Reuters reports: For years, websites linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard have posted articles eulogizing Shi’ite fighters who die in Syria. But two men heralded last month for dying to defend a shrine near Damascus were different from most martyrs given such treatment in the past: they were Pakistanis.
The men were part of the Zeinabiyoun, a unit of Pakistani fighters named for a granddaughter of the prophet Mohammad buried in the shrine, the latest contingent in an Iranian drive to recruit Shi’ites from the region to fight in Syria.
The increase in the number of “martyrdom” notices of fighters from the group this year indicates they are taking a more active role in the conflict. A posting in mid-November on a Twitter account bearing the group’s name displayed the pictures of 53 men, described as fighters killed in battle.
While there has been no official announcement of their total numbers, a regional source familiar with the issue said there were hundreds of Pakistanis fighting in Syria, many stationed around the shrine of Mohammad’s granddaughter Zeinab.
Iran’s recruitment of the Pakistani fighters adds yet another international dimension to Syria’s 4-year-old civil war, which has deepened sectarian divisions across the Muslim world and drawn in most regional and global powers. [Continue reading…]