Liwa Fatemiyoun

Liwa Fatemiyoun
لواء الفاطميون
Participant in the Syrian Civil War
Iraqi Civil War
Active November 2014–present[1]

Ali Reza Tavassoli ("Abu Hamed Ali Sah Xakis") [2][3]

Mostafa Sardarzadeh [3]
Area of operations Daraa Governorate[2][4]
Idlib Governorate[5]
Aleppo Governorate[6][7]
Palmyra, Homs Governorate
Strength 20,000 (claimed by Iranian media) (January 2016)
Part of Hezbollah Afghanistan[1]
Allies Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution
Syrian Armed Forces
Liwa Zainebiyoun
National Defence Forces
Opponents Free Syrian Army
Islamic Front
al-Nusra Front
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Battles and wars

Syrian Civil War

The Liwa Fatemiyoun (Arabic: لواء الفاطميون, Persian/Dari:.لواء فاطمیون or لشکر فاطمیون), literally Fatimid Brigade, also known as Fatemiyoun Division, is an Afghanistani Shia militia formed in 2014 to fight in Syria on the side of the government. It is funded, trained, and equipped by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and fights under the command of Iranian officers.[1] However, the group has denied direct Iranian government involvement in its activities.[1] According to Iranian media, it numbers over 20,000 men.[8]


The core of Liwaa Fatemiyoun is constituted of the fighters of the Shia militia group Muhammad Army (سپاه محمد (ص)), which was active during the Soviet war in Afghanistan and against the Taliban, until its collapse after the Invasion of Afghanistan, as well as the Abuzar Brigade (تیپ ابوذر), an all-Afghan Shia militia group who voluntarilly fought in the Iran-Iraq war. During the Iran–Iraq war, these fighters were stationed in the mountainous areas of Loolan and Navcheh in the northwestern Iran, as they had experience in mountain warfare and irregular warfare during the war against the Soviets.[9][10][11]

The Fatemiyoun Division recruits from the approximately 3 million Afghan refugees in Iran, the 6 million Hazara of Afghanistan,[12] as well as the approximately 2 thousand Afghan refugees already residing in Sayyidah Zaynab, Syria. The recruits are typically Hazara, a Persian-speaking Shia ethnic group from central Afghanistan.[1][12] They are promised Iranian citizenship and salaries of $500 per month in return for fighting.[1][13] Many are illegal immigrants and/or criminals who choose recruitment over imprisonment or deportation.[13][14][15] The recruits are given a few weeks of training, armed, and flown to Syria via the Iraq-Syria-Iran air bridge. These soldiers are used as shock troopers, spearheading numerous important pro-regime offensives alongside Iranian, Iraqi, and Hezbollah troops. Most of them operate as light infantry, although some receive more thorough training and can work as tank crews.[16]

Reports of pro-government Afghan fighters date back to October 2012.[1] They originally fought in the Iraqi Abu Fadl al-Abbas Brigade before eventually becoming a distinct brigade in 2014.[13]

The group's official purpose is the defense of the shrine of Zaynab bint Ali, the granddaughter of Prophet Muhammad. However, it has fought on active frontlines around Daraa, Aleppo, and Palmyra. In October 2014, some fighters were captured by the Islamic Front. Their fates are unknown.[15] On 7 May 2015, Iran commemorated 49 fighters of the group who were killed.[17] According to Spiegel Online, 700 members of the group are believed to have been killed in combat around Daraa and Aleppo as of June 2015.[14] The Washington Institute estimated at least 255 casualties between January 19, 2012 and March 8, 2016.[18] In March 2016, they fought in the recapture of Palmyra from the Islamic State.[19]

In August 2016, Iranian official Qurban Ghalambor was arrested by the Afghan government for recruiting fighters for the brigade.[12]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Iran's Afghan Shiite Fighters in Syria". Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  2. 1 2 "Iran mourns 7 Afghans killed fighting for Damascus ally". Daily Star Lebanon. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
  3. 1 2 yalibnan. "Top Iranian Guards commander, several fighters killed in Syria". Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  4. "Syria rebel group denies releasing Afghan prisoners". 23 February 2016.
  5. Sohranas. "More than 50 air raids carried out on Jeser al-Shagour, and the violent clashes continue around hills in Frikah village and al-Alawin checkpoint". Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  6. Leith Fadel (2 November 2015). "Syrian Army and Hezbollah Make Huge Gains in Southern Aleppo: Military Operations Begin in Al-Hadher". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  7. Amir Toumaj (3 August 2016). "Iranian military involvement in the battle for Aleppo". The Long War Journal. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  8. "Iran 'foreign legion' leans on Afghan Shia in Syria war": "A report by Iran's Mashregh News, which is affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, said that the Fatemiyon force comprises some 20,000 fighters."
  9., مشرق نیوز : آخرین اخبار ایران و جهان. "تیپ فاطمیون، لشکر شد".
  10. "لشکر «فاطميون» چگونه شکل گرفت؟ - سرلشکرقاسم سلیمانی - Qasem Soleimani".
  11. "روایت تیپ 300 نفره «ابوذر» که همگی افغانستانی بودند - FarsNews Agency".
  12. 1 2 3 "Afghanistan arrests Iran official for recruiting Shiite fighters". NOW. 29 August 2016.
  13. 1 2 3 "Afghans in Syria: Ayatollah's soldiers serving Assad". 5 November 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  14. 1 2 Reuter, Christopher (9 June 2015). "The Afghans Fighting Assad's War". Der Spiegel. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  15. 1 2 War Is Boring. "Iran Is Forcing Poor Afghans to Fight and Die in Syria". Medium. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  16. Fariba Sahraei. "Syria war: The Afghans sent by Iran to fight for Assad". BBC Persia. 15 April 2016.
  17. "Sami on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  18. "Iranian Casualties in Syria and the Strategic Logic of Intervention". Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  19. Leith Fadel (21 March 2016). "Iranian special forces arrive in Palmyra to help liberate the city". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
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