Soleimani’s Shadow

New America

UANI Research And Policy Analyst Amir Toumaj, Candance Rondeauz, and Arif Ammar For New America: "Thousands of ethnic Afghan foreign fighters with the Iranian-backed Fatemiyoun Division and Zeynabiyoun Brigade have fought and died in Syria’s civil war over the last decade. Shia fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan have been critical not only to Iran’s successful quest to restore Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s regime, but as an asset for Tehran in its fight for regional primacy against Israel and other rivals. Fatemiyoun fighters will continue to serve on the frontlines of Iran’s proxy wars across the Middle East long into the future. This report assesses what made the IRGC’s transformation of the origin story of Afghan and Pakistani Shia marginalization in South Asia into an effective means of rallying armed proxies to its cause for a generation and turned the Fatemiyoun into a weapon of war against its adversaries in Syria. Based, in part, on a review of the wide array of Persian language battlefield memoirs written by Fatemiyoun fighters as well as social media produced by the Fatemiyoun’s media and cultural affairs unit, this report analyzes the narratives and tropes that have served as a through line in the IRGC’s promotion of proxy propaganda."