Migrant Afghans are one of the most oppressed and most deprived groups in Iran. The unemployment rate, poverty, and illiteracy are high among Afghans there. The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran violates the fundamental rights of these immigrants in various forms, and every time parts of this discrimination are reflected in the media, it is often soon forgotten. Even those among the active social and political groups in Iran are less likely to pay attention.
In recent years, with the onset of the war in Syria and the direct involvement of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Syria, Afghan refugees have been viewed as a war force by Iran’s Political authorities. The use of Afghans in the Syrian war by means of financial and religious intimidation was placed in the Iranian military forces agenda in the Syrian conflict.
Afghans have been working exhausting jobs with long hours and every kind of humiliation and insult in exchange for a little pay for their work to feed their families. This poor and needy group have become stronger in relation to their situation.
Due to the continuing insecurity in Afghanistan, which does not provide a reliable way for returning to Afghanistan, the Afghan refugees in Iran became the best target community for recruiting into the Iranian military forces (specifically the Revolutionary Guards).
Proposals for decent salaries, the offer of residency in Iran, concern for education of Afghan children and, in general, the worry for a comfortable life with minimum welfare plus the manipulating religious motives are the most imperative factors Iran used to attract migrant Afghans to join the military forces in the Syrian war. Unfortunately, their numbers are increasing every day.
I had the opportunity to interview an Afghan teenager who currently lives in Norway, who had a one-year presence in the Syrian war. See the interview below.
Contact NewsBlaze for use of photos. All photos provided by Sarvar Isa Ahmadi.
Mohamma Zolfaghari: Please introduce yourself.
Sarvar Isa Ahmadi: My name is Sarvar Isa Ahmadi, I am from Bamiyan Province, and I am 18 years old
MZ: Tell us how you got acquainted with the “Holy Shrine Defenders” and how were you attracted to them?
SAI: I was working in Iran like most of my compatriots when I was arrested by the Iranian police with my friends, and they were planning to deport us to Afghanistan. After much-begging and pleading, we were told the only way we will not be deported is to join in the Syrian war, and we agreed to their request because we were afraid of being deported.
MZ: Where did they transfer you after your consent?
SAI: We were sent from Tehran to a camp in Shiraz where we were treated like prisoners, and we were not allowed to leave, and they were watching us making sure we sleep at 10 P.M., this process lasted for a month.
MZ: Did they give you military training?
SAI: We had military training for a month in Shiraz. We were mostly young, and we did not have any knowledge of arms and weapons of war. Everyone there was receiving a distinct training, and I received armored training, and specifically, I was responsible for driving a tank and infantry fighting vehicle (BMP) To transfer injured and ammunition.
MZ: How were you sent to Syria?
SAI: We were transferred from Shiraz directly to Imam Khomeini airport, where we were transferred by freight aircraft loaded with ammunition to Damascus. Our plane had 400 passengers, including 200 cavalry and 200 armored carrier personnel, then we were in Damascus for about a week. We were grouped and sent to each region according to the need. I was transferred to Raqqa along with 200 people, where I had to stand near the mountain for two months.
MZ: How old were you when sent to Syria?
SAI: I was 15 years old, but I had friends who were even younger than me. However, the Iranian government to prevent any complications would enter an older age on our residence card. For example, they wrote my birthday in 1995, while I was born in 1999.
MZ: How long were you in Syria?
SAI: I was in Syria for about a year, but we returned to Iran every once in a while, and we were again transferred back to Syria after 2 to 3 weeks.
MZ: How many groups were active in Syria? Do you have any information?
SAI: I do not know exactly, but in Iran, we were divided into two groups of Zeynabiyoun and Fatemiyoun. I was part of the Fatemiyoun group.
MZ: Were you paid the salary and benefits you were promised?
SAI: We received $ 100 a month from the government of Bashar al-Assad, but the Iranian government deposited 2 million Tomans (approx. $567) a month to our account, and I took a one-year stay, which I was forced to return to Syria to renew it. When I returned from Syria, I was arrested in Tehran, and I told them that I am a defender of the Holy Shrine and here is my residency card. But that person said this card has no value and tore it up. That meant they considered the residence card worthless.
MZ: How did you come to Europe and not return to Syria?
SAI: I was mentally in terrible shape, and I could not sleep at night. On the other hand, I did not want to go back because almost all my friends were killed or injured there. I did not have a way back to Afghanistan either because if I were identified there, I would not have a better situation than Iran since they see us as a traitor for our presence in the Syrian war and they severely deal with the Shrine’s defenders.
MZ: What was the most bitter thing that you encountered in the Syrian war?
SAI: In general, the war in Syria was bitter because every day my friends and compatriots were killed or severely injured in front of my eyes, mostly under the age of 18, and it was daunting to see.
MZ: If you go back to those days, will you choose the Syrian war and the presence in the war?
SAI: Unquestionably I will not repeat this mistake. I’m genuinely going through awful times mentally and I always remember the unpleasant memories of war and life has become very difficult for me.