Saturday, January 30, 2016

Corruption Index: Qatar is the 'cleanest' Arab state


Transparency International's annual Corruption Perception Index has noted key improvements in some GCC countries, while other conflict-ridden Arab states saw a major fallback.
Qatar has ranked as "cleanest" of the Arab countries in the annualCorruption Perception Index [CPI], published by Transparency International.

However, conflict-ridden Arab states including Syria, Yemen and Somalia have seen their rankings remain critically low.

Published each year for more than two decades by the Berlin-based organisation, the CPI aims to measure "perceived levels of public sector corruption worldwide".

The index ranks countries on a scale from 100 [very clean] to 0 [highly corrupt] with low points reflecting the misuse of public power, prevalence of bribery, lack of transparency and accountability, as well as government officials going unpunished for corruption.

Higher scores are given to countries based on transparent public spending, the provision of government budget information and the independence of the judiciary.

The report identifies a number of Arab states who have made progress in fighting corruption including Qatar, UAE, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

But Arab states embroiled in armed conflict such as Syria, Yemen and Sudan have seen significant falls.
Arab states embroiled in armed conflict such as Syria, Yemen and Sudan have seen significant falls

The CPI has increasingly become a highly regarded and influential survey of good governance and a key marker in international efforts to fight corruption.

Consequences of corrupt practice can include child exploitation and high mortality rates, poor education standards, environmental destruction - and terrorism.

Once again, Scandinavian nations retained the top positions in the index, with Denmark coming first, followed by Finland and Sweden.

Other countries in the top 10 included [in order] New Zealand, The Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Singapore, Canada and Germany.

"The scale of the issue is huge," the report said, "Sixty-eight percent of countries worldwide have a serious corruption problem. Half of the G20 are among them."

While countries such as Greece, Senegal and the UK saw a "significant increase in scores since 2012" others saw their rankings plunge, including Brazil, Spain and Turkey.

Half of all OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development] countries, whose membership includes France, Germany, UK and the US, have violated international obligations to "crack down on bribery by their companies abroad".

"Just because a country has a clean public sector at home [it] doesn't mean it isn't linked to corruption elsewhere," the report added.

Meanwhile, some GCC members improved their rankings, with Qatar leading the region from the 22 spot, going up from position 26 in 2014.
Some GCC members improved their rankings, with Qatar leading the region from the 22 spot, going up from position 26 in 2014

The United Arab Emirates followed closely, ranking 23, up two spots from the previous year.

Bahrain came in ranked number 50, moving up from 55 in 2014.

Oman also moved up five spots from the previous year's report, ranking at 60 this year.

Notable in the most recent report is that levels of corruption were highest in countries plagued by war or political instability. "Five of the ten most corrupt countries also rank among the ten least peaceful places in the world," it stated.
Protests against corruption in the Middle East
have long been popular [Getty]

For the people of the Arab world, it will come as little surprise that countries ranked lowest in the index are those plagued by conflict and civil war.

How reliable is the index?

Criticism has often followed the think-tank's publication of the index, particularly regarding its use of "perception" as a main criteria for ranking.

"The CPI scores and ranks countries based on how corrupt a country's public sector is perceived to be," Transparency International states. This score is drawn from a collection of 12 surveys to rank nations around the globe.

Critics have said that the report relied on the "perception" of leading business executives and country-experts.
Critics have said that the report relied on the 'perception' of leading business executives and country-experts
These have been condemned as giving a distorted view based on an "internationally focused elite, typically from a corporate background".

Also, relying on "perception" as a criteria can lead to the index becoming self-perpetuating, critics argue.

With the report turning increasingly influential as years go by, countries deemed "corrupt" become popularly deemed as such by business-people whose own opinion feeds into the index's next publication.

However, Transparency International says its criteria is the best in absence of an alternative system.
Transparency International says its criteria is the best in absence of an alternative system
"There is no meaningful way to assess absolute levels of corruption in countries or territories on the basis of hard empirical data," an accompanying statement to the report said.
"Capturing perceptions of corruption of those in a position to offer assessments of public sector corruption is the most reliable method of comparing relative corruption levels across countries," it added.

Rankings of Arab countries
Global ranking2015 score2012 score
22: Qatar7168
23: UAE7068
45: Jordan5348
50: Bahrain5151
55: Kuwait4944
60: Oman4547
76: Tunisia4138
=88: Algeria3634
=88: Egypt3632
=88: Morocco3632
112: Mauritania3131
123: Lebanon2830
136: Comoros2628
=154: Syria1826
=154: Yemen1823
=161: Iraq1618
=161: Libya1621
165: Sudan1213
167: Somalia88

