Fatemiyoun Division tilts Syria's demographic map

By Waleed Abu al-Khair

Fatemiyoun Division militiamen in Syria meet with IRGC officer Hossein Yekta on June 6. [Fatemiyoun account, Telegram]

Fatemiyoun Division militiamen in Syria meet with IRGC officer Hossein Yekta on June 6. [Fatemiyoun account, Telegram]

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is using the Fatemiyoun Division to implement a plan of demographic change in parts of Syria, displacing local residents and settling militiamen and their families in their place.

This operation will have serious and long-lasting consequences for Syrian society, activists and experts told Al-Mashareq.

The Fatemiyoun Division, a militia comprised of Afghan fighters that is deployed in Syria, is "the most dangerous military arm of the IRGC", said researcher Sheyar Turko, who specialises in the affairs of the IRGC and its affiliates.

The IRGC assembled and trained the members of this militia some time ago in Iranian camps near the Afghan border, he said.

A Fatemiyoun Division officer is seen here on May 31 near the Syrian city of Palmyra. [Fatemiyoun account, Telegram]

A Fatemiyoun Division officer is seen here on May 31 near the Syrian city of Palmyra. [Fatemiyoun account, Telegram]

Medium-range missiles used by the Fatemiyoun Division are seen here in Syria in a video posted on June 2. [Screenshot from a video posted on the Fatemiyoun Telegram account]

Medium-range missiles used by the Fatemiyoun Division are seen here in Syria in a video posted on June 2. [Screenshot from a video posted on the Fatemiyoun Telegram account]

Fatemiyoun Division militiamen in Syria watch a documentary about the battle of Palmyra at the headquarters of the Martyr Sayed al-Hakim on June 6. [Fatemiyoun account, Telegram]

Fatemiyoun Division militiamen in Syria watch a documentary about the battle of Palmyra at the headquarters of the Martyr Sayed al-Hakim on June 6. [Fatemiyoun account, Telegram]

"They received combat training from specialists, and their families were brought over from Afghanistan," he said.

They were later enticed to fight in Syria by the prospect of good salaries and financial compensation, and should they be injured or killed, with the promise that the families of dead fighters would be granted Iranian citizenship, he said.

Starting in 2014, their role in Syria began to be noticed in battles that took place in areas such as Homs, Aleppo, Deir Ezzor, al-Mayadeen and Albu Kamal, as well as the Damascus area and the vicinity of the Sayyida Zainab shrine.

Threats and financial enticement

The IRGC is fully aware that residents of Deir Ezzor province do not support but merely tolerate "the fait accompli imposed by the Iranian presence in Syria", said Syrian lawyer Bashir al-Bassam.

"It is fully aware that any changes that may occur locally or regionally could put an end to its expansionist plans in Syria, so it resorted to using all possible means to tighten its control," he said.

This has included threats and financial enticement, he said.

The IRGC recently began to implement a "wide-scale demographic change operation", he said, which involves forcing local residents out of certain areas and replacing them with the families of militiamen.

This effort has been observed in Deir Ezzor city and in al-Mayadeen and Albu Kamal in Deir Ezzor province, as well as in the Hama province villages of Sheikh Hilal, Rahjan and Shakuziyah and in parts of eastern rural Aleppo.

Families displaced from these areas have been replaced with the families of IRGC-aligned militiamen, al-Bassam said, especially those from Lebanese, Iraqi and Afghan militias, and, less frequently, Pakistani militias.

"Resettling Afghan fighters with their families is the most serious, however, as the Iraqis and Lebanese will always be thinking of returning to their country, helped by their proximity [to Syria], unlike the Afghan fighters."

Afghan fighters will hold on to what they have got, after fleeing Afghanistan and spending years in Iranian camps, he said, noting that for these men, "being in Syria with their families is an opportunity too great for them to pass up".

He noted that the effort to bring about demographic change also is being implemented on the perimeter of Damascus and near the main Shia shrines.

The process "will have devastating security and social consequences, as the region has its own historical and cultural character that is being contradicted in favour of customs that are totally alien to Syrian society", he said.

It is likely to upset the existing balance between Sunni and Shia, he added, noting that it may portend the outbreak of "bloody confrontations that could be more devastating to the residents of these areas than in the past years".

Fatemiyoun Division in key positions

"At this time, the Fatemiyoun Division is stepping up recruitment efforts, and the salaries they pay to Syrian youth are higher than those of other IRGC-affiliated militias," said Albu Kamal media activist Ayham al-Ali.

Members of the militia are constantly on the move, he said, concealing themselves to ensure they do not come under attack or air strikes.

They have occupied many new strategic sites that consist of fortified areas with tunnels and underground cement bunkers, such as the silo building near the ancient city of Palmyra, known for its strong fortifications, he said.

This site affords them full control of the highway linking Palmyra to Deir Ezzor.

The militia also continues to confiscate property and homes in Palmyra, where only a small percentage of the original residents remain, al-Ali added.

