The Pakistani International Shi’a Brigade fighting in Syria is the Zeynabiyoun or the Liwa Ahl Zeynab (the People of the House of Zeynab).     This unit of all Pakistanis draws volunteers from Pakistan’s Shi’a communities, especially from the Parachinar region of Kurram Agency.  Pakistanis from Quetta, and Karachi also are members. Despite the fact that the Shi’a are only about 15% of Pakistan’s predominately Sunni population, they are in the tens of millions. Some of these Shi’a hail from the following marginalized tribes such as: the Turi, Bohral, Balti, Ithna Ashariya, and Nizari Ismailis.


Additionally, some recruits are members of extremist Shia groups in Pakistan such as: the Sepah-e-Muhammad and Tehreek-e-Jafaria.   Others are members of non-terrorist socio-political organizations like the Muhammad Ali Jinnah Association (Jinnah the founder of Pakistan was a Shi’a) and the Imamiyah Students Society.

IRGC Websites have made no secret of Pakistani Shi’a troops dying in Syria. The sites often cover the funerals of Pakistanis killed in action. In the coverage IRGC members are seen standing next to men in Salwar Kameez, the national dress of Pakistan. One Twitter account in November 2015 covering the exploits of Pakistani volunteers fighting in Syria notes that over 53 members of the Zeynab Brigade died in fighting.

The battle reportedly took place in the vicinity of Pakistan’s Shrine to Zeynab, the grand-daughter of the Prophet. One shrine desecrated and then destroyed by Sunni fundamentalists in the Spring of 2013 was the tomb of Hujr ibn Adi located in the town of Adra, a suburb of Damascus. He is revered in Pakistan as a close companion of the Prophet Muhammad and confident of the first Shi’a Imam Ali. Pakistan’s high Shi’a clerics are issuing fatwas declaring it is permissible for Pakistanis to fight in Syria as long as they are defending Shi’a shrines. In fact, Indian Shi’a organizations are recruiting tens of thousands of volunteers to protect Shi’a shrines from attacks in Syria and elsewhere in the region.

One Iranian-sponsored Facebook ad promised contract terms which may appear generous to perspective Pakistani recruits.  The advertisement called for physically fit males from 18 to 35 to apply. They must agree to 45 days of boot camp training and an additional six months on-the-job training in Syria. They are able to take a 15 day vacation after 3 months in the field. According to the ad the pay would be the equivalent of $1100 a month. Moreover, the terms include a promise that if the recruits become martyrs, Iran will pay for their children’s’ education and grant their families Iranian citizenship. Tehran even pledges to finance annual pilgrimage trips by their kin to Shi’a shrines in Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan.