Exposing the Revolutionary Guardsʹ inhuman role in mobilizing, training and deployment of Afghans in the Syrian war

Comprehensive Report
Foreign Affairs Committee
National Council of Resistance of Iran
December 2017

The report

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps does not have the ability to send Iranian troops or members of the Basij militia to Syria. There is strong public opposition to intervention in Syria. Thus, the regime has taken advantage of the poor people of Afghanistan to advance the war in Syria.

In recent years, there have been various reports about the deployment of Afghans by the Iranian regime to Syria to carry out its vicious goals in support of Syrian dictatorship. This report provides a comprehensive picture of the mobilization, training centers, places for the deployment of Afghans in Syria, the number of casualties and their situation after returning from Syria. It also identifies some of the main members of the Iranian regime involved in this project. This report is based on dozens of reports prepared by the network of supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Oragnisation of Iran inside Iran.

The report clearly shows that, contrary to the claims of the regime, there are essentially no voluntary elements in this regard, and the deployment of Afghan forces to Syria from the start to the end is being carried by the IRGC through the use of all state facilities of the Iranian regime.

Among the foreign troops, the most cost‐effective army is Afghans. The number of Afghan citizens living in Iran is estimated at around 3 million. At the beginning of the Syrian war, the IRGC started dispatching Iran‐settled Afghans to the Syrian war, and now they have become a military division with about 15,000 to 20,000 troops called Fatemioun.

This report highlights the command and control of the IRGC for organizing Afghan forces, the recruiting process and details of registration centres throughout Iran, details of Afghan Military Training Centers in Iran, the process for sending troops to Syria,their deployment in Syria, operating areas and their organisation there, how their salaries are paid, the casualties of Afghan forces, return of the dead and wounded, and the regimeʹs attempt to reduce the dissatisfaction of the families of dead Afghans.

Ansar Headquarters of Quds Force, commanding Afghan mercenary forces

Ansar Headquarters of the Quds Force is in charge of commanding the Afghan forces deployed to Syria. It is responsible for meddling in Afghanistan and Pakistan. When the Quds Force started its activities in 1991, the IRGC brigadier Ismail Qaʹani, the current deputy to Qassem Soleimani, became the commander of the Ansar Headquarters in Mashhad. Currently, the commander of the headquarters is the IRGC brigadier Hossein Mousavi. Ansar HQ has a central headquarters in Mashhad and four subordinate headquarters in eastern provinces of Iran. The Fatemioun division is considered part of the Quds Force.

Some IRGC commanders are in charge of affairs related to Afghans. For example, IRGC Brigadier General Kazem Valiooni in Tehran follows dispatching forces to Syria in the Syria logistics HQ, and IRGC Brigadier Javad Hashemi in Qom follows Afghan‐related affaris in the Shaheed Foundation.

In addition to Iranian IRGC commanders who command the Fatemioun forces, some Afghans who have more background working with the IRCG are also commanding units of this force.

How Afghan forces are absorbed and recruited

Since the number of casualties of the Syrian war are causing dissatisfaction among Iranian families, the regime has decided to pay the least political and social costs by dispatching Afghan forces because Afghans lack any human and social rights inside Iran.

Furthermore, by dispatching militants from other countries, especially Afghan forces, or pretending that they have joined voluntarily, the regime is trying to make the broad scope of its intervention look inconspicuous.

IRGC methods for recruiting Afghan forces are as follows:

First, the majority of these forces are poor Afghans residing in Iran, who are willing to join because there are no jobs for them, as they can obtain a temporary income or receive ID cards and residence permits in Iran after deploying to Syria several times.
Second, some others are recruited from the Shiʹite provinces of Afghanistan. The regime dispatches them through its clerical network in those regions and promises to find jobs for them.

Third, many of these Afghans are prisoners who are sent to Syria in lieu of their freedom.

In all of these cases, the same methods of stimulating the Basijis is used when they were sent to the Iran‐Iraq war, i.e. through abusing the religious sentiments of Afghan Shiites. To this end, the regime has named the troops sent to Syria as ‘defenders of the holy shrine’.

Many Afghans dispatched to Syria are children under the age of 18, some as young as 12.

Afghan recruitment centers in Iran

The IRGC has set up enrollment and deployment centers in many provincial goernorates. These centers are used for recruiting and deployment of Afghan forces, and some of the have been named by the IRGC as ‘Samandehi Qadr’.

The network of the Iranian Resistance has identified eleven of Afghan recruiting centers in different provinces and cities of Iran.

