During the past few months Iran has significantly increased its deployment of Afghan elements to Syria in support of Bashar Assad’s troops. In 2015 their numbers reached 8,000. Considering the fact that these Afghan nationals have no other motive to fight in Syria but to receive permission to live in Iran and receive their money, they are worn out and lose their fighting abilities very quickly. On the other hand, old weapons and lack of adequate training has led to an increasing number of casualties amongst these forces, having a negative impact on their spirits.
The “Fatemioun Division” consists of Afghan nationals commanded by an individual named Abu Haider from the city of Mashhad in northeast Iran. His deputy is name Alireza Fateh. Iran is also facing disputes at home as Revolutionary Guards members are refusing to fight in Syria. This has forced the regime to seek support from Afghan refugees.
Intelligence obtained from inside Iran’s Revolutionary Guards shows over 8,000 Afghan nationals sent by Tehran to Syria in 2015, meaning three times that of previous periods. With the war starting in Syria Iran deployed 5,000 elite IRGC troops to this country. However, the death of senior IRGC commanders in Syria in recent years have raised major discontent over the regime being pulled into the Syria quagmire. Therefore, Iran was forced to start using Afghan youths coming to Iran seeking to become refugees. However, Afghan nationals are now expressing their disappointment due to their high number of casualties in Syria and lack of military supplies. Iran has been using threats and enticing to have them follow its orders and be sent off to the inferno in Syria and fuel the mullahs’ war.
The pressures imposed by the IRGC on Afghan nationals are threats of being thrown to prison for illegal entrance into Iran, amnesty for their prisoners, threats of being executed or amnesty from execution; all aimed to have these individuals agree to deploy to Syria. Moreover, Iran is taking advantage of a large number of Afghans as they lack any identification documents.
These recruited Afghans receive $500 as their wages. They are then dispatched in groups of up to 200 men with IRGC charter planes from Iran to Damascus International Airport. In Syria these groups are distributed to warfronts along with Assad forces.
The first cell of the Fatemioun Brigade was formed of IRGC-related Afghan elements and those who took part in the 8 year long Iran-Iraq War. Many of these individuals have currently become “IRGC and Quds Force commanders”. The Fatemioun Brigade is considered a branch of the Quds Force.
Organization of Fatemioun Brigade
The commander of this brigade is an IRGC member by the name of Haj’agha Mortazavi, or Alavi. He is a commander of Fort Ansar of the Quds Force in the city of Mashhad, northeast Iran. The commander of this brigade in Syria is an individual by the name of Abu Haider, who is also deputy commander of Fort Ansar in Iran. Other Fatemioun Brigade commanders in Syria include Seyed Ali Hosseini and Ali Akbar, who monitor all affairs related to the Afghans brigades. There are also a number of Quds Force from Tehran, including Imami Gholi and Mahmoud, who preside over the “Dedicated Institutions”.
The Fatemioun Brigade in Syria has infantry, armored, sniper and rocket units. This brigade “has dozens of infantry battalions, each with over 200 men. Last year this brigade had 10 to 15 battalions.” New reports this year indicate the total number of all IRGC forces in Syria have increased three fold. Most of the Fatemioun Brigade battalions have been named based on Afghan casualties, including the Javeed, Ibrahim, Mohammad, Hossein Fadaie, Karimi, Rabi’e battalions and more…’
The Fatemioun Brigade has armored and rocket units, along with sniper units. “Shams” is the commander of the armored unit. “Mr. Teacher” is the commander of the sniper unit. The IRGC has equipped this brigade with various types of light and medium-weight weapons, and the Syrian army has provided a portion of the armored vehicles. “Old and second-hand tanks are given to this brigade, raising dissent amongst the Fatemioun Brigade armored units.”
Last year when the Fatemioun Brigade armored units were formed they had 8 armored vehicles, three of which were T-72 main battle tanks, and the rest were old T-55 tanks, with rounds loaded by hand… “in the new year the number of tanks in this unit increased to 15 armored vehicles.”[u1]
The facilities of this brigade in Syria, used to station forces, for commuting and training, are “Fort Imam Hossein, being this brigade’s main base, located 70 kilometers north of Damascus. Nearly 1,000 men commute to this base, stationing there for leave time from the front lines. This base is also used to distribute forces between various fronts.
There is another facility called the “Glass Base”, allocated to IRGC commanders in Syria and is located adjacent to the Damascus International Airport. Upon arrival Afghan forces are distributed through this base. “Kameel” is one of the commanders in this base.
“Fort Roghiye” is another very large base, belonging to IRGC forces in Syria. A number of Afghan forces are stationed in this base. This fort is located in Burus (or Burtes) near Aleppo and “Amirpour” is the name of its commander. This base is used to distribute and send forces to the front lines in Aleppo, which is called the Belad district.
Logistics forces, the food cooking unit and the armored unit of the Fatemioun Brigade are stationed in Fort Zeinab located 80 kilometers south of Damascus. However, “Fort Saraj”, also known as the “M130 Training Site”, consists of a base for armored training, located in an area by the name of “Jermana” near Damascus, which has a large field. The commander of training in this base is an individual by the name of “Shams”. He is one of the individuals linked to the IRGC. The commander of this fort is an individual by the name of “Thabet”, aka “Zero”.
The main fighting grounds of this brigade is located south of Aleppo along with the IRGC units that are already stationed there. Moreover, some of these forces are stationed in Fort Imam Hossein, while others are in front lines north of Dera’a, in Tadmeer, Homs and Latakia.
Afghan forces’ recruit centers in Iran is the Foreign Citizens Office in Tehran Province. On Mondays and Wednesdays an individual by the name of Hojjat Karbalaie registers the names of Afghan nationals to be dispatched. This office is located in the section of Zeeba in Ta’avoni Avenue.
One other active location used to recruit Afghan nationals is Shahr-e Rey, south of Tehran. This office is located behind the Shah Abdul’Azeem orchards in the “Davvar Narenj” neighborhood, inside the “Masoud Keihani” section. Moreover, in cities where Afghan forces are stationed, such as Mashhad, these units have opened offices for their daily matters.