“They are used by the Iranian government, which treats them like slaves,” said Bashardost, second from left.
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Fleeing grinding poverty and unemployment, thousands of Afghan Shiites have been recruited by Iran to defend Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, former fighters and rights activists say. Afghan men and boys as young as 14 are signing up to fight on the promise of money and legal residency in Shiite-dominated Iran, Assad's regional ally, according to Human Rights Watch.Since 2013 the Afghans, including undocumented migrants living in Iran, have joined the Tehran-backed Fatemiyoun division fighters in Syria, said HRW and ex-members who spoke to AFP on condition their real names were not used. The 25-year-old, a member of the Hazara ethnic group, went to Syria twice in 2016 to fight in a conflict that has now been raging for more than six years.HRW estimated last year that Iran hosts around 3 million Afghans.Another man who fought in Syria in 2014 when he was 17, said it was not just Afghans in Fatemiyoun.
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