"There is information that the families of some Afghan militiamen have been brought to the city to be resettled in it," he said.

In order to ensure protection and safe movement for its fighters, the militia dug new tunnels in several areas and rehabilitated old tunnels left behind by the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS), he said.

The new tunnels include one near Jabal al-Bishri in the town of Ghanem al-Ali, southeast of al-Raqa city, and another in the Deir Ezzor city of al-Mayadeen.

The two sites contain large quantities of weapons, ammunition and missiles, and enable militiamen to move between sites and shelter from air strikes, al-Ali said.

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I think Iran hasn’t caused even half of the damage as much as Pakistan has caused to Afghanistan. Both are evil for Afghanistan, but Pakistan is more dangerous than Iran.


For years, the unfortunate Afghan youths have been taught to kill rather than serve the people. When we were at school, they taught us such a curriculum in the first and second grades. You see what is written in our math book! When the boys of our generation grew up, the Soviets had already left, and then our young men raised their guns and killed each other: https://www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=3989108121314756&set=a.1432999573592303


You are correct, but who made this school curriculum? It was made by America and funded by the Nebraska Foundation. We were all learning this same shit.


Although Faremiyoun is a group of militias hired and created by the Iranian regime, Russia has also invested in the group and it is almost feasible that they will use this group in the Ukrainian war. According to a report by ToloNews, Russia has bigger plans for Fatemiyoun and therefore it supports and keeps them active. Russians train the Fatemiyoun, equip them with weapons and technology, and also logistically support them. Fatemiyoun is a militia group that Russians want to have on its mercenaries list along with other militia groups such as CHVK Wagner, which operates in Syria and other places. The connection between the Russians and Fatemiyoun started from the Russians' direct military intervention in Syria, since then they were impressed by the perseverance of Fatemiyoun fighters and they were interested to have them by their side on the battlegrounds. Russia has its own calculation for the region as Iran and tries to use proxy forces like Fatemiyoun to counter the perceived threats from the Taliban and the ISIS-K which is trying to emerge as a militant group. Russia doesn’t have any bases in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan (it only has military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan) and therefore it will try to use Fatemiyoun to have oversight on its neighbors. Fatemiyoun is a very low cost force. They usually go through a short training period (four weeks). Fatemiyoun has approximately ten training centers so far, four of them are located in Tehran, four in Mashhad, and two i


Iran has long been involved in changing social structures in various countries to protect its interests. In Afghanistan, Iran has tried to change the demographic map of the region by building Jibril town in Herat, Muhammadiyah, and other towns in Kabul, as well as similar towns in Mazar-e-Sharif, Lashkargah, and other places. By doing this, Iran wants to separate its supporters in the communities, give them a different status and identity from others and keep them dependent on themselves, and weaken the unity and the tradition of tolerance in the society. Iran did this long ago in the south of Lebanon, then it played similar games in Iraq, and now it wants to implement its goals in Syria. The people and the government of Syria must stand against these evil plans of Iran. Otherwise, it will be difficult for them to control these rebel groups later. Thanks


This is another sign of the misusing of Afghan refugees by Iran. To achieve their ominous goals, Iranians send Afghan immigrants to Syria and in return, give them false promises. After making use of them, they abandon or deport them back to Afghanistan. Iran also misuse Afghan immigrants during the Iran-Iraq war and force them to go to the front lines of war with Iraq. Iran has always been in enmity with Afghanistan and always tried to harm Afghans and Afghanistan, meanwhile, in its slogans, it calls itself a friend and brother of Afghanistan. God's curse on this hypocritical and cruel regime.


As much losses has caused by Pakistan to Afghanistan, Iran has not caused even 1/10 of it. Both are evils but Pakistan is more bastard compared to that of Iran.


The Afghan Hazaras are fighting against ISIS in Syria and oppressing the people there, and in response, ISIS is also targeting innocent Afghans and taking their revenge on the helpless and poor Afghans. The Fatemiyoun fighters should stop being a stooge for Iran’s Akhundi regime and stop causing more deaths and destruction for their compatriots. They shouldn’t ruin and destroy their own country in order to protect the interests of a few brutal regimes. Afghans are tired of war and they don’t want to become victims of super powers' games.


The Fatemiyoun Division was previously made up of Afghan fighters. The IRGC is the most dangerous military force that Iran has ever used in the military sector and has used it to its advantage. After the fall of the Republic of Afghanistan, many Afghan commandos, members of the special forces, and officers of the National Army... moved to Iran to save their lives. But according to the latest information, the Iranian government has given them cards. They can live wherever they want. They can live what kind of life they want, and it is also said that Iran wants to attract these Afghan soldiers to the military sector and use them in military operations in the future. Now the Iranians know very well how to use the compulsion of these Afghan soldiers. Whom to use it against? Where to send them to... But America did not treat the previous government (Republic) of Afghanistan because it spent money on the Afghan army and trained it. A day is coming when this same army will be used again for the benefit of other countries and against America...