Syria Documentary: Iran’s Afghans Fighting for Assad


PHOTO: A Syrian rebel with four captured Afghan militiamen

A BBC documentary investigates Iran’s recruitment of thousands of Afghan men to fight for Syria’s Assad regime.

Since 2012, Iran has brought in the Afghans, mainly from the Hazara community, but the need for the fighters has increased in the last year with the Syrian military stretched to breaking point. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards use a combination of incentives to recruit the men: there are the promises of money and permanent residency in Iran, appeals to religious duty, and threats of deportation or harassment of families.

Once in Syria, the Afghans are usually front-line “cannon fodder”, taking the initial shock of attacks by rebels or leading attempts to capture opposition territory.

The documentary has secret-camera footage from inside Iran, first-person testimony from former Afghan fighters who have escaped to Europe, and a contribution to analysis from EA WorldView.

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.


  1. What this documentary shows is how utterly unscrupulous the IRGC are in exploiting the desperation of Afghan Hazaras, blackmailing them without every giving them any legal respite (ie residency).

    • Get off your high horse K9. Since the advent if civilization, governments have exploited the underprivileged to use as cannon fodder. During the Iraq war, the US government was entrapping unemployed or poor Americans into enlisting. They even audiences kaws prohibiting the enlistment of those with criminal records.

      In fact it was recognized that the US has a defacto draft that applies to the poor.

      • Am exposing the gap between Iran’s rhetoric of being the saviours of all Shiites and the reality of Iran being just another exploiter. But bravo for reading meaning that wasn’t there.

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