close button
Switch to Iranwire Light?
It looks like you’re having trouble loading the content on this page. Switch to Iranwire Light instead.
switch sites
Features

From Combat Zones in Syria to Construction Work in Kabul

October 3, 2018
IranWire Citizen Journalist
5 min read
Mohammad-Amin (a pseudonym) fought for Iran as part of the Fatemiyoun Division for four terms
Mohammad-Amin (a pseudonym) fought for Iran as part of the Fatemiyoun Division for four terms
Twenty days after enrolment, the Revolutionary Guard Corps contacted Mohammad-Amin and told him to prepare for military training
Twenty days after enrolment, the Revolutionary Guard Corps contacted Mohammad-Amin and told him to prepare for military training
Revolutionary Guards commanders warned that when returning to Iran and Afghanistan, the soldiers should not talk about what happened in Syria
Revolutionary Guards commanders warned that when returning to Iran and Afghanistan, the soldiers should not talk about what happened in Syria
According to Mohammad-Amin, since the Guards set up the Fatemiyoun Division, whose members are primarily Afghan immigrants, the Iranian people’s attitude toward Afghans has shifted
According to Mohammad-Amin, since the Guards set up the Fatemiyoun Division, whose members are primarily Afghan immigrants, the Iranian people’s attitude toward Afghans has shifted

Mohammad-Amin is the pseudonym of a former fighter in the Liwa Fatemiyoun Brigade, which was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran (IRGC) and is mainly made up of immigrant Shia Afghan fighters.

A young man who served four terms in the war in Syria fighting for Iran, Mohammad-Amin currently lives in Kabul and is busy working in the construction business, a job he used to do in Iran before joining the brigade. I met him at the construction site he was working on at the time. According to him, his number one motive for joining the army was protecting Shia holy shrines — a reason for many Afghan fighters' motivation. From the very beginning, as soon as he set foot on Iranian soil three years ago, Mohammad-Amin was looking for a Fatemiyoun recruitment office.

He told me finding an office was fairly easy. “When I was in Afghanistan, I really wanted to go to Syria and defend the holy shrines. As soon as I went to Iran, I had the opportunity to do so. I had many relatives and friends who were already in Fatemiyoun.”

According to him, the requirement to register was either permission from parents, or from a spouse if married. Then soldiers have to appoint someone as their agent, and present passport photos. “Of course, physical fitness and health were also important. You could not have any pre-existing health issues because there were some fighters who abused this system and after serving for a single term they would go back and just use the benefits. The Iranian government medically insured all the fighters and all the medical services were free for Fatemiyoun members. There were people with various health problems who would register and serve once, with a plan to use these medical benefits for life.”

Mohammad-Amin asked his father for his blessing and to get his permission to finalize the registration.“I talked to my father, he said this is an honorable thing to do, just be careful. My father, rest in peace, was a very religious and faithful man.”

After getting his father’s permission, he appointed his brother as his agent. “I appointed my brother as my agent. At first, agents were the ones who received the fighters’ salaries on their behalf, but after a while, they gave us a debit card and we got paid directly. Also, if a fighter dies they notify the agent to come and take care of the funeral and burial.”

He visited the recruitment office a few times. “Sometimes there was only one officer, and sometimes two, who would take care of the registration paperwork,” Mohammad-Amin said. Unlike other volunteers, no one warned him that he might get killed in the war. “They told us we are going to war in Syria, we registered voluntarily. No one told us that we might die but when you volunteer to do such a thing, you probably have done your homework.”

 

Learning Tactics and Gun Skills — And how to Keep Silent

 

Twenty days after registration, he received a phone call from the Quds Corps asking him to get ready for military training camp. He was sent to Yazd from Qom and learned about working with guns and about military tactics. “My training was in Yazd for 20 days. I learned how to work with handguns and automatic rifles and find out about tactics for attacking the enemy or backing up when under pressure. If someone could read and write or had any specific skills, they would endure longer training and learn more complicated tasks.”

In spring 2016, Mohammad-Amin was deployed by plane to Syria along with a group of other Fatemiyoun fighters. Since his main priority was defending the shrine of Hazrat Zainab, Mohammad-Amin was assigned to the unit located next to the shrine. According to him, there were other fighters who had primarily financial motives for fighting and  who were willing to fight anywhere in Syria, not only defending a shrine. 

The IRGC commanders warned the soldiers many times that were to allowed to talk about the events in Syria one they were back in Iran or Afghanistan. If the identities of the Afghan soldiers were disclosed to Afghan officials, the National Security Agency would arrest the men and put them in jail for 10 to 15 years. In this situation, the Islamic Republic would not get involved. For this reason, Mohammad-Amin would not talk in detail about his role under the yellow flag of Liwa Fatemiyoun in Syria.

“Many of the commandos and special forces of the Afghanistan National Army resigned from the army and joined Fatemiyoun,” he told me. “They said there is no point fighting for our own army, the regime is corrupt and our friends who are dying in the fight against the Taliban die in vain. One of them used to say no one can bear the awful conditions of the Afghan army.”

Mohammad-Amin says Fatemiyoun suffered many casualties in Syria, but as somewhat of a remedy, the Iranian government offers decent benefits for the families of fighters killed in the Syrian war: they  pay the family some cash as blood money and grant them Iranian citizenship and issue them with ID cards. “Fatemiyoun lost too many fighters. Their bodies were sent back to Iran for the funeral and burial. Blood money totaling 1.5 billion Iranian rials was was paid to the families in installments. They were also supposed to be granted citizenship but since I moved back to Afghanistan I don’t know if that happened or not. Every time an Afghan family lost a loved one, their Iranian neighbors became kind and nicer to them. The government also fulfilled almost all its promises. At holidays, they send donations in forms of food and clothes for the martyrs’ families.”

In Mohammad-Amin’s opinion, after Iran established Liwa Fatemiyun, largely made up of immigrant Afghan Shia fighters, Iranians’ perception and attitude toward Afghans has improved. As with another soldier IranWire spoke with, he believes  Afghans can now live a happier and less challenging life in Iran.

Although he served four times in Syria, he is now back in his hometown Kabul doing construction work. I asked him: “Why did you leave Fatemiyoun?” He told me: “I did my part, I had a responsibility to do something and I did. I had no financial motives throughout any of those four terms.”

 

Razieh Bahrami, citizen journalist

 

 

comments

Features

“Afghan Fighters Knew the Risks Involved in Syria”

October 2, 2018
B. A. Arman
6 min read
“Afghan Fighters Knew the Risks Involved in Syria”