hagiographic video in the first place, and why a media channel close to the Qatari monarchy that hosts US soldiers would create a video that praises fighting those soldiers and calling the US “the great Satan.”
Al Jazeera does not publish similar podcasts or articles that are critical of Iran or calling Iran satanic, or Turkey or other countries.