لواء الفاطميون |
Participant in the Syrian Civil War
Iraqi Civil War
|Area of operations||
Palmyra, Homs Governorate
|Strength||20,000 (claimed by Iranian media) (January 2016)|
|Part of||Hezbollah Afghanistan|
Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution|
Syrian Armed Forces
National Defence Forces
Free Syrian Army|
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
|Battles and wars|
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. However, the group has denied direct Iranian government involvement in its activities. According to Iranian media, it numbers over 20,000 men.
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.
The Fatemiyoun Division recruits from the approximately 3 million Afghan refugees in Iran, the 6 million Hazara of Afghanistan, 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. They are promised Iranian citizenship and salaries of $500 per month in return for fighting. Many are illegal immigrants and/or criminals who choose recruitment over imprisonment or deportation. 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.
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. On 7 May 2015, Iran commemorated 49 fighters of the group who were killed. 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. The Washington Institute estimated at least 255 casualties between January 19, 2012 and March 8, 2016. In March 2016, they fought in the recapture of Palmyra from the Islamic State.
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