Ending Unlawful Sieges and Atrocities is a Prerequisite for Syria Peace


(Beirut) – The success of the upcoming Geneva peace talks must be measured against substantial and measurable progress being made in ending the starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, ceasing unlawful attacks against civilians and releasing arbitrarily held detainees, a coalition of 15 Syrian, regional and international NGOs said today.
As a third round of UN Security Council backed peace talks aimed at resolving the Syria crisis commences in Geneva next week, the coalition warned that the process will ultimately fail unless the talks prioritize ending unlawful sieges and other atrocities immediately. “Achieving a lasting accord for Syria is not conceivable without developing a level of trust among Syria’s many warring factions. The idea that you can build trust while parties continue to systematically kill and starve civilians is absurd,” said Zedoun Al Zoubi, CEO of The Union of Medical Care & Relief Organisations (UOSSM).
The latest round of talks comes just weeks after the plight of the civilians in the besieged town of Madaya finally came to the world’s attention. Under a complete siege for six months by Syrian government and allied forces, the 42,000 civilians trapped in Madaya have suffered from a severe shortage of food with many resorting to eating plants, insects, and even cats in order to survive. The UN estimates that 400,000 Syrians are living in areas under siege, while the Siege Watch project puts that number at over 1 million people, for whom access to international assistance is deliberately and systematically withheld as a tool of war.
Various parties to the conflict, including the Syrian government, ISIL and opposition armed groups are using starvation as a weapon of war -- a tactic that the UN Secretary General has declared a war crime.
“It is not just legally and morally incumbent upon the international community to take immediate action to end unlawful sieges in Syria, it is necessary for the viability and success of the political process,” said Bassam Al Ahmad, spokesperson for the Violations Documentation Center - Syria (VDC). “No one wants to talk about preconditions for a political process, but the reality is that ending these atrocities is a prerequisite for peace,” he added. 
In December, the UN Security Council unanimously passed resolution 2254, which sets out a two-year timeline for a political process leading to a new constitution and free and fair elections, under UN supervision. The resolution emphasizes “the need for all parties in Syria to take confidence building measures to contribute to the viability of a political process and a lasting ceasefire.”
The NGO coalition calls on governments with influence over the parties to the conflict to insist on an end to unlawful attacks, including the targeting of healthcare facilities, as well as a halt to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and the use of banned and indiscriminate weapons such as landmines and cluster munitions.
The NGOs also call for parties to immediately release all persons arbitrarily detained. Tens of thousands of people have been forcibly “disappeared” in Syria since 2011 primarily by the government, but also by non-state armed actors. According to NGOs, many of detainees are cut off from the outside world, kept in inhumane conditions where torture is systematic, disease is rampant and death is commonplace. The NGO coalition calls on the warring parties in Syria to give international monitors immediate access to all detention centers.
"The UN Security Council has repeatedly called for an end to atrocities in Syria but it has done little to enforce its demands, even though countries like Russia have more leverage with the Syrian government since beginning their military operations” said Ken Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch. “Without this changing it is difficult to be optimistic about the peace talks. Ending atrocities would go a long way toward establishing the conditions that might make the Syrian talks succeed” he added.
Arab Coalition for Sudan
Arab Network for Human Rights Information
Arab Program for Human Rights Activists
Baytna Syria
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
Human Rights Watch
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Palestinian League for Human Rights – Syria
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR)
Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS)
Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations (UOSSM)
Violations Documentation Center

Syria: Starvation Continues In Madaya



BRUSSELS/NEW YORK, JANUARY 29, 2016 — Residents of the besieged Syrian town of Madaya continue to die of starvation despite the provision of aid by convoys, while a Syrian government-led coalition blocks life-saving medical supplies from reaching the town, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.
Sixteen people have died in Madaya since the first of three aid convoys arrived there earlier this month, according to local health workers supported by MSF. There are an estimated 320 cases of malnutrition in the town of 20,000 people, of which 33 are severe, meaning those people are in danger of dying if they do not receive prompt and effective treatment.
It is totally unacceptable that people continue to die from starvation, and that critical medical cases remain in the town when they should have been evacuated weeks ago,” said Brice de le Vingne, MSF’s director of operations.
After the heavy shelling of Madaya last summer and the tightening of the siege during the winter, severe restrictions on humanitarian aid have made essential medical supplies unavailable, including sufficient therapeutic food to treat the most severe cases of malnutrition.
MSF estimates that between 1.5 and 2 million people are trapped by sieges imposed by the Syrian government-led coalition and by opposition groups. In many of these places, medical evacuations are prevented and medical material, drugs and therapeutic food are repeatedly blocked at checkpoints. As a result, medical teams in these areas simply cannot cope with the demands they face. The situation in Madaya is even worse as there are no doctors present.
There needs to be a permanent and independent medical presence in Madaya immediately, as we expect the medical situation to worsen as access to health care for people inside remains extremely limited,” de le Vingne said.
MSF-supported medics are now reporting malnutrition in other towns in Syria, including in Moadamiyah, southwest of Damascus.
“The warring parties responsible for these siege strategies need to allow unhindered medical and humanitarian access immediately, in accordance with International Humanitarian Law,” de le Vingne said. “This includes lifting any restrictions on medical evacuations from these zones.”

