Iran Forcing Afghan Refugees to Fight for Assad in Syria

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The Iranian regime decided April 7 to impose fines and penalties against Afghan workers in Iran, according to regional media reports. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is reported to have seized on the opportunity to recruit Afghan workers to fight for Iranian ally President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

There are an estimated 1.4 million Afghanis in Iran, many of whom work without permits, according to the Iranian regime. The fine for working without a permit was $35. The new law has doubled the penalty and added a possible 90-day jail sentence.

If refugees sign up to fight, however, they are treated differently. Afghan fighters get a salary of between $350-$500/month and a permit to stay in Iran indefinitely.

Their children receive free education in governmental schools.

Since 2013, the IRGC operated a special Afghan fighters brigade called the Brigade of the Fatamids. There are currently an estimated 360 Shiite Afghan fighters according to Iranian media reports. Human Rights Watch said the IRGC has recruited “thousands” of undocumented Afghan migrants to fight in Syria since 2013.

The first commander of the Afghan brigade, Ali Rada Tawwasuli, was killed in Daraa in March 2015 by rebel forces. He was considered to be close to Quds Force head Maj-Gen Qassem Suleimani. 

.Hezbollah has also made a new branch for Afghan fighters

The Afghan government objected to the rules change for undocumented workers. Following news that some Afghans were killed in Syria and others fled Syria and returned to Afghanistan, the Afghan government threatened to press a complaint to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees against Iran.

 Human Rights Watch published a report in January including testimonies from 20 Afghanis that were living in Iran. Some said they have relatives who were forced to fight in Syria. Others fled to Greece or were deported to Afghanistan because of their refusal.

“Iran has not just offered Afghan refugees and migrants incentives to fight in Syria, but several said they were threatened with deportation back to Afghanistan unless they did,” Human Rights Watch’s Peter Boukhaert said.

Many of these Afghanis are reported to have fled to Europe.

For more information about the Iranian regime's treatment of migrant workers, see Clarion Project's Factsheet: Human Rights in Iran


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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org

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