The deployment to Syria of Lebanon-based Hezbollah fighters and Iranian military advisors has accentuated the Shi'a profile of Assad’s allied coalition. Moreover, Iran is recruiting thousands of Afghan Shi’a fighters to fight alongside Assad’s military. One report indicates that Afghan Shi’a militia in Syria may include 20,000 Volunteers.  Another report claims that each recruit is paid $500 per month.  Most of these Afghan Shi’a are from the Hazarat region of Afghanistan which is in Bamian Province, in the central part of the country. The Hazara are ethnic descendants of the Mongols, almost all of whom are Shi’a.  The Hazara have an added incentive to volunteer for action in the global Sunni-Shi’a intra-religious war. They suffered the most of any of Afghanistan’s ethnic groups under Taliban rule.

Reportedly, some of them are recruits from the large population of Afghan refugees in eastern Iran. However, Hamid Babaei, the spokesman for Iran’s delegation to the United Nations denies that Tehran is pressuring Afghan refugees resident in Iran to join the fight to protect the country’s investment in its Syrian ally. Moreover, the leading Shi’a Afghan cleric in Iran, Grand Ayatollah Mohaqhegh Kabuli, issued a Fatwa from his perch in Qom granting all Shi’a permission to fight “holy war” in Syria.

These Afghan recruits call themselves the Fatimayoun after Muhammad’s daughter Fatima. The Fatimayoun Brigade’s Commander Alireza Tavassoli, slain in Syria was buried in Iran’s eastern city of Mashhad.   Tavassoli is being held up as a model martyr for Shi’a Islam by Tehran.

The Afghan Brigade participated in several battles in the Deraa and Aleppo areas of Syria.  Allegedly, about 700 of these Afghan fighters lost their lives in combat.  These Afghan Shia fight under the command of either Hezbollah officers or Iranian Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) advisors.