To many Iranians, the name of Qassem Soleimani is synonymous with regional tension and instability, misplaced spending on foreign proxy wars, and quelling domestic dissent.
Given his actions, this is entirely to be expected, Iranian citizens told Al-Mashareq, speaking on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisals from the Iranian regime.
For more than 20 years, under Soleimani's leadership, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force (IRGC-QF) exported terrorism, fuelled sectarianism, undermined governments and was responsible for thousands of innocent deaths.
Following his death by a US drone strike in 2020, his daughter Zeinab Soleimani, who was active in Iran's political scene for a short while in the ensuing months, said she was "certain" her "dear uncle Hassan Nasrallah" would take revenge for her father's death.
Nasrallah is the chief of Iran-backed Lebanese Hizbullah. Zeinab is married to Reza Safieddine, the son of Nasrallah's cousin Hashem Safieddine.
Hashem, who heads Hizbullah's Executive Council, is considered the party's No. 2. He is viewed by most as Nasrallah's eventual successor.
In an apparent attempt to take revenge for Soleimani's death, IRGC forces mistakenly shot down Kyiv-bound Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 minutes after its take-off from Tehran's Imam Khomeini international airport.
All 167 passengers, most of whom were Iranian, were killed. But not one high-ranking IRGC official has been prosecuted for his actions to this day.
Statues torn down
In the years following Soleimani's death, posters, banners, pictures and statues of the former IRGC commander were ripped off walls, defaced or set alight in public spaces across Iran as quickly as they had been put up.
After repeated instances of destruction, the regime's security forces moved in, placing the statues of Soleimani under heavy guard.
An Iran-based academic who did not want to be named told Al-Mashareq he was among the group of protesters who burned a statue of Soleimani on the same day it was erected in an Iranian city.
"Soleimani's legacy is one of terror and bloodshed," he said.
"No ordinary Iranian citizen, in good conscience and of sound mind, would ever want to honour that man."
"My blood pressure increases in anger whenever I hear his name," he said.
In Chahar Mahal and Bakhtiari's Shahrekord, a statue of Soleimani that had been installed just ahead of the first anniversary of his death was burned to the ground in the dark of the night, hours after it was erected.
In Kordestan's Baneh, three Iranian youth were sentenced to a total of 16 years and seven months in prison for burning a banner of Soleimani in the summer of 2021.
Three teenage boys and a number of girls were detained as they tore down several large posters of Soleimani from the walls in Tehran's streets in two separate incidents in January 2020.
A legacy of destruction
Low wages and unemployment have added to the burden on the Iranian people, who are facing severe stagflation and a steep economic decline.
Half of the Iranian population lives below the poverty line, reports suggest.
Instead of shoring up Iran's faltering economy, however, the regime has chosen to spend its dwindling resources on the IRGC and its regional proxies, including the Lebanese Hizbullah, Iraqi militias and the Houthis (Ansarallah) in Yemen.
Meanwhile, while top Iranian officials tout record income on oil exports, lawmakers, observers and civilians are wondering where all the money is going.
Many Iranians see a direct connection between the oil income embezzlement, and corruption in general, and the past and present IRGC officers who enjoy disproportionate representation and privileged positions in the current administration.
A 27-year-old doctoral student in Tehran, who introduced herself as Anita, said Soleimani is emblematic of hatred in her mind, and "in the mind of almost everyone I know".
"He was responsible for all the money that was taken out of Iranians' mouths to spend on militias and weapons in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq and Gaza," she told Al-Mashareq.
Soleimani also was responsible for the widespread dislike of Iranians that has taken root in the Arab world, she said.
Meanwhile, she added, many Iranians have no idea how the money taken from their dinner tables was, and continues to be, spent in the region.
They think it is spent on helping residents of other countries, which is the regime's refrain, she said, adding that many are confused about the negative reputation Iranians have in the region.
"I don't believe Soleimani is despised as much anywhere else in the world as he is in Iran, by average Iranians," an Iranian political scientist, who resigned from his professorship in late October, told Al-Mashareq.
Soleimani caused instability in the region, had a detrimental effect on many countries, and was responsible for the loss of so many Iranian lives overseas, said the professor, who declined to be named out of concern for his safety.
Soleimani has left a legacy of destruction across the region, he said -- yet he inflicted the most damage on his own country and his own people, who are paying dearly for his decisions and actions to this day.