Iranian-Backed Militias Convert Syrian Civilian Graves Into Religious Shrines

The Syrian conflict has been ongoing for over a decade with its roots starting with the 2011 revolution and the Arab Spring, however, as it went on it evolved into a fight against terrorism in which several world powers participated in it, each with their own agenda behind the scenes; this includes Iran, which has been taking dubious steps to strengthen its foothold in the eastern part of Syria.

Recent reports from a province named Deir Ez-Zor claim that Iranian-backed militias are doing something strange, to say the least, but understandable when you get the idea behind it. Deir Ez-Zor is a significant location within the country as it has the largest city in the eastern region of Syria.

A map of where the Deir Ez-Zor region is situated.
Where Deir Ez-Zor province is situated in Syria. Via Wikipedia

The reports claim that Iranian-backed militias are converting old Syrian civilian grave sites into religious shrines as if they belonged to a significant religious figure. Strangely enough, the militias’ claims that there are any religiously significant individuals buried in the area conflict with what the locals are saying, who, in turn, are claiming that they’re just old civilian cemeteries.

The process involves the militias coming in, taking the grave, establishing a shrine, then adding an armed guard detail along with fences for protection. These militias aren’t taking any old graves either; according to local Syrian media, they’re taking graves on a mountain that overlooks a military airbase, making these points have strategic value.

These are Russian-controlled areas, yet, these militias are making moves within them. According to an Al-Arabeya source, the militias are taking advantage of Russia’s preoccupation with its war against Ukraine and moving in on some of its territories to seize them.

Al-Arabeya’s source said: “Organizations and charities supported and funded by Tehran have intensified their activities since the Russians are preoccupied with the Ukrainian war in the past months, and therefore began restoring graves located in an area under Russian influence inside the city of Deir Ez-Zor.”

The source also revealed that this was the first time the Iran-backed militias restored graves inside a Russian-controlled