Iran deports Fatemiyoun Division members despite promises of residency

By Ali

A shrine in Mashhad, Iran, on August 6 displaying photos of members of Fatemiyoun who died in Syria. [Fatemiyoun]

A shrine in Mashhad, Iran, on August 6 displaying photos of members of Fatemiyoun who died in Syria. [Fatemiyoun]

HERAT -- Hussain Ali, 29, was living in Mashhad, Iran, seven months ago when the police arrested him.

Despite being a member of the Fatemiyoun Division, a militia comprised of Afghans and formed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)'s Quds Force, Ali was detained, beaten, robbed and then deported to Afghanistan via the Islam Qala crossing.

Ali had fought alongside Fatemiyoun in Syria, deploying three times to the war zone over two years.

"I was working along with my friends in a building in Tehran when members of the [IRGC] visited us one day and told us that the 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria' (ISIS) had attacked Zahra's shrine in Syria," said Ali, who now lives with his parents in Herat city.

Afghan refugees deported from Iran are seen August 9 in Islam Qala, Herat province. [Emran/Salaam Times]

Afghan refugees deported from Iran are seen August 9 in Islam Qala, Herat province. [Emran/Salaam Times]

The IRGC told Ali that as a Shia he had a responsibility to defend the shrine -- before threatening him with deportation if he did not agree to fight.

"They told us that our lives would not be in danger in Syria," he said. "They also promised permanent residency and a house in any Iranian city of our choice upon our return from the war in Syria."

Ali said he witnessed death many times during his time in Syria.

"They brought me back to Mashhad after the completion of my two-year mission," he said. "I waited for months to get my residency and house. Every time I went to the IRGC office for a follow-up, I did not get a clear answer."

"When the Iranian police detained me and did not listen when I told them that I was a member of the Fatemiyoun Division, I realised that all of the promises by the Iranian government were false," he said.

'Like slaves'

The IRGC long has been accused of making false promises in order to recruit for the Fatemiyoun Division.

"I witnessed on many occasions when the Iranian military treated Fatemiyoun members like slaves," said Qudratullah Mohabat, a resident of Laghman province who was recently deported from Iran.

"Fatemiyoun members do not have a good life in Iran," he said. "They barely survive with the salary the Iranian government pays them. It is completely false to say that the Iranian government gives Fatemiyoun members houses and facilities."

"The Iranian government still encourages Afghan refugees in Iran to join Fatemiyoun," Mohabat said. "Members of the Iranian military mostly go to Hazara and Shia youths and exploit their religious sentiments."

The Iranian government also uses Fatemiyoun against Afghan refugees in Iran, said Nazir Ahmad Faizi, a resident of Badakhshan province who also was recently deported from Iran.

"Most Afghan refugees in Iran are identified and detained by Fatemiyoun," he said. "I witnessed many times Afghans affiliated with Fatemiyoun arresting Afghans and transferred them to camps."

"Fatemiyoun members mistreat Afghan refugees as much as the Iranian soldiers do," Faizi said. "They have been trained to suppress Afghan refugees or even Iranians who are against the country's regime."

Fatemiyoun members blindly follow any order they get from the Iranian government, Faizi added.

Threats to Afghanistan

That blind obedience makes Fatemiyoun particularly dangerous to Afghanistan, say observers.

"There has been a power and security vacuum in Afghanistan that Iran can easily exploit for its economic, military and intelligence objectives by using Fatemiyoun," said Abdul Qader Kamel, a political analyst in Herat city.

"The Iranian government has been supporting insurgents for years to stop the construction of irrigation and hydro-electric dams in the western regions of Afghanistan or to destroy these infrastructure projects," he said.

"On behalf of Iran, Fatemiyoun is the greatest enemy of Afghanistan's ... dams right now."

In view of the recent developments in the country, it is very likely that Fatemiyoun will get involved in conflicts in these regions, Kamel said.

The Fatemiyoun Division is a mercenary group for the Iranian regime, which can deploy it wherever it wants, said Khair Mohammad Azizi, a civil society activist in Ghor.

"The Iranian regime has armed and placed hundreds of Fatemiyoun members secretly across the central provinces of Afghanistan," he said. "The Iranian regime can use these fighters for its interests anytime it wants."

"Besides ISIS and other terrorist groups, Fatemiyoun is a major threat to Afghanistan's security," he added. "The group is completely under the Iranian government's control, and it fights against anyone the Iranian government asks it to."

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