More than 2,000 Iranian deployed Afghan fighters have been killed in Syria while battling in support of President Bashar Al-Assad's regime, AFP reported.
The Fatemiyoun Brigade of Afghan foreign fighters has been fighting for the past five years in Syria and Iraq, an official with the brigade Zohair Mojahed said.
The group is reportedly the largest military unit deployed in the Syria and Iraq conflict landscape by Iran, consisting of Shia recruits from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"The recruitment is taking place by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards-controlled Basij militias, targeting Afghan neighbourhoods, and visiting local mosques offering a couple hundred dollars. The recruitment style is theological and full of propaganda to convince the Afghan people to join the Fatemiyoun Brigade," Emran Feroz, an independent investigative journalist who broke the story last year, told MEMO.
"The propaganda of the Iranian state agents are so effective that at the end, the Afghans come to the conclusion that the best thing to do is to go to Syria. Many of the fighters are promised work and visa documents in return for fighting," Feroz continued.
"The Afghan refugees in Iran are in an exploitative circumstance, and that's why it's easy to recruit them. Most of them are forced to go to Syria, as there's no alternative for them. It's either Syria or deportation back to Afghanistan."
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when President Bashar Al-Assad's regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests. Since then, more than 250,000 people have been killed and in excess of ten million displaced, according to the UN.
Iran previously recruited Afghans to fight in the Iraq war in the 1980's. Many of the Shia Afghans live as a minority and moved to Iran as refugees. Iran denies sending professional military fighters to Syria and Iraq and claims it has only deployed volunteers.