بعد خمس سنوات.. هل أعادت النظم ترتيب بنيتها؟

سلامة كيلة


بعد خمس سنوات تظهر الرأسمالية المسيطرة، والنظام الذي يمثلها، عاجزين عن تحقيق الاستقرار بالتخلص من الثورة. ويتصاعد عجزهما مع استمرار السياسة الاقتصادية ذاتها، بل زيادة الميل للخصخصة وزيادة الأسعار.

ربما لم يكن أحد يتوقع أن يستمرّ الحراك، وأن تستمرّ الأزمات التي أنتجتها الثورات كل هذه السنوات الخمس، دون أن نلمس أن نهاية قريبة باتت ممكنة. حيث يظهر واضحا أن النظم ذاتها ليست مستقرة، وأن أوضاعها مربكة، ولا يبدو أنها استطاعت تجاوز الهزّة الكبيرة التي أحدثتها الثورات.
"في سوريا لم تنتصر الثورة بعد، حتى في الشكل الأدنى الذي حدث في الثورات الأخرى، وفي ليبيا انقلب الانتصار على نظام القذافي إلى احتراب أهلي، أما في اليمن فقد "تنازل" علي عبد الله صالح لكنه لم يترك البلد"
في سوريا لم تنتصر الثورة بعد، حتى في الشكل الأدنى الذي حدث في الثورات الأخرى، أي إزاحة الرئيس والعمل على إعادة إنتاج النظام، وما زال الصراع قائما على حقيقة هذه الخطوة التي تبدو ضرورية من أجل وقف الصراع العنيف والوحشي الذي بدأته السلطة، وأدى إلى ردّ عسكري من الفئات التي تظاهرت، وجرى الشغل المتعدد عليه لكي يتأسلم ويتفكك، وبات جزء مهم منه مرتبطا بدول خارجية. وهو الأمر الذي أدى إلى استعصاء وتحكّم خارجي في الحل، وما زالت روسيا المسيطرة الآن تتمسك ببقاء "الرئيس".
وفي ليبيا انقلب الانتصار على نظام القذافي -والذي فتح على مسار ديمقراطي لم يُنجح "الإسلاميين"- إلى احتراب أهلي، وصراع مسلح بين قوى متعددة، كلها لها ارتباطات خارجية، وبالتالي بات الصراع منحكما لمصالح تلك القوى الخارجية. والجهود "الدولية" هي التي تحاول توحيد المقاتلين دون أن تنجح إلى الآن.
أما في اليمن، فقد "تنازل" علي عبد الله صالح بعد ضغوط شديدة من الدول الخليجية، لكنه لم يترك اليمن، ولا سلّم مفاتيح السلطة لوريثه. وبهذا كان "النظام الجديد" هزيلاً، مفككاً، ولا يملك من الأمر شيئاً. ولقد أدى طموح الحوثيين للسيطرة على النظام إلى التحالف مع علي عبد الله صالح، ليتحقق اجتياح اليمن بسرعة فائقة، حيث ظهر أن صالح ما زال يتحكم بالجيش والأمن. وهو الأمر الذي أدخل اليمن في الصراع الإقليمي، وجعل "الشرعية" تعود على مجهود "التحالف العربي".
رغم أن ما جرى يفتح على إعادة ترتيب وضع النظام بشكل مختلف نتيجة اختلال توازنات القوى الداخلية بعد تدمير قوات علي عبد الله صالح وتقزيم الحوثيين، ونتيجة المشاركة الشعبية في الصراع ضد صالح والحوثيين؛ هذا الأمر الذي ربما يجعل مسار التغيير أوسع، وأعمق.
في تونس ومصر كان الأمر أكثر "سلاسة"، وربما تعقيدا. فقد انخرطتا في مسار ديمقراطي أدى إلى وصول جماعة الإخوان المسلمين وحركة النهضة إلى السلطة، فحكمت في تونس بالتحالف مع حزبين صغيرين، واستفردت في مصر بالسلطة. لكن لم يحقق أي منهما تغييرا مجتمعيا، وليس الأمر فقط أنه لم تتحقق مطالب الشعب في العمل والحد الأدنى للأجور، وفي إصلاح التعليم والصحة، بل استمرت في السياسات الاقتصادية ذاتها، خاضعة لشروط صندوق النقد الدولي.
