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The Afghan group, which is funded, trained, and equipped by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, played a key role in the battles against ISIS in central Syria during 2016 and 2017. In 2019, the US sanctioned the group over its role in the Syrian war.
On March 29, Liwa Fatemiyoun, an Iranian-backed Afghan group, announced that its fighters had held live-fire drills in Syria. Liwa Fatemiyoun shared photos of the live-fire drills, which saw the group’s fighters firing heavy weapons. Furthermore, the fighters used night-vision and thermal sights to train on nigh-time combat operations.
Between 10,000 and 20,000 Afghan fighters are reportedly in service with Liwa Fatemiyoun, which operates in Aleppo, Homs and Deir Ezzor.
Liwa Fatemiyoun, literally “Fatimid Banner”, also known as Fatemiyoun Division, Fatemiyoun Brigade, or Hezbollah Afghanistan, is an Afghan Shia militia formed in 2014 to fight in Syria. This Afghan contingent would eventually become a division of 12,000-14,000 fighters — deployed at the brigade level on a rotational basis — run entirely by the IRGC and staffed by Afghan refugees both living in Iran and seeking to leave Afghanistan.
The Fatemiyoun, an Iranian-backed military force that has fought in Syria since 2013, is estimated to number in the thousands and draws its membership primarily from Shia Afghan communities in Iran and Afghanistan. The Fatemiyoun Division is an IRGC-QF-led militia that recruits from the millions of undocumented Afghan migrants and refugees in Iran, coercing them to fight in Syria under threat of arrest or deportation. Several hundred Fatemiyoun Division fighters, including children as young as 14 years old, have died fighting Iran’s war in Syria, and the bodies of slain Afghan fighters have been flown back to Iran on board Mahan Air flights from Syria.
Its main mission is to defend the sacred sites of Muslims and its secondary mission to fight oppression around the world. On May 22, 2013, this group came to the Syrian Zinabeeh with 22 people and announced itself as the Arab Fatemian (Fatahian) Lashkar. The founder of this group, Alireza Tavasoli, is known as Abu Hamed, was killed on July 9, 2014 in the Tel-e-Qing area near the Palestinian territories by an Israeli drone missile (such a terrorist tactic was used by Israeli commanders for Hezbollah commanders many times). After Abu Hamed, no other Afghan commander was selected for this division. Statistics from Afghan soldiers killed and wounded in the Syria war New reports released by the media show that more than 2,000 Afghans were killed and more than 8,000 injured in the Syrian war.
With the invasion of Takfiris (ISIL) in Syria and in danger of taking over the shrine of Hazrat Zeinab, the lovers of the Ahl al-Bayt (AS) went to defend the shrine of the Karbala Lady. Hence, many Afghans who were in Syria defended the holy shrine of Ahlul-Bayt (AS). Other Afghans in Afghanistan and other countries also went to Syria. The Mujahideen of the Afghan Guard Corps, who were at the front in Afghanistan during the fight against the Taliban, as well as the forces of the Abuzar Brigade, who during the holy defense along with the Iranian soldiers defended Islam, form the core of the Fatimid Brigade (Afghan Mujahideen Defenders of the Shrine).
The presence of the Fatimid Brigade in Syria conveyed the message that there is no meaning for the borders of the Fatimid, and the fighters of this brigade, wherever the Shiites and the Ahlulbit tribesmen (AS) are at risk, are no different from Syria or Iraq to help them. It was a treaty that all the Fatimids signed with their blood to remain under the treaty until their last drop of blood. Warriors of this Brigade, since they consider themselves a victim of the province, put the name of this Brigade in the Fatimid.
The protectorate of Afghan mujahideen was promoted to a Division by increasing its operational capability and talent to the army. According to a group of Jihad and Resistance to the East, one of the shrine’s warrior fighters announced the promotion of the Fatimid Brigade to the Lashkar, and said that the Brigade was promoted by increasing its operational capability and forces to the Division.
Many Afghans from Iran have joined the wave of refugees arriving in Europe, including a number who have fled the IRGC’s forced recruitment. Former Fatemiyoun Division fighters have reported being arrested by Iranian security forces and offered a choice between prison, deportation, or “volunteering” to train and fight in Syria with the promise of legal residency. Afghan recruits receive little training prior to deployment to Syria, where many are thrust into dangerous front-line combat roles, resulting in significant casualties.
As a part of action 24 January 2019, the IRGC-QF, the Fatemiyoun Division, and the Zaynabiyoun Brigade were designated pursuant to E.O. 13553, which targets serious human rights abuses by the Government of Iran. The Fatemiyoun Division and the Zaynabiyoun Brigade were designated pursuant to E.O. 13553 for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, materials, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, the IRGC-QF.
As a result of this action, all property and interests in property of these entities that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons. In addition, persons that engage in certain transactions with the entities designated today may themselves be exposed to designation. Furthermore, any foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant transaction or provides significant financial services for any of the entities designatedcould be subject to U.S. correspondent account or payable-through sanctions.
Since 2013, as many as 50,000 Afghans have fought in Syria as part of the Fatemiyoun, a pro-Assad force organized by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. At the height of their involvement in the Syrian civil war, the 2015-2016 Battle of Aleppo, the Afghan division had nearly 10,000 Shia fighters.
The Iranians used financial aid and offers of Iranian residency to recruit Afghan Shias from the predominantly Hazara refugee community inside Iran. Each fighter deployed to Syria was paid a salary of $300-$500 a month, a promise of Iranian permanent residency for themselves and their immediate families, and payment to families of those killed or severely injured in combat. What characterises an honour culture is that honor is the very axis around which life centers. A family without honor is a family with no status. Those who die are buried in one of the sacred sites of Shia Islam, and their families are granted Iranian citizenships.
In post-civil war Syria, many of the Fatemiyoun fighters were expected to be deployed to Syria-Iraq border region to keep the land corridor linking Iraq and Syria open, fulfilling a major Quds Force strategy in the two countries. Those fighters will be based in military camps and forward bases controlled by the Quds Force in Syria.