BBC News reports: As the five-year conflict in Syria grinds on, BBC Persian has found evidence that Iran is sending thousands of Afghan men to fight alongside Syrian government forces.
The men, who are mainly ethnic Hazaras, are recruited from impoverished and vulnerable migrant communities in Iran, and sent to join a multi-national Shia Muslim militia – in effect a “Foreign Legion” – that Iran has mobilised to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Many have since fled the battlefield and joined the refugee trail to Europe.
In a small town in Germany, we meet “Amir”, an Afghan man in his early twenties.
He was born to refugee parents in Isfahan, Iran, and is now himself an asylum seeker in Europe.
Like most of the almost three million Afghans in Iran, he lived as a second-class citizen.
Without legal residency or identity documents, he found it hard to get an education or a job. Fear of arrest and deportation was a daily reality.
It was difficult to move around freely, get a driving license or even buy a Sim card for his mobile phone.
But one day, Amir received an offer that changed everything.
“Some Afghans, who were close to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, approached me and my mates at the mosque,” he said.
“They suggested we go to Syria to help defend the Shia holy shrines from Daesh,” he added, using an acronym for the previous name of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS).
“They said we’d get passports and have an easy life afterwards. We’d be like Iranian citizens and could buy cars, houses…” [Continue reading…]