Liwa Zainebiyoun

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Liwa Zainebiyoun
لواء زينبیون
LeadersAyatollah Ali Khamenei (Supreme Leader of Iran)
Dates of operationlate 2014 – present[1]
Allegiance Iran (IRGC)
Active regionsDamascus
Deir ez-Zor
IdeologyShia Islamism
Size"Several hundred"[2] - 1,000[3]
AlliesSyria Syria
IranIran  Hezbollah
Liwa Fatemiyoun
Opponents Israel
Free Syrian Army
Islamic Front
al-Nusra Front
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Syrian Democratic Forces
Battles and warsSyrian civil war

The Followers of Zainab Brigade (Arabic: لِوَاء الزَّيْنَبِيُوْن‎, romanizedLiwā’ az-Zaynabiyyūn, Persian/Dari: لواء زينبیون or لشکر زينبیون, Liwa Zainebiyoun or Liwa Zainabiyoon), literally Zainebiyoun Brigade, also known as Zainebiyoun Division, is a pro-government brigade fighting in Syria composed of Shia Pakistanis.[8][9] It draws recruits from Shia Pakistanis living in Iran[9] and native Shia of Parachinar and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.[1] It was formed and trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and operates under their command.[9] Initially tasked with defending the Sayyidah Zaynab Mosque,[10][11] it has since entered frontlines across Syria.[1] Its dead are buried primarily in Iran.[9][11] Approximately 158 of their fighters have died in Syria as of March 2019, excluding those killed in Israeli airstrikes.[12] According to recent estimations, the total number of Pakistani fighters on the brigade hardly exceeds 800.[13]


Pakistanis have been fighting in Syria since 2013.[10] They originally fought in the Afghan Liwa Fatemiyoun, and only became numerous enough to warrant a distinct brigade in early 2015.[1] Some of the fighters are Baloch.[14]Like other Shia foreign brigades in Syria, it is funded, trained, and overseen by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.[3][15] Its official purpose is to defend the Sayyidah Zaynab Mosque (the shrine of Zaynab bint Ali, sister of Imam Hussain and granddaughter of Muhammad) and other Shia holy sites in Syria.[10] It operates primarily in Damascus defending these holy sites. However, since 2015, it has also engaged in offensive action around Daraa[9][16] and Aleppo, along with other foreign Shia fighters.[1]

On 9 April 2015, 7 fighters were killed defending the Imam Hasan Mosque and were buried in Qom, Iran.[10] In March 2016, 6 fighters were killed defending the Imam Reza shrine, also buried in Qom.[17] On 23 April 5 more fighters were killed.[18] An estimated 69 fighters were killed between November 2014 and March 2016.[1]

In early 2018 the group was involved in the Battle of Khasham against US special forces and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.[6]

Reaction in Pakistan[edit]

In December 2015, a bomb killed 23 and injured 30 in Parachinar. Terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility, and said that it was “revenge [for] the crimes against Syrian Muslims by Iran and Bashar al-Assad” and threatened to continue terror attacks if Parachinar citizens did not “stop sending people to take part in Syrian war”.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Liwa Zainebiyoun: Syria's Pakistani Fighters". iraqeye.
  2. ^ Robert Fisk (26 February 2016). "Syria civil war: State-of-the-art technology gives President Assad's army the edge". The Independent.
  3. ^ a b "Iran recruits Pakistani Shias for combat in Syria". The Express Tribune. 11 December 2015.
  4. ^ Says, Motorhead (28 October 2016). "IRGC commander killed on eve of Aleppo battle | FDD's Long War Journal".
  5. ^ "Array of pro-Syrian government forces advances in Aleppo | FDD's Long War Journal". 9 December 2016.
  6. ^ a b Christoph Reuter. American Fury: The Truth About the Russian Deaths in Syria: Hundreds of Russian soldiers are alleged to have died in U.S. airstrikes at the beginning of February. Reporting by DER SPIEGEL shows that events were likely very different. Der Spiegel, 2 March 2018.
  7. ^ Joe Truzman (14 February 2020). "IRGC trained militias suffer losses in northwest Syria". Long War Journal. Retrieved 17 February 2020.
  8. ^ "Liwa Zainebiyoun".
  9. ^ a b c d e "Meet the Zainebiyoun Brigade: An Iranian Backed Pakistani Shia Militia Fighting in Syria". Archived from the original on 2 May 2016. Retrieved 28 April 2016.
  10. ^ a b c d Farhan Zahid (27 May 2016). "The Zainabiyoun Brigade: A Pakistani Shiite Militia Amid the Syrian Conflict". Terrorism Monitor Volume.
  11. ^ a b "Funeral Service for Seven Pakistani Militants Killed in Syria; Qom, Iran, Apr 2015". Konflictcam.
  12. ^ "Foreign Shiite combat fatalities in Syria and nationality since January 19, 2012." Ali Alfoneh. Twitter. 4 March 2019.
  13. ^ Wigger, Leo (26 September 2019). ""Why Pakistan holds a key in the Iranian-Saudi confrontation"". Retrieved 1 October 2019.
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Increasing Number Of Afghans, Pakistanis Killed In Syria Buried In Iran".
  16. ^ "Iran Tightens Its Grip On Syria Using Syrian And Foreign Forces". MEMRI. 5 May 2015.
  17. ^ "The Zainabiyoun Brigade". Farda News. 3 March 2016.
  18. ^ جهان|TABNAK, سایت خبری تحلیلی تابناك|اخبار ایران و. "پیکر ۵ شهید مدافع حرم در قم تشییع شد".CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  19. ^ Mehdi Hussain (13 December 2015). "At least 23 killed, 30 injured in Parachinar blast". The Express Tribune.