هذا ما استثار ثورة جديدة في مصر أطاحت بالجماعة، لكنها أفضت إلى "عودة النظام القديم" بعنف أشدّ، وميل كبير لسحق الحركة المجتمعية، وبسياسات اقتصادية أكثر سوءا، حيث رفعت الأسعار، وتميل لخصخصة التعليم والصحة والسكك الحديدية.
ولقد أفضى ما جرى في مصر إلى نشوء حراك سياسي مجتمعي ضد "الترويكا" في تونس، لكن استفادة حركة النهضة من "درس مصر" جعلها تتراجع، وتقبل بحكومة تكنوقراط، ثم بانتخابات جعلت ممثلي "النظام القديم" (مع شراذم يسار منهار) هم الحزب الأول، وباتت هي الحزب الثاني، فقامت بعقد تحالف مع حركة نداء تونس. لقد قبلت بتقاسم السلطة، على أن تكون الطرف الثاني. وأيضا استمرت السياسات الاقتصادية ذاتها. وكما في مصر، ظلت الاحتجاجات الشعبية تتصاعد.
"في تونس ومصر باتت طبقة الرأسمالية المافياوية تميل إلى العنف، ومنع أي تظاهر أو حراك، وتهدد بتكرار سياسة النظام السوري، فقد ضخمت من أخطار الإسلاميين، ثم أخذت تلوّح بالخطر الإرهابي، من أجل تبرير سياساتها القمعية"
في هذين البلدين يتوضح مدى تمسك الطبقة المسيطرة، أي الرأسمالية المافياوية، ليس بالسلطة فقط بل بالسياسات الاقتصادية التي أفقرت الشعب، ودفعت إلى انفجار الثورات. ما تغيّر هنا هو أن هذه الطبقة باتت تميل إلى العنف، ومنع أي تظاهر أو حراك، وتهدد بتكرار سياسة النظام السوري. فقد ضخمت من أخطار الإسلاميين، ثم أخذت تلوّح بالخطر الإرهابي، من أجل تبرير سياسات قمعية، وتعزيز السيطرة على المجتمع.
ما ظهر خلال السنوات الخمس هو تمسك الطبقة المسيطرة ونظامها باستمرار السيطرة، ومنع سقوط النظام بأيدي فئات أخرى. لقد قرَّر النظام السوري منذ البدء أن "يقاتل إلى النهاية"، رافضا أي تنازل للشعب، حتى وإن كان شكليا، كما ظهر أن التلاحم بين الفئة المسيطرة وبنية الدولة والطبقة المسيطرة كان كبيرا.
ولتجنب مصير تونس أو مصر قرَّر ممارسة كل العنف الذي يسمح بسحق الثورة، لكنه عجز عن ذلك، وهو الأمر الذي كان يفتح على "تفكك" السلطة وقبول طرف فيها تنحية "الرئيس" كما ظهر نهاية سنة 2012. لكن التدخل الإيراني عبر حزب الله والمليشيا الطائفية العراقية والعالمية والحرس الثوري، منعت ذلك إلى حين (صيف 2015)، ومن ثم تدخلت روسيا للحفاظ على النظام دون تغيير.
في تونس ومصر كان القرار هو ذاته، أي الحفاظ على السيطرة الطبقية لرأسمالية مافياوية، لكن لتحقيق ذلك كان ضروريا التخلي عن الرئيس، والمناورة من أجل إجهاض الثورة من خلال الإيهام بانتصارها، واللعب على الزمن من أجل تفتيت الحراك الشعبي وإنهاء الثورة. وهو الأمر الذي ما زال قائما، في وضع لم يشر إلى إمكانية نهاية الحراك الشعبي، فقد بات الشعب في وضع لا يستطيع معه الاستمرار كما هو، ومن ثم باتت السلطة عاجزة عن الحكم بآلياتها ذاتها.
وفي هذا الوضع تجري المناورات، والمحاولات من أجل التخلص من الغضب الشعبي وفرض استقرار النظام. فالطبقة المسيطرة تعمل بكل عنف لاستمرار النمط الاقتصادي الريعي الذي شكّلته بالترابط مع الطغم المالية الإمبريالية، والذي يقوم على حرية السوق المطلقة، وتركيز النشاط الاقتصادي في الخدمات والعقارات والسياحة والبنوك والاستيراد والبورصة، وهو النمط الذي يراكم الأرباح الهائلة لتلك الطبقة لكنه يفقر ويهمش الأغلبية من الشعب.