IRGC Bureau at Khomeini’s Tomb Metro Station, The Office of Aliens in Tehran Governorate, Shahr‐ Ray Recruitment Office, The office of Pishva town in the suburbs of Tehran, Mashhad Office, Shiraz Office, Qom Office, Saveh Office, Delijan Office, Kerman Office, Torbat‐e‐Jam Office.

Training in Iran

Following the recruitment and registration of Afghans in IRGC bases and provincial offices, the IRGC begins training these forces in IRGC and Quds Force training garrisons. The training period is from two to four weeks, where the recruits learn how to use various weapons and are dispatched to battlefields in Syria with minimum training.

The following are five of the most important IRGC training garrisons used for Afghan recruits:

First, Pazuki Garrison: This base is run by the Quds Force and located in the Varamin area near the village of Jalilabad. Around 200 Afghans are trained in each term to be dispatched to Syria. Infantry training includes AK47 assault rifles, machine gun, mortar, sniper rifle, tactics, etc. All the instructos are members of the IRGC and Quds Force.


After completion of their training the recruits are organized into Fatemioun Division units. This base is located alongside the Jalilabad IRGC base, and is actually a separated portion of that site. Seyed Mostafa Hosseini is one of the Quds Force commanders stationed at the base.

Aerial image of the IRGC’s Pazuki Garrison

Second, Chamran Garrison: This site is located five kilometers from the Jalilabad Garrison in the town of Pishva, located southeast of Tehran. At least 100 individuals, mostly Afghans residing in Iran, take part in each training period to be dispatched to Syria. Colonel Hosseini Moghadam commands this base. Training includes sniper rifles and sniper fire, mortar launchers, and infantry tactics.
Third, Mashhad Center: Mostly Afghan recruits are trained at this facility, known by the code name 4000. Groups of 300 individuals receive training in each term. This center is connected to the Quds Force Ansar Corps.

Fourth, Sadoughi Garrison in Yazd: This site is the center of IRGC training in Yazd province, used to train Afghan recruits as well. An individual by the name of Zare is in charge of the base commander’s office and Mofidi is in charge of training. Afghan recruits undergo a 25‐day training period in this base.

 Aerial image of Sadoughi Garrison near Yazd Bypass Express Way

Fifth, IRGC base in Shiraz: A portion of the Afghan recruits are trained in Shiraz. This fort belongs to the IRGC in Fars Province.

Afghan recruits dispatched to Syria

After the IRGC schedules an exact date for deployment, all provinces are informed of the agenda. Reports indicate that since early 2017 around 2,000 individuals have been sent to Syria on a weekly basis.

The trained recruits are gathered in Fort Kheir al‐Hafezeen near the town of Shahriar located south of Tehran and dispatched to Syria. It is located 11 kilometers from Tehran on the Old Karaj road (Fat’h Highway), 2 kilometers down the Baghestan Highway towards Shahriar before reaching the Saeed Abad village.

This base is under IRGC command. Daily affairs are carried out by Fatemioun members, under IRGC commanders. A Quds Force officer by the name of Khavari is in charge of dispatching recruits to Syria. This base is also used as the convalescent home for Afghans injured and wounded in Syria.

Aerial image of Kheir al‐Hafezeen Garrison near the town of Shahriar


Afghan recruits are transferred from the Shahriar base with window‐covered busses to Imam Khomeini Airport, located near this site. These recruits are sent to Syria on Tuesdays each week by Mahan Air and Iran Air charter planes.

Afghan recruits dispatched by Iran Air charter planes

 

IRGC bases and centers used for Fatemioun in Syria

All recruits dispatched by the IRGC to Syria are registered in the “Glass Building” by the IRGC command adjacent to Damascus International Airport. Each receives ID cards upon their entrance into Syria. The Glass Building is a five‐story facility where the IRGC central command in Syria is stationed.

Aerial images of the Glass Building adjacent to Damascus International Airport


Sheibani Garrison (a.k.a. Imam Hossein Garrison)
Most of the Afghan forces are then transferred to Sheibani Garrison (known as Imam Hossein Garrison) located west of Damascus, and from there to various areas across Syria. The recruits not trained in Iran receive their training in this base. Members of Hezbollah are based here as well. Members of the IRGC, Fatemioun and Lebanese Hezbollah have separate facilities in this base.

Aerial image of Sheibani Garrison west of Damascus

Behuth Garrison (a.k.a. Hazrat‐e Roqiye Garrison)

Behuth Garrison is one of the sites where Afghan recruits are stationed in Syria. This fort, located southeast of the town of al‐Safira, east of Aleppo, is a complex of the Behuth (Investigation) center belonging to the Syrian Army. The code name for this facility is 350. The IRGC has named this fort as Hazrat‐e Roqiye.

