Special to WorldTribune.com
Amid heavy casualty figures in Syria, Iran is telling teenage recruits they have the opportunity to defend sacred Shi’ite shrines in Syria and eventually invade Israel.
It is the first time Teheran has turned to children volunteers since its war with Iraq in the 1980s, Shahin Godabi, an official with the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) told Washington Times security correspondent Rowan Scarborough.
Godabi said military leaders in Teheran recently released a recruitment video that includes a song encouraging teenage volunteers that refers to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“On my leader [Khamenei’s] orders I am ready to give my life,” the boys in the video sing, according to an NCRI translation. “The goal is not just to free Iraq and Syria; My path is through the sacred shrine, but my goal is to reach Jerusalem. … I don’t regret parting from my country; In this just path I am wearing my martyrdom shroud. … From Mashhad [northeast Iran], I will walk on foot to Damascus. I am like the bird who flocks to the sacred shrine.”
NCRI said the video was produced by the Bassij Music House and was shown over several days in April on state-run television.
“This promotional clip first of all manifests the anti-human nature of the regime which seeks to even mobilize the children of its own loyalists as cannon fodder,” the Paris-based Godabi said.
“We monitor the Iranian regime’s state media thoroughly. Our people noticed this on the state media, and then our people were able to download it from one of the regime’s websites.”
Major battlefield losses have spurred Iran to not only seek out teen conscripts, but to round up thousands of ethnic Afghans and send them to Syria. Some quit the battlefield and ended up in refugee streams to Europe, the BBC reported.
“The men, who are mainly ethnic Hazaras, are recruited from impoverished and vulnerable migrant communities in Iran, and sent to join a multi-national Shia Muslim militia — in effect a ‘Foreign Legion’ — that Iran has mobilized to support Syrian President Bashar Assad,” the BBC said.
According to Scarborough’s report, the NCRI said the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) “has taken heavy casualties in battling a range of rebel groups, including the Al Qaida-connected Nusra Front and the Islamic State terror army. At least one prominent Guard general was killed in Syria during the battle for the city of Aleppo.”
NCRI reported there are 8,000 Iranians in Syria fighting on for the Assad regime. Outside analysts have put the number much lower, at about 2,000.
Meanwhile, airstrikes and artillery killed more than 60 people on April 28-29 in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, including dozens at a hospital in a rebel-held neighborhood.
Aid agencies have warned that Aleppo “is on the brink of a humanitarian disaster with the collapse of a two-month cease-fire and stalled peace talks,” Scarborough’s report said.