Video footage disseminated on social media appears to support reports that Afghan migrants in state sponsor of terrorism Iran have been recruited by the Shiite country’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) to fight in Syria on behalf of dictator Bashar al-Assad.
“My brother was educated in Iran and after that he left for [Syria] and then news of his death arrived for us,” TOLO News quotes an Afghan migrant in Iran as saying.
While the Afghan Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the footage, Iran’s embassy in Kabul challenged the accuracy of reports on the issue, notes TOLO.
“A number of them have been living for years in Syria and many of them went to Syria from other countries and also a number went from Iran to Syria,” Mohammad Reza Bahrami the Iranian Ambassador to Afghanistan, reportedly claimed, referring to Afghan nationals. “But what is more important is there is no policy of sending forces from Afghanistan to Syria.”
However, the video footage also “shows Iran’s Supreme Leader Sayyed Ali Khamenei embracing children and family members of [Afghan] victims [killed in Syria’s war] and called them martyrs” and “that Iran’s Supreme Leader’s representatives also visited the homes of Afghan refugees and thanked them for their sons participation in the Syria war.”
In late 2015, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that the Islamic Republic is exploiting Shiite Afghan refugees who have crossed the border from their home country into Iran by coercing them to fight alongside forces in Syria loyal to Assad, often leading to their death.
In January of this year, Voice of America (VOA), citing Western media estimates, emphasized that Afghans from Iran, numbering between 10,000 and 12,000, are fighting alongside the IRGC and Iran’s Lebanese terror proxy Hezbollah in support of Assad.
VOA learned that the Afghan fighters are allegedly paid a monthly wage that ranges between $400 and $600 and are members of the “Fatemiyon Brigade,” identified as “the second largest group of foreigners fighting for Assad in Syria.”
Also in January, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that some Afghans are forced by Iran to fight for Assad.
“Iran has not just offered Afghan refugees and migrants incentives to fight in Syria, but several said they were threatened with deportation back to Afghanistan unless they [complied],” Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at HRW, said in a statement.
“Afghan migrants are under political, economic and other pressure and they accept government’s words where they live, otherwise they will be kicked out of those countries,” added political analyst Silab Waziri, according to TOLO.
The Assad regime, which is primarily backed by Iran and Russia, claims to be primarily fighting the Islamic State (ISIS) despite reports showing that it also targets other Syrian opposition troops, including some who are backed by the United States.
AFP identified the Afghans Iran is recruiting as members of the Shiite Hazara minority in Afghanistan, who have been massacred and oppressed by the Sunni Taliban group and its rival ISIS, which is also Sunni.
However, mutual disdain towards ISIS has reportedly brought strange bedfellows — Shiite Iran and the Sunni Afghan Taliban — together.
According to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the late Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour was killed on May 21 by a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan; his car was targeted as he crossed the border from Iran, where he was visiting family.
Citing local media reports, KP notes:
[Mansour] spent around 2 months in Iran and reached to an agreement on a number of issues of bilateral interest with the Iranian authorities.
One of the agreements [Mansour] reached with Iran was to help counter the issue of dissident Taliban groups joining ISIS ranks in Afghanistan. [Mansour] had also agreed with the Iranian authorities to prevent the expansion of ISIS loyalists in northern bordering regions of the country and Afghanistan-Tajikistan border.