Syrian regime turns to foreigners to fight its battles

Syrian regime turns to foreigners to fight its battles
2 min read
12 May, 2015
Analysis: Afghans, Iraqis and Pakistanis among those who have joined Bashar al-Assad's army as it runs low on Syrian nationals after four years of war.
Syria's regime is relying on the support of foreign fighters [AFP]

Thousands of foreign fighters have joined Syria's army as president Bashar al-Assad's forces run low on troops after mass desertions, attrition and failed recruitment drives.

Afghan fighters are being recruited by Iran and thrown into battles in Aleppo, Deraa and other parts of the country.

One Afghan fighter, Murad, was captured by rebels in Aleppo on his first day of action. 

He told the German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel that he signed up after being told he could get an Iranian residence permit if he fought for the Syrian regime.  
 
"The war in the northern-Syrian city of Aleppo and also around both Hama and Damascus and in Deraa in the south, has taken on an Afghan face," the report stated. 

"Or, to be more precise, a face with distinctly Asian features. Many of those Afghans that have been sent into battle come from the Hazara, a Shia minority that are the poorest of the poor in Afghanistan."

The report stated that Iran's Revolutionary Guards were making huge efforts to find recruits among the two million Afghani Hazaras living in Iran.

     Murad was told he could get an Iranian residence permit if he fought for the Syrian regime.


Sectarian twist

Tehran exploits their status as illegal immigrants, and offers them the chance of residency or a reduced jail sentence if they fight for the Syrian regime.

It was reported that thousands of Afghans had been recruited by Iran during the last year and a half. 

What started as a people's revolution in Syria has become sectarian in nature as a largely Sunni rebel camp battles a regime whose support base comes from the Syrian population's Alawite community, an offshoot of Shia Islam. 

Damscus in turn relies on the support on its coreligionists - Iran and Hizballah - for support.
 
Der Spiegel revealed more about the Lebanese militia's role in the war.

They first helped prop up the Syrian regime in 2012 and have become army's principle backer. 

The Washington Post estimated that there are 5,000-7,000 Hizballah fighters supporting the Syrian regime, along with 5,000-10,000 Shia fighters from Iraq.

Hizballah troops have been joined by other Shia volunteers from Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and further afield.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.