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Iranian Foreign Legion of IRGC Force in Syria
Hassan Daioleslam
September 22, 2016

Iranian Foreign Legion of IRGC Force
IRGC has a vast Foreign Legion recruited from around the Middle East to do the various mercenary campaigns, suppressions, assassinations, assaults and the other dirty jobs which the Iranians typically are reluctant to do! The elite force of this group is the Iranian Foreign Legion of the IRGC Qods Force. Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari Commander of the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) recently made public the fact that the IRGC was responsible for training (and often recruiting, arming and paying) 200,000 pro-Iran fighters in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan. This, in general, is no secret. It was long believed that as many as 50,000 Iranian created militiamen are fighting in Syria. There are somewhat smaller forces in Lebanon (about 25,000), Iraq (over 20,000) and Yemen (more than 15,000). Pakistan and Afghanistan were not happy with the IRGC publicly admitting that Iran has sponsored local (and often illegal) Shiite militias.

Iranian regime intensifies its campaign to lure Afghan immigrants to fight in Syria

For the past several months, the Iranian regime has been carrying out a large-scale public campaign to justify its military intervention in Syria and reinvigorate the regime’s ideological base that seems shaken by the Syrian quagmire. This campaign specifically targets Afghan immigrants who provide the majority of recruits for the “Fatemiyoun” Division, the Afghan unit of Iran’s Qods Force fighting in Syria. The Fatemiyoun Division was founded in 2013 and is estimated to have around 12,000 members, 400 of whom have been killed in Syria.

IRGC Qods Force Commander Major General Qassem Soleimani
The Iranian Media has started a massive campaign portraying Qassem Soleimani as a national hero, protector of the Shiite Islam
and man of the people.

This campaign seems crucial for the Iranian regime as it is bogged down in Syria and in desperate need of more fighters for its war machine. However, the dramatic increase in Fatemiyoun causalities in recent months has made it more difficult for the Qods Force to find new recruits amongst the Afghan community. Furthermore, numerous Western media reports on the Iranian regime luring impoverished Afghans to Syria by paying them money and promising social and legal protection for their families have tarnished the regime’s Syrian campaign in general and the Fatemiyoun’s standing in particular.

Iranian IRGC Qods Force Special Forces Motorized Mobile Units play an important role in Syria and around the Middle East. A Great number of these units are of the Iranian Foreign Legion of the IRGC.

It should be noted that the Fatemiyoun Division consists of two distinct categories of fighters; its commanders and high ranking members are predominantly Afghan members of the Qods Force and Shiite fanatics loyal to the Iranian regime’s ideology. But the majority of Fatemiyoun members are impoverished Afghans, mainly immigrants in Iran. According to recent figures, of the three million Afghans living in Iran, only one million have legal immigration status, making the other two million, illegal immigrants. They live under extremely harsh economic conditions and are constantly subjected to discrimination, ridicule and abuse, making them desperate and their situation dire enough to enable the Iranian regime to take advantage by recruiting them as manpower for its war campaign in Syria.

The Campaign

In May, the Supreme Leader received some of the families of the Afghans killed in Syria with the meeting being broadcast on national TV. More recently, Qassem Soleimani the chief commander of the Qods Force visited the family of one of the Fatemiyoun commanders who was killed in Syria in 2015. Several high profile TV programs have also been dedicated to the families of Fatemiyoun members.

IRGC Qods Force Commander Major General Qassem Soleimani (in the middle with scarf) with Peshmerga Kurdish commandos fighting ISIS. Great Iranian State Media Propaganda Photo Op.

A large number of documentaries and video clips have been produced to honor the Afghan “martyrs” and their families. They feature the ideological commanders and members of the Fatemiyoun in an attempt to present a positive image of them as devoted Shiites who have volunteered to fight in Syria to defend their faith. A TV program featured a religious figure of the Afghan immigrants in Iran who defended the Fatemiyoun and their members claiming they sacrifice their lives to defend Islam.

The Iranian regime has also been trying to repair the damage caused by the revelation that a number of Afghans killed in Syria have been buried without being identified. The burials have taken place in the absence of government or military officials and without appropriate rituals dedicated to the martyrs. The issue became more contentious for the regime after a former commander of the Revolutionary Guards publicly denounced these practices and pointed to the burial of 28 “unidentified” Afghans. The regime has now begun organizing public funerals and religious ceremonies for the Afghan martyrs who did not have family members in Iran.

Iranian General Qassem Soleimani with Iraqi Militia in Aleppo, Syria fighting ISIS. Another Great Iranian State Media Propaganda Photo Op.

In order to encourage the Afghan community to enlist for the Syrian war campaign, the Iranian regime has also announced a series of legal and social incentives for the families of the Fatemiyoun members killed or injured in Syria. The family members will be granted Iranian citizenship even if they have been living in Iran as illegal aliens. The families will be covered by the “Foundations of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs”, providing them with a wide range of social and financial privileges including living expenses, housing and health insurance. The children will be accepted to a special educational program dedicated to the families of martyrs that provides them with opportunities to study in good schools and places them in the quota to enter the best universities across the country.

Pakistani unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards fighting in Syria

In late 2014, the Revolutionary Guards Qods Force recruited a group of 50 Pakistani Shiites and formed the Zeynabiyoun brigade. The unit is currently estimated to have 1500 to 2000 fighters in Syria.