وهو النمط الذي فرض انفجار الثورة بالأساس، حيث بات الشعب عاجزا عن العيش في الوضع الذي وصل إليه. هذا التناقض هو الذي أظهرته الثورات، فوضعت الرأسمالية المافياوية في وضع مربك، وفي إزدواجية هي عاجزة عن تجاوزها.
فأولا، إن وضع هذه الطبقة يفترض استمرار النمط الاقتصادي الريعي، لأنه أساس وجودها، وأساس تراكم أرباحها، وهي لا تستطيع أن تغيّر فيه، وإلا ستنهار كطبقة مسيطرة. لهذا ليس لديها من خيار سوى التمسك بنمطها، وبترابطها مع الطغم المالية العالمية.
وثانيا، إن هذا النمط هو الذي يؤدي إلى البطالة والفقر والتهميش، وهو الوضع الذي يفرض نشوب الثورات. ولتجاوز ذلك لا بد من تغيير النمط الاقتصادي، وهذا ما لا يتطابق مع مصالح الطبقة الرأسمالية، لهذا تحاول المناورة من أجل تثبيط همم الشعب، لكن الفشل في ذلك يدفع إلى تشديد القمع، واختراع مناورة جديدة تسمى "الحرب على الإرهاب"، وهي السياسة التي تبرر اعتقال وقتل وتجريم كل منتفض أو معترض أو يسعى إلى التغيير.
"ممارسة النظام السوري فتحت على أن يكون العنف الوحشي سياسة رسمية للنظم التي تدافع عن وجودها، رغم أن خمس سنوات من الحراك قد أفضت إلى "ضعف" النظام، وربما عجزه عن المواجهة العنيفة"
لهذا يعود النظام إلى ممارسة العنف بأشكال مختلفة، ربما يكون مثالها الأعلى هو النظام السوري. ولا شك في أن ممارسة النظام السوري قد فتحت على أن يكون العنف الوحشي سياسة رسمية للنظم التي تدافع عن وجودها، رغم أن خمس سنوات من الحراك قد أفضت إلى "ضعف" النظام، وربما عجزه عن المواجهة العنيفة، رغم استمرار ميل النظم لهذه الممارسة.
وهذا الوضع يُظهر أن الطبقة المسيطرة لم تعد متماسكة، وأن تناقضات باتت تخترقها، نتيجة اختلاف الحلول التي تُطرح في مواجهة الشعب، وكذلك نتيجة شعورها بالضعف في مواجهة شعب مصمم على التغيير، وأيضاً كذلك لأن "الصراع الطبقي" بات يخترق النظام" ذاته، كون أن المصالح مختلفة بين الفئة المسيطرة -والتي هي جزء من الرأسمالية المافياوية- وبين الفئات الأخرى التي تنتمي للشعب، وهي مفقرة وتُستَغَلّ ضد الشعب. وبالتالي نلمس هنا "تفككا" في النظام، مترافقا مع استمرار الصراع الطبقي، والحراك الاجتماعي.
الرأسمالية المسيطرة تريد استمرار سياساتها الاقتصادية، التي هي سياسات تزيد الفقر والبطالة والتهميش، وتعمِّق انهيار التعليم والصحة والبنية التحتية، ولكنها تواجه بتمرُّد الشعب دون أن تستطيع الالتفاف عليه، فتميل لمحاولة سحقه، لكنها تُظهر ضعفا لا يجعلها قادرة على ذلك، خصوصا بعد اختراق الصراع الطبقي بنية الدولة.
وهو الأمر الذي يفجّر الصراعات بين أطراف الرأسمالية ذاتها، نتيجة اختلاف المصالح، وأيضا اختلاف الرؤى فيما يتعلق بالحل الأصح لتجاوز الثورة. وهذا يُظهر مأزق الرأسمالية ذاتها، ويشير إلى بدء عجزها عن الالتفاف على الثورة، ومن ثم ظهور تناقضاتها.
بعد خمس سنوات تظهر الرأسمالية المسيطرة، والنظام الذي يمثلها، عاجزين عن تحقيق الاستقرار بالتخلص من الثورة. ويتصاعد عجزهما مع استمرار السياسة الاقتصادية ذاتها، بل زيادة الميل للخصخصة وزيادة الأسعار دون زيادة الأجور.
فالدولة، التي هي أداتها تصبح جزءا من الأزمة مع اختراق الصراع الطبقي لبنيتها، ومن ثم تصاعد تناقضات الرأسمالية ذاتها. لهذا لا استقرار بعد -وربما لن يكون- في ظل استمرار النظام ذاته والسياسات الاقتصادية الريعية ذاتها.

