On 4 August, US-designated terrorist group Fatemiyoun Division, a Shiite-Afghan paramilitary unit that answers to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Qods Force, released an “exclusive” video of fighters undergoing “specialized” training at a camp in Syria. The exact date and location of the footage are unclear. The paramilitary group’s Media Center produced and released the footage on its social media channels.
The video showcases light infantry performing drills and close quarter combat training. The snipers are probably wielding AM-50 Sayyad, the Iranian copy of Austrian Steyr HS .50.
The group said the video was released to mark Qadir-e Khom holiday, when Shiites believe Prophet Muhammad designated his cousin and son-in-law Ali ibn Abi Talib, who later became known as caliph and the first Shiite Imam, as successor (Sunnis have a different interpretation of the event).
A portion of the video shows a man, who speaks Persian with an accent from Tehran, addressing and motivating a column of Afghan fighters with a poetry dedicated to Imam Ali. One of the lines said, “if the army of the Shiite moves and awakens/all scoundrel [ISIS] heads will hang.”
Throughout the course of the Syrian war, IRGC used sectarian rhetoric to portray all its Sunni opposition as extremists, and, after 2014, heavily used the ISIS label. The Guard Corps and its proxies have committed atrocities and abuses against Sunnis in Iraq and Syria. ISIS, of course, has used genocidal rhetoric and committed numerous atrocities against Shiites. The IRGC and ISIS cast each other as protectors of their respective Shiite and Sunni communities, and have used one another’s true and imagined atrocities as recruitment. Officially formed in 2013 and constituted by Hazara-Shiite Afghans, the Fatemiyoun Division has been instrumental in the IRGC’s intervention in Syria. Since drawing down troops following the end of 2017 campaign in eastern Syria, the Fatemiyoun has continued to deploy forces to the theater. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, it has frequently featured fighters and members in Syria and Iran participating in pandemic aid, for example producing masks at a factory in Syria.
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