No Photos Please!
General Qassem Soleimani Commander of Iranian IRGC Qods Force after the meeting.
Iranian IRGC pretends that the General does not like Photo Ops and publicity (blocking the cameras)! The reality is that this is yet another IRI shenanigan and propaganda tactic, selling the IRI interference in the Middle East and the Syrian Campaign to the public!

On June 28th, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards organized a rally in Tehran to honor the “martyrs” of the “Zeynabiyoun” Brigade which consists of Pakistani Shiites recruited and organized by the  Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force to fight in Syria.

Since the start of the Syrian uprising in 2011 and the Iranian military intervention in defense of the Assad regime, the Quds Force has deployed several thousand of its members together with Hezbollah fighters and thousands of Iraqi Shiites mobilized by its proxy militias in Iraq.

Iranian Girl Fan of Major General Qassem Soleimani Commander of Iranian IRGC Qods Force is participating in the demonstration, welcoming the General back to Iran while waving the photo of the General, stating: “I am your soldier General Soleimani”! Yes, you guessed it! Another IRI propaganda rally with students and fashionable girls waving pictures with English slogans directed to the English speaking audience and media!

In 2013, the Quds Force recruited Afghan Shiites, mostly immigrants living in Iran and formed the Fatemiyoun division which is currently estimated to have nearly 12,000 fighters in Syria.

In late 2014, the Qods Force formed the Zeynabiyoun brigade after recruiting a group of 50 Pakistani Shiites. While one of its commanders told an Iranian website that the brigade has thousands of fighters, the unit is currently estimated to have 1500 to 2000 fighters in Syria. In December 2014, Iranian media reported about the Zeynabiyoun brigade fighting in Syria for the first time.

Syrian Opposition Political Poster mocking the Syrian Puppet Regime of Iran:
"Vote for Qassem Soleimani President of Syria and his deputy Bashar Al Assad!”
Syrian Opposition openly critics Assad’s Regime as the Iranian Puppet Regime.  

The Zeynabiyoun Brigade also has an official Facebook page and a secondary page where news of its activities in Syria and its casualties are posted. A cursory review of public funerals held in Iran for Zeynabiyoun members since 2014 till September 2016 indicates that the brigade has lost nearly 100 fighters in Syria. Panjereh Weekly, a publication close to Revolutionary Guards reported in July 2016 that 96 members of the brigade have been killed in Syria.

The Zeynabiyoun consists of two distinct categories of fighters, first, its high ranking members and commanders who are members of the Iran Qods Force and Shiite fanatics loyal to the Iranian regime’s ideology. But the majority of Zeynabiyoun members are impoverished Pakistani Shiites, mainly immigrants in Iran.

One of the brigade’s commanders, Abbas, a Pakistani Shiite confirmed that he was working for the Qods Force prior to joining the Zeynabiyoun. According to Mashregh, a website affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, the founding members of Zeynabiyoun were Pakistani students in the Shiite seminaries in the city of Qom. Panjereh Weekly has also confirmed that the first group of Zeynabiyoun members were the Pakistani students of Al Mustafa International University.

Established in 2007 in Qom, Al Mustafa trains foreign Shia clerics, scholars and missionaries. Its main campuses are based in Iran and it has more than one hundred seminaries, Islamic schools and religious centers around the world. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is the highest authority of the University. Al Mustafa operates several seminaries and centers in Pakistan. The family of one Zeynabiyoun fighter killed in Syria told Panjereh Weekly that he was a student at one of the seminaries in Pakistan before being recruited by the brigade.

Creation of Zeynabiyoun and Iran-Pakistan relations

Pakistan is an Islamic country of 170 million, the majority of whom are Sunnis with a minority of Shiites estimated at around 15 to 20 million. The Iranian regime has established a network of religious centers and schools in Pakistan and enjoys some influence among the Shiite minority. Its affiliates regularly organize a number of events including annual Qods day rallies, an event designed to fuel anti-Israeli hatred amongst Pakistani Muslims.

Fearing the Pakistani government’s reaction, the Iranian regime has been expanding its influence with caution. The creation of an armed radical militia could have long-term impacts on the Pakistani Shiite community and could intensify Shiite-Sunnis tensions in the country. According to one of the brigade’s commanders, the Qods Force’s initial 2014 objective was to form the Zeynabiyoun  by exclusively recruiting from the Pakistani immigrants living in Iran and not accepting those coming from Pakistan. According to one of the Zeynabiyoun’s officials confirmed that the Qods Force was not initially eager to publicize the brigade’s existence but the increase in the unit’s fatalities and the rumors surrounding it forced the regime to admit to its existence and its participation in the Syrian civil war.

Iranian IRGC Qods Force Special Force Commando
Iranian Foreign Legion of IRGC trained by Iran, fighting for Assad, fighting a never ending war in Syria for the IRI, forever ……

According to another brigade commander, the expulsion of 12,000 Pakistani Shiites from the United Arab Emirates from 2014 to 2015 and their arrival in Iran provided the Iranian Quds Force with a recruiting pool to boost the ranks of the Zeynabiyoun Brigade. According to Panjereh, some of the Zeynabiyoun fighters killed in Syria have been buried under pseudonyms in Iran as their families cannot repatriate their bodies due to fears of persecution by the Pakistani government.

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