Tens of thousands of Afghans recruited, paid and trained under the Fatemiyoun Liwa (Fatemiyoun Brigade) by Iran to fight in support of Tehran’s ally President Bashar Assad are returning to their homeland, as the 8-year war in Syria winds down.
Afghan veterans returning from Syria are threatened from multiple sides. They face arrest by security agencies that view them as traitors.
Abdullah, 26, is one of the Afghan veterans who fought in one of the fiercest battles of the war, including the al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front, over the town of Khan Toman and nearby villages on Aleppo’s edge.
He says that many of those fighting in Syrian went to the battlefield to support their families.
“During one fight that involved our group, which was the 61st group, I witnessed with my own eyes that Afghan fighters were rolled over by tanks the way someone steps on ants. I saw that with my own eyes and dead bodies were scattered everywhere,” Abdullah said.
“When I was there (Syria), I felt that all the young people who come here, come with lots of hope to be able to serve their parents, make money to get married and have a better life, but they come and die. A young boy, a young boy got killed on the first day of the fight. It happened after we got to the frontline. He was hit by a bullet on his face. We have a lot of veterans who have lost their body parts. Some have lost a leg, an arm or an eye,” he added.
Another fighter from Herat, quoted by the Associated Press, said: “Those who are going to fight, for the duration of their service there (in Syria) Iranians give them the amount of salary which a worker gets in Iran. And if someone gets martyred there, a special burial ceremony is held for that person in the presence of the family members and relatives and the body is buried during an honorable ceremony.”
He said that at least eight people from his village had gone to the Syrian war and were killed.
But the Shias in Afghanistan also suffered major attacks by Daesh.
Last May Daesh targeted a Shia mosque in western Herat province which killed 38 worshipers.
“Daesh has been very cruel to us here. In around 25 incidents they have attacked our mosques, they have killed and wounded more than 2000 of our people without any sin in mosques, civic gatherings, and educational centers. Therefore, I would be thankful to anyone who fights against Daesh in any part of the world,” said Mohammad Mohaqiq, Second Deputy Chief Executive of the National Unity Government.
According to some statistics, Iran has sent over 50,000 Afghan fighters under the Fatemiyoun Brigade to fight in Syria.