Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has been recruiting thousands of Afghan refugees to fight in Syria, offering $500 a month and Iranian residency.
The Wall Street Journal cites a Guards member, Afghans, and Western officials to make the claim.
The office of Grand Ayatollah Mohaghegh Kabuli, an Afghan religious leader in the Iranian holy city of Qom, said: A member of the IRGC also confirmed the details.
(The IRGC) find a connection to the refugee community and work on convincing our youth to go and fight in Syria. They give them everything from salary to residency.
The office said many Afghan young men had written to Ayatollah Kabuli to ask whether fighting in Syria was religiously sanctioned. It distanced the cleric from the Iranian effort, saying that that he had responded only if they were defending Shiite shrines and that recently he has been silent and not even attended funerals of Afghans killed in Syria.
Iranian authorities are also offering the refugees school registration for their children and charity cards.
On Thursday, a large funeral procession for four Afghan refugees killed in Syria was attended by local and religious officials was held in Mashhad in northeastern Iran, near the Afghan border.
A spokesman for Iran’s mission at the United Nations denied that Tehran was sending Afghan refugees to fight: “Iranian presence in the country is solely advisory in nature in order to help counter the extremist…Al Qa’eda groups from committing more massacres and bloodshed.”
Revolutionary Guards officers and former Guards members, coming out of retirement, have tried Syrian militia and led them in small-scale operations in the field.
A number of Iranians have been killed in the conflict. Tehran’s media never gives the actual locations of deaths, saying only that men were killed defending the Sayyeda Zeinab shrine in southern Damascus.