Reports emerged this week that more than 10,000 Afghan fighters deployed by Iran to defend the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad have been killed or injured in the past five years.
Fazal Hadi Muslimyar, chairman of Meshrano Jirga, has said, “Iran is abusing Afghan refugees and sending them to the war in Syria and Iraq, where more than 2,000 Afghans have been killed,” he told lawmakers on January 9. “I am calling on the Afghan president, the chief executive, and the Foreign Affairs Ministry to lodge a complaint with the Iranian ambassador on this matter.” Muslimyar had criticized the Afghan government for refusing to actively pursue the issue on the diplomatic front on the previous day. He told Radio Free Afghanistan, “They should formally complain and seek help from the members of the United Nations Security Council with whom we have strategic security agreements.”
His call for a diplomatic initiative is backed by fellow lawmakers, like Aryan Yoon, a female member of Wolesi Jirga or lower house of the Afghan Parliament. “Kabul should suspend its bilateral relations with Tehran,” she told Radio Free Afghanistan. “The Afghan government also needs to raise this issue at international forums and even lodge formal complaints with international bodies that Iran is interfering in its domestic affairs and abusing refugees.”
Lawmaker Abdul Qadir Zazai Watandost says Wolesi Jirga’s foreign relations committee is investigating the issue. “This issue will be part of our general agenda after the winter recess [in February],” he said.
An official for the Fatemiyoun Divison, Zohair Mojahed, said that since 2012 at least 10,000 Afghans have either been killed or wounded while fighting for al-Assad. He told Iran’s Shargh newspaper on January 6th, “This brigade has given more than 2,000 martyrs and 8,000 wounded for Islam.”
Members of the Fatemiyoun Division are estimated to be some 20,000, most of whom were recruited from among Afghanistan’s Shi’ite Hazara minority.
Deputy Afghan Chief Executive Mohammad Mohaqiq, a Hazara politician, came under fire last November for seeming to confirm that thousands of Afghan recruits are fighting in Syria on Iran’s behalf. “I thank all the warriors who cooperated in these wars from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other parts of the world,” Mohaqiq said at an event in Iran. He also praised Major General Qasem Soleimani, foreign operations commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, who is credited with founding the Fatemiyoun Division.
Presidential spokesman Shah Hussain Murtazawi was critical. “We have repeatedly expressed our opposition to all kinds of proxy wars in Afghanistan,” he said. “Similarly, we oppose such wars everywhere. We do not want the blood of our children being spilled for foreign interests in other countries.”
However, spokesman for the Afghan Foreign Ministry, Sibghatullah Ahmadi says Kabul has raised the issue with Tehran and the United Nations. He told Radio Free Afghanistan, “We have discussed this issue with the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the relevant Iranian authorities.” He added, “We hope the vulnerability of Afghan refugees is not being exploited and that our complaints are seriously addressed on time.”
Tehran has not responded to complaints or criticism from Afghanistan. Still, Iranian media frequently reports on the funerals of Afghan fighters killed in Syria.
Abdul Baqi Baryal, a member of Meshrano Jirga, is pushing for Kabul to address the issue immediately.
According to what he told Radio Free Afghanistan, the Afghan Constitution allows the country’s citizens to only fight under its flag. “This is a very painful issue. We need to talk seriously about this with Iran soon,” he said.