“If Seyed Ali permits it, we will shed your blood,” the singer chants in the style of a Shia religious eulogy. “Seyed Ali” refers to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The singer is addressing the Sunni militants of ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
The scene is a US sports arena, right before a young Iranian athlete enters the ring. His name is Siamak Khorrami, and he is an Iranian kick-jitsu athlete.
The video was published by Tasnim News, which is affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. According to Tasnim, “in these competitions, it is customary to play a favorite song of the athlete as he is about to step into the ring.”
Khorrami chose a eulogy by popular “eulogist” named Kazem Akbari. In Iran, eulogists are famous religious singers whose melancholy intonations celebrate the “martyrdom” of historic Shia religious figures, as well as the “martyrdom” of soldiers in modern conflicts, such as the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War and the ongoing Syrian Civil War.
Eulogists are popular with “Hezbollahi” youth in Iran, who fervently support both Khamenei and the Shia Islamic state founded by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979.
A website called Young Officers of the Soft War Club, which caters to Hezbollahi users, has published a photo of Khorrami after his victory. He appears in a white t-shirt featuring Khamenei’s portrait. He holds a black flag with the words “O Hossein,” which refers to the exalted Third Imam of the Shia faith.
This is not the first time Khorrami has advertised his religious motives. In 2014, he entered the ring with the same flag, and another favorite Shia eulogy.
In a 2011 video, he entered the arena carrying the Iranian flag and shouting “O Hossein.”
In other words, he has become bolder in his support for Iran’s political system as time has gone by.
His act recalls – likely not intentionally – Darren Aronofsky’s 2008 film The Wrestler, in which an American pro wrestler dresses up as a stage villain called “The Ayatollah.” Although the character was clearly meant to satirize pro-American nationalism in professional wrestling, Iran’s state media called the film “anti-Iranian.”
Siamak Khorrami has been promoted as the Iranian master of kick-jitsu, which is a combination of kick-boxing, wrestling and judo.
Some social network users say that his real name is Mohsen Bagheban Khorrami Asl. His fans call him “Brother Sia.”
On his official website, he presents himself as the “representative of the International Kick-Jitsu Organization in Iran and Asia.” He says he started kickboxing in 1982 and introduced the martial art to Iran in 2003.