Iranian-founded Afghan Shia militia celebrates 7th anniversary in Aleppo

Liwa Fatemiyoun, an important Iranian-backed proxy fighting in Syria, has released a series of photographs showing its fighters in Aleppo celebrating the seventh anniversary of the group’s founding. 

In the series of published images, fighters of the division gathered in a room adorned in its banners and martyr posters of the group’s former commander Abu Hamed and his deputy Reza Bakhshi. The photos were from one of the group’s headquarters inside Aleppo.

Both commanders were killed ten days apart fighting against Syrian rebels in 2015. Banners of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei could also be seen.

As previously detailed in FDD’s Long War Journal, Liwa Fatemiyoun was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in 2013 to fight against Syrian rebels under the pretext of defending the shrine of Sayyida Zainab in Damascus.

The IRGC-sponsored militia primarily recruits from the Hazara population of Afghanistan and Iran. The Hazara are Afghanistan’s largest ethnic minority. Many have fled to Iran to avoid religious persecution in their own war-ravaged country.

In Jan. 2019, the U.S. Department of Treasury sanctioned Liwa Fatemiyoun for “assisting, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, the IRGC-Qods Force.”

Liwa Fatemiyoun has been an important proxy for Iran during the war in Syria. It has fought in many vital battles, including on the frontlines of Hama, Aleppo, Deir al Zour, Deraa, Idlib, and in the Syrian desert near the US base of Tanf.

It has reportedly lost thousands of fighters in Syria since 2013. Some of its killed were reportedly as young as 14, as noted by Treasury.

The group has even had a presence near Israeli-controlled territory. In a recent publication honoring the group’s former commander Abu Hamed, a Fatemiyoun fighter is filmed pointing towards Israeli territory saying “Final target is that white mountain ahead which is the Golan Heights and being held by Israel.” 

Fatemiyoun fighters generally receive training from the IRGC in Iran and Afghanistan before arriving in Syria. In some cases, Lebanese Hezbollah – another entity controlled by Iran’s IRGC – has also trained the unit’s members.

The group traces its lineage to several Afghan volunteers who fought for Iran during the Iran-Iraq War as part of an earlier Afghan Shia proxy group.

As the war inside Syria has drawn on, Liwa Fatemiyoun has attempted to embed itself within Syria. It has opened up religious education centers, training camps, and other facilities across the country.

It also maintains bases in Albu Kamal in Deir al Zour and near Palmyra. The group also retains significant control over some parts of Aleppo.

Other photos released by Liwa Fatemiyoun:

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