This fort is the main logistics site of the IRGC forces in the south Aleppo front. Apart from members of the IRGC and Afghans, Hezbollah forces and Iraqis are stationed at this site.


Aerial image of Behuth Garrison located southeast of the town of al‐Safira

 Jureen Garrison

Jureen Garrison is another base where Afghan recruits in Syria are based. This fort is located north of Latakia and towards the town of Jisr al‐Shughur. IRGC members and Afghan recruits are stationed here. This area is between the provinces of Idlib and Latakia. These units are stationed in this base to prevent any possible attack by Syrian opposition forces.

Numerous other forts and centers in other areas of Syria, including the provinces of Homs, Deraa, Aleppo and Hama are allocated for the IRGC’s Afghan recruits.

Fatemioun forces and weaponry

First, Fatemioun Division’s troop count is between 15,000 and 20,000 fighters, according to recent reports.

Second, This division is comprised of infantry, armored, sniper and missile units.

Third, Based on the IRGC organizational structure, each battalion of this division has around 200 men.

Fourth, Most battalions are named after killed Afghan commanders. Some of them include: Shaheed (Martyr) Javeed – Shaheed Ibrahim – Shaheed Mohammad – Shaheed Hossein Fadaee – Shaheed Karimi – Rabii.

Fifth, The IRGC provides the Fatemioun’s light and medium weaponry.

Sixth, A number of old and worn‐out tanks and armored vehicles are provided to the Fatemioun by the Syrian Army.

Fatemioun operational areas

The IRGC command specifies the Fatemioun’s missions in all areas of operation. Heavy casualties point to their being used as cannon fodder by the IRGC.

In recent months, Fatemioun forces were dispatched to attacks staged in eastern Syria. They were involved in ongoing attacks in this area aimed at taking control over the city of Deir ez‐Zor, alMayadeen and Albu Kamal. As a result, most of the corpses transferred to Iran in recent months belonged to the Fatemioun.

Fatemioun members’ salary

Afghan recruits dispatched to Syria receive around 2 to 3 million tomans equivelant to $600 to $700 each month. This salary is deposited in their accounts in Iran, forcing them to remain in Syria until the end of their deployment. In addition, they are paid $100 cash in Syria.

Fatemioun members are given promises that their families will get their salaries if they are killed or maimed in Syria. But in most cases their salaries are cut‐off after their return to Iran, leaving their families in very dire conditions.

Afghan casualties in Syria
Afghans killed in Syria are buried in the Imamzadeh Abdullah cemetery located in Shahr‐e Ray, southeast of Tehran.

A signicant number of Afghan commanders of the Fatemioun have been killed in Syria.

The high number of Afghan casualties in Syria clearly shows that they are used as cannon fodders by the IRGC, and the main commanders are from the IRGC.

Some Fatemioun Divison commanders killed in Syria:

First, Alireza Tavassoli, aka Abu Hamed, and his deputy, Reza Bakhshi, were the first Fatemioun Divison commanders killed on Qareen Hill near Deraa on March 10th, 2015. Tavassoli commanded the first Fatemioun group of 22 recruits dispatched to Syria back in 2011. He is considered the founder of this division.

Seyed Ibrahim with Qassem Suleimani

Second, Reza Khavari, a Fatemioun founder, killed near Aleppo in October 2015


Reza Khavari

Third, Mostafa Sadrzadeh, aka Seyed Ibrahim, was killed on October 23rd, 2015, south of Aleppo (al‐Qarsiye region). He previously commanded the Ammar Battalion of the Fatemioun Division.
He is an Iranian member of this division.

Sadrzadeh with Qassem Suleimani

Fourth, the first Fatemioun Division fatality in Syria was Hossein Fadaie, another Afghan commander, He was a high ranking member and considered one of the founders of this unit.

Hossein Fadaie

Fifth, Ali Jafari was a senior Fatemioun Division commander killed on January 5th, 2017 near the town of Tadmir. He used to live in Isfahan in Iran.

Ali Jafari

Wounded members and families of Fatemioun casualties

Fatemioun members wounded in Syria and the families of those killed are living in horrible conditions in Iran.

Many of the wounded are sent to the IRGC’s Baqiatollah Hospital. Wards 5 and 6 of this hospital are allocated to this division, and their 100 bed capacity is usually filled. Those who cannot be accommodated are transferred to Kheir al‐Hafezeen Garrison. This facility lacks minimum facilities to provide medical care. After some time, each individual is sent to the town or city where they lived.

