A group of Shia Muslim children in Houston, Texas, sang an Iranian-sponsored religious anthem that includes references to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and slain military commander Qassem Soleimani last week, videos shared online showed.
The event was organized by the Islamic Education Center of Houston, according to a post on the organisation’s Facebook page. Video of the children singing the anthem was shared by Iranian state media.
The anthem, “Salam Farmandeh” – meaning “Hello Commander” – is a pledge of allegiance by young children to the 12th Imam and Shia Messiah, al-Mahdi, according to the anthem’s creators in Iran.
The anthem was “written upon the recommendation of” Khamenei, “who called on children and youths to address Imam Mahdi,” according to the Lebanese Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV.
The anthem, which aired for the first time in March on Iranian state TV, makes references to Khamenei and former Revolutionary Guards commander Soleimani. The anthem has been heavily promoted by Iranian state media.
“I promise to be your Haj Qassem,” the children sing, referring to Soleimani.
Rights activists have criticised the anthem, saying it is a propaganda anthem that seeks to recruit child soldiers and brainwash children.
The anthem has been sung by children in several countries, including Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Pakistan.