Over the past four years, thousands of Afghan men have been recruited by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s extraterritorial Quds Force to fight ISIL in Syria as part of the Fatemiyoun division

On his first night fighting ISIL in Syria’s Aleppo province, Afghan Ali Hoshman witnessed the death of 41 of his fellow militiamen.

“We lost that battle along with 30 Afghan and 11 Iranians colleagues, one of whom was my bunk mate,” he told The National.

Over the next five months, the now 25-year-old would witness immeasurable death, strengthening his resolve to be a part of the Syrian government’s battle against ISIL.

Ali — not his real name — is among the thousands of Afghans who have been recruited over the past four years by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s extraterritorial Quds Force to fight ISIL in Syria as part of the Fatemiyoun division.

Under the pretext of protecting Shiite interests in the region and drawing clear sectarian lines in the battle against the extremist group, Iran — one of Syrian president Bashar Al Assad’s main backers — has mobilised Shiite communities from Afghanistan as well as Iraq and Pakistan to join the fight.

“An essential part of it all is the promise to protect Shia holy shrines in Syria,” said Ahmad Shuja, an Afghan researcher and political analyst who has been following the development of the Fatemiyoun division. “That is the ideological motivator to top off the money, residency and coercion.”

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