Wounded Fatemioun members mostly do not receive any salary or compensation. The same goes for the families of those Fatemioun members killed in Syria. This has resulted in unrest and public hatred among Afghans who are dispatched to Syria and among their families. The IRGC, the Shaheed Foundation and other regime entities do not provide any support for these individuals.

Report from a Fatemiyan Commander who returned from Syria to southern Tehran

I went to all places to get the length of treatment (pension rights due to his injuries), and those who are on top don’t do anything.

I Have a sick child but I do not have the money to take him to hospital, I have not paid my rent for a few months and the landlord is going to kick me out, I can not tell my problems to everyone, when Alireza Tavassoli (alias‐Abu Hamed), the commander of our division was killed, one of my relatives called from Syria and said that if your problem wasn’t solved in Iran don’t bother about coming to Syria because it is obvious that they do not do anything for anyone at all. That is why
I am scared, otherwise I would have gone there 100 times.

I have no money at all, I do not even have 100 thousand tomans ($30) to pay towards my rent and my children are hungry. Iʹm now looking for someone to lend me 100 thousand tomans ($30) just to survive and not die of hunger.

A report from a Fatemiyen commander wounded in Syria who has returned to Tehran

Many of my relatives have been martyred in this war and their corpses was never found. Despite being injured, we have not seen anything from the authorities except disrespect and insult, and in this cold winter my family and I are homeless, and I do not know whether to cope with the pain of my injuries and shrapnel in my body or the pain of insults by the authorities, or the pain of the seeing my family in the cold.

There are so many others like me who are homeless; now the situation of the veterans of the Fatemiyun is very unpleasant. We spoke with the authorities and with the commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and the representatives of the supreme leader in various organisations and told them that this is not good for the Shiites, it is not good for the Islamic Front. At least give these veterans their salaries. Now this situation is a shame to the system. God is witnessing that I do not have the money and I have to eat only bread as my food, and live on a loan. There are about 10 bullets in my body and I suffer from after effects of a blast. I do not know what to do, and I am being passed between the IRGC and the Martyr Foundation. Where our situation should be dealt with?

A report from a Qods Force recruitment agents in Tehran

Many members of the Fatemiyan army have now been protesting for being ignored, and they say that their wounded personnel are not dealt with but are sent back from Syria and taken to IRGC’s Baqiyatallah Hospital and discharged after they have been dealt with. Those who have no place to live in, are sent to the ʺKheiroul Hafezin Garrisonʺ located in Shahriarʹs three ways, which lacks the basic facilities.

The regime’s attempts to reduce dissatisfaction amongst the families of dead Afghans

Since sending Afghan forces to the Syrian conflict and failing to address the families of the dead has resulted in dissension and protests among them, the mullahs have been forced to take a series of measures. Among them, the regimes’ supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, has met with some members of the families of dead Afghans in the last two years on Iranian New Yearʹs Eve or some other religious occasion and has tried to hypocritically justify the slaughter of these people in Syria in the name of religion.

Khamenei meeting Afghan families

Seyyed Mohammad Ali Shahidimahlati, director of the Martyr Foundation and the regime’s veteran affairs said in an interview with the Young newspaper on March 11, 2017 that according to Khamenei, the family of the Afghan victims killed in the Syrian war should be given Iranian nationality. He went on to add that last year, 2,000 holy shrine defenders have been killed, so our foundation must pay pensions for 10,000 members of their families same interview.

On 27 February, 2017, Seyyed Ebrahim Raissi , head of the Astan Quds Razavi Foundation announced the construction of 36 apartment units in the Bagherabad neighborhood of southern Tehran for the families of the Afghans killed in the Syrian war.
In a report released on 1, October, 2017 on the deployment and killing of Afghan teenagers in the Syrian war, Human Rights Watch released a photograph of 8 Afghan teenagers under the age of 18 killed in the Syrian war .

On 2 October, 2017, Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Shakib Mastanchi said that a number of Afghan refugees in Iran are pushing for pressure on the United States to take action against international principles.


Graves of 8 dead Afghan teenagers killed in Syria

Conclusion

This report clearly shows that the main source of Afghan mobilization for the war in Syria is the IRGC, which monitors and controls all these steps in the use of Afghans, including mobilizing, training, deploying and using these forces on the Syrian front. In fact, these forces are used as part of the IRGC, and in particular the Qods Force in Syria.

It is well known that the IRGC takes advange of the poverty, misery, deprivation, and abuse perpetrated against the Afghans, and uses bullying and intimidation to force them into deployment in Syria to participate in the suppression of the Syrian people.

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