Friday, January 29, 2016

حديث الثورة- هل تقول المعارضة السورية كلمتها في جنيف؟

هيومن رايتس تتهم إيران بتجنيد آلاف الأفغان للقتال بسوريا

دي ميستورا: وفد المعارضة السورية يصل الأحد للمفاوضات

المفاوضات السورية تبدأ









أعلن مبعوث الأمم المتحدة إلى سورية ستيفان دي ميستورا أن وفد المعارضة السورية سيصل الأحد للمفاوضات في جنيف، وقال "قد ألتقي وفد المعارضة السورية الأحد".

كما أشار إلى أن الحديث في المفاوضات لن ينصبّ على السياسة فقط، بل أيضا على الوضع الإنساني.
دي ميستورا وبعد لقائه وفد النظام السوري، أوضح أن الأخير أثار مسألة قائمة "الإرهابيين".

DNA- عون..عمرو ما بيسمَحلوا 29/01/2016

Iran Sending Thousands of Afghans to Fight in Syria

Refugees, Migrants Report Deportation Threats


(New York) – Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has recruited thousands of undocumented Afghans living there to fight in Syria since at least November 2013, Human Rights Watch said today, and a few have reported that Iranian authorities coerced them. Iran has urged the Afghans to defend Shia sacred sites and offered financial incentives and legal residence in Iran to encourage them to join pro-Syrian government militias.
Human Rights Watch in late 2015 interviewed more than two dozen Afghans who had lived in Iran about recruitment by Iranian officials of Afghans to fight in Syria. Some said they or their relatives had been coerced to fight in Syria and either had later fled and reached Greece, or had been deported to Afghanistan for refusing. One 17-year-old said he had been forced to fight without being given the opportunity to refuse. Others said they had volunteered to fight in Syria in Iranian-organized militias, either out of religious conviction or to regularize their residence status in Iran.
Iran has not just offered Afghan refugees and migrants incentives to fight in Syria, but several said they were threatened with deportation back to Afghanistan unless they did,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch. “Faced with this bleak choice, some of these Afghan men and boys fled Iran for Europe.”
Iran hosts an estimated 3 million Afghans, many of whom have fled persecution and repeated bouts of armed conflict in Afghanistan. Only 950,000 have formal legal status in Iran as refugees. The Iranian government has excluded the remainder from accessing asylum procedures, leaving many who may want to seek asylum undocumented or dependent on temporary visas.
Funerals for Afghan fighters killed in Syria are frequently held in Iran, sometimes attendedby Iranian officials. While Iran officially claims that thousands of Afghans living in Iran have volunteered to join the militias, their vulnerable legal position in Iran and the fear of deportation may contribute to their decision, making it less than voluntary. Many said that the threat of arrest and forced conscription in Iran was an important contributing factor in their decision to leave Iran.
Among the cases documented by Human Rights Watch are a 17-year-old Afghan boy who was detained in Tehran with his 17-year-old cousin. The first boy was forced to go to military training and then fight in Syria against his will. His cousin, deemed unfit for military service, was deported. Others were two brothers, ages 32 and 20, and a 16-year-old boy, all of whom were detained in Tehran and coerced to fight in Syria or face deportation.
Other Afghans told Human Rights Watch that they had been detained by Iranian authorities and given the choice between deportation and fighting in Syria, and had chosen deportation. Still others said they had volunteered to receive military training or to fight in Syria on Iran’s behalf, although they cited the need to regularize their status in Iran as an important factor in their decision.
While Iranian law allows conscription by the Iranian military, it is limited to Iranian nationals. The conscription of anyone else, including Afghan nationals, by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps falls outside the conscription allowed by Iranian law, and is thus arbitrary.
Six of those interviewed said that Iranian forces had trained them or their relatives in military camps near Tehran and Shiraz in 2015, and four had fought in Syria for pro-government militias commanded by Iranian officials. Two of the six had joined voluntarily, while the other four said they or their relatives had been coerced or forced to fight.
They said that based on their own experience fighting in Syria and information from others who had fought in Syria, Afghan fighters organized and commanded by Iranian military officials were fighting in many areas of Syria, including Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Deir al-Zor, Hama, Lattakia, and in areas near the Syrian border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. They said that their Iranian commanders had forced them to conduct dangerous military operations such as advancing against well-entrenched ISIS military positions with only light automatic weapons and without artillery support. They said that in some instances, Iranian commanders threatened to shoot them if they failed to obey orders to advance under fire.
Masheed Ahmadzai, 17 (whose name has been changed, as have those of others interviewed, for safety reasons), said that Iranian security officers had detained him in June 2015 and sent him to Syria to fight. “They did not give us a choice,” he said. “They forced us to train and fight.” He said he spent three months fighting in Syria near Homs and Aleppo, in units commanded by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards military officials. Following a short leave in Tehran, he escaped to Turkey and then to Greece.
Baktash Ahmad told Human Rights Watch in October that Iranian police had detained his two brothers in Tehran a year before, and coerced them to fight in Syria, threatening to deport them to Afghanistan if they refused. The family had received no news from one of the brothers for six months. Alireza Muhammad, 28, said that he had volunteered to fight in Syria to obtain money for medical treatment, and had undergone two rounds of military training in Tehran and Shiraz, but that his family persuaded him to run away.
Two Afghan boys, a 16-year-old and the 17-year-old, said they had fought in Syria, and another Afghan, Alireza Muhammad, who underwent military training but did not go to fight in Syria, said that he personally knew Afghan boys as young as 12 fighting in Syria in Iranian-organized groups, and that a 12-year-old boy he knew had been killed in the fighting. International law applicable in Syria prohibits both government forces and non-state armed groups from forcibly recruiting children under 18 or using them in hostilities.
Iranian officials have in recent years limited legal avenues for Afghans to claim asylum in Iran, even as conditions in Afghanistan have continued to deteriorate. These policies pose a serious risk to Afghan asylum seekers who are not among the minority who were previously recognized as refugees, and makes them vulnerable to deportation threats, as well as the reported coercion to fight in Syria.
Threatening registered Afghan refugees with deportation to Afghanistan if they refuse to fight in Syria would amount to refoulement, a practice prohibited under international law. While the cases Human Rights Watch documented involve Afghan nationals living in Iran who had not applied for refugee status, there are ongoing obstacles to registering and obtaining refugee status in Iran. That means that many Afghans living in Iran may be entitled to refugee status, and their return to Afghanistan may amount to refoulement.
Iran should be offering greater protection to Afghan refugees, not coercively recruiting them to fight for Assad,” Bouckaert said.
For details of interviews with the Afghan men and boys, please see below.
Masheed Ahmadzai
Masheed Ahmadzai, 17, who arrived on a rubber boat on Lesbos Island in Greece, told Human Rights Watch on October 13, 2015, that he had been living undocumented in Tehran for four years, working in construction, when police detained him and his cousin in June. He said the police took them to a military base where there were numerous other detained Afghans, and that military officers selected the men most physically fit:

