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How Iran's religious singers help frame the war in Syria

In addition to assuming more clout in Iranian politics, religious singers are expanding their presence on the battlefield in Syria.

Religious singers, “maddahan,” occupy a unique place in Iran’s political landscape. They serve as eulogists and are called upon to perform at religious gatherings, such as those during the month of Muharram, when Shiite Muslims mourn the martyrdom of Hussein, their third imam and Prophet Muhammad’s grandson. Of interest, maddahan have increasingly become a powerful political class of their own, but their most recent endeavor could be their most vital for the Islamic Republic’s most pressing agenda — to deliver religious and spiritual motivation to the thousands of Shiite fighters sent to Syria.

According to Mohammad Farahani, head of the Basij Organization for Maddahan, many religious singers have requested to be sent to Syria to sing for the Shiite fighters. Farahani said that these singers have performed in Damascus at the Sayidda Zeinab Mosque, site of the interment of the daughter of the first Shiite imam, Ali, and at the Sayidda Ruqayyah Mosque, the site of the grave of Hussein's daughter. Farahani said the maddahan travel to Syria with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force, which is in charge of foreign operations, most notably in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

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