The military officers selected us, and then they separated us into those fit to fight, and those not fit to fight. They took me with a group of 20 men, but did not select my cousin and deported him to Afghanistan…They did not give us a choice; they forced us to train and fight. They said, “You will fight in Syria and become a martyr, and that is a good thing.” They forced all of us who were physically fit to fight.

He said they took the men to another military base in Varamin, a small city 60 kilometers south of Tehran:

There were about a thousand Afghans and Pakistanis; the Pakistanis were about one-third. Many of the Afghans there told me the Iranian authorities forced them to be at that base. It is true that others had volunteered at the mosques to fight, but the Iranian military officers were much nicer to those volunteers and they were trained at a different base; many went to fight for money. But on our base, the people I talked to said Iranian authorities had forced them to go to the training.

He said religious leaders repeatedly sermonized at the base, telling them they were going to defend the Shia faith in Syria. He said the men had 21 days of military training, including how to dig trenches and use radio communication. The weapons training included the use of heavier weaponry such as rocket-propelled grenades.
In July, he said, the Iranians divided the men into fighting groups of 180, drove them to the military wing of Tehran’s airport in buses with blackened windows, and boarded them on flights to Damascus. On arrival, he said, Iranian military officials gave his group weapons and uniforms, and drove them to Homs to fight in an area called Tadmor (also known as Palmyra), in a mixed group of Syrians and Afghans for 20 days. Then their Iranian commanders took them to fight near the Homs’ oil refinery, forcing them to advance against Islamic State fighters there:

Daesh was advancing, and the Arabs were retreating. The Syrians were too afraid to fight. So they ordered us to the front to fight against Daesh. There were almost no Syrians with us. They said that if we refused to advance, they would shoot all of us, saying we could not retreat. If people still refused, the commander would shoot them in the leg. He shot two people in my group that way. The commander was Iranian, Hodji Heydar, also called Abu Hamed, from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
He said he fought for three months in Syria, while Afghans who volunteer fight two-month tours of duty. He said that Iranian authorities promised him a 3 million tomans (approximately US$1,000) per month as salary, but that he only received a total of 5 million tomans (approximately US$1,650) for his three months of service. The Iranian authorities flew him back to Tehran in late September, gave him 15 days of leave with a pass allowing him to move freely in Iran, and ordered him to return for a second round of duty. Instead, he fled to Turkey and made his way to Greece on an overcrowded boat. The Iranian authorities warned him that if he didn’t return to duty, his family members would face arrest.
Ilya Aziz
Ilya Aziz, 27, tried to flee Afghanistan in September 2015, hoping to cross Iran and reach Western Europe. On the border between Afghanistan and Iran, Iranian border guards fired at his group of 16 people, and then detained them. In the detention camp, the guards separated out Shia men from among the detainees, and pressured them to go Syria to fight, threatening them with deportation and offering them a monthly salary if they agreed:

They tried to put psychological pressure on us, trying to scare us. They said Afghanistan is not a safe country and that the deportation process is dangerous. They said all of this to urge us to fight in Syria. They knew some of us had been born and raised in Iran and had never been to Afghanistan. But we chose deportation over Syria.
All the men were deported to Afghanistan. Ilya then tried again to enter Iran, succeeded, and fled to Turkey and then Lesbos, where Human Rights Watch interviewed him.
Baktash Ahmad
Baktash Ahmad, age unknown, told Human Rights Watch on October 10, 2015, on Lesbos, that Iranian police detained two of his brothers, Mahmoud Ahmad, 20, and Rahman Ahmad, 32, in October 2014 in Tehran as they were going to work. Both men were threatened with deportation to Iran unless they agreed to fight in Syria, he said:

A year ago, they took two of my brothers from the streets to fight, and for a long time we had almost no news from either of them. My young brother came back from one round of fighting and was briefly in Tehran. We saw him for one day and he gave us some money.

We have had no news from my older brother, Rahman, for the past six months. They arrested him a year ago and threatened to deport him to Afghanistan if he didn’t go fight in Syria. The authorities said they would deport him to Afghanistan, and we said ok, but when I called Afghanistan and asked my relatives where he was, they said they did not know. After a while, some of his friends came back from fighting in Syria and told us that they had seen him fighting there. His friends have come back, but we have no news from him. He didn’t go voluntarily. They arrested him and forced him, he told his friends who fought with him in Syria. His wife and children are here with us [in Greece].
I had to flee because I am so scared of being sent to fight myself. All of my family panicked; my mother became scared for me and said we have to leave Iran, so we came to Greece.
Ali, 14, told Human Rights Watch by phone from Afghanistan that Iranian border guards detained him together with some 150 other Afghans after they tried to cross from Iran into Turkey. “They took us to a police station near the border, and we had to walk barefoot. They beat us with sticks like animals,” he said. “Then they put us on a truck and ordered us to keep our heads down; if we raised our heads they would beat us again.”
At the police station, the officers offered the men and the boys in the group the choice between going to fight in Syria or deportation to Afghanistan: “They said to us, ‘if anyone wants to go fight in Syria, we will take care of you; otherwise, we will deport you.” None of the men in the group agreed, and they deported all of them to Afghanistan.
Before his attempt to flee to Turkey, Ali said he lived in the city of Qum, working as a day laborer. Ten undocumented Afghans sharing his hostel said they were going to fight in Syria, he said, “partly because they had no money and feared deportation. They went to the mosque where they would register to fight. The Mullah registers you, and then the army collects you [for training].”
Hamid Ali 
[NOTE: Hamid Ali volunteered to fight in Syria, and was not coerced by the Iranian authorities, although he did tell Human Rights Watch that his decision was influenced by being arrested twice in one month and facing possible deportation. His statement is included here because some of the other Afghans he commanded were coerced, and because of the level of detail he provided Human Rights Watch about Afghans being coerced to fight in Syria by Iranian officials.]
Ali, 24, whom Human Rights Watch interviewed in Norway in early November, said he fled Afghanistan in May 2014, when his commander in the Afghan police tried to detain him on trumped-up charges following a personal dispute. He went to live in Tehran that month as an undocumented worker, but police detained him twice in his first month. He paid a bribe to secure his release the first time, and had an uncle bring his own son’s residency card to the police station to secure his release the second time. He found a job as a guard, he said but an Afghan man encouraged him to fight in Syria, citing the need to defend sacred Shia shrines, and gave him a phone number to call. For financial reasons and to escape police harassment, he said he decided to volunteer.
When he called the number, an Iranian official told him to come meet a group of Iranian recruiters who asked him his motivation for wanting to fight in Syria, confirmed that he was an Afghan citizen, and checked his legal status in Iran. After they were satisfied with his answers, they made him sign a series of documents and photographed him. He said the two detentions played an important role in his decision to volunteer. He said that other members in his unit told him Iranian authorities had coerced or pressured them to join, including an Afghan man who said Iranian police had jailed him following a motorbike accident and offered him early release if he went to fight in Syria, which he did to escape prison.
Following his acceptance as a volunteer, Ali was sent to a military training camp called Padegan-e Shahid Pazouki, in Varamin, 60 kilometers south of Tehran, where he trained with other Afghan, Pakistani, and Arab volunteers. They received 19 days of basic military training.
Then they were flown to Damascus, where they first visited the Sayyida Zaynab shrine, an important Shia pilgrimage site. His first deployment was with the all-Shia and mostly Afghan Fatemiyoun Brigade for two months in Aleppo, and he received 2 million tomans per month in salary, plus 650,000 tomans in leave money for 21 days of leave. During his second deployment, he was made deputy commander of a unit of Chaharda-o-Neem and spent three months and five days deployed near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
He said the elite Iranian Quds forces were in charge of the Fatemiyoun Brigade:

The Quds Force organized all of this. We could see it from their uniforms. Some of the commanders supervising the Fatemiyoun told us they were Quds Force. They were supposed to wear the uniform specific to the Fatemiyoun, but they said they were Quds.

He said the Fatemiyoun force in Syria has military bases in Aleppo, Hama, Lattakia, Damascus, and Homs, and has at least 3,000 to 4,000 fighters active in Syria.
Without receiving any military leave, his unit was then redeployed to the Iraqi border region with a unit of 400 Afghan fighters. “They did not give us any heavy artillery or anything other than our AK-47s,” he said. “We were not even told where we were being taken until we arrived there. They just put us in a truck and pulled a tarpaulin over us, and only allowed us to come out when we got to where we were supposed to be deployed.” Within days, 200 of the 400 fighters were killed in combat.
Badly outgunned, Hamid decided to flee his unit, and made his way back to Tehran to get money to flee. While in Tehran, Iranian officials repeatedly called him and his family, saying he would be imprisoned if he did not immediately return to duty, and threatening unspecified harm to his relatives if he didn’t return to military duty. After he fled, his relatives had to change homes in an attempt to evade Iranian authorities and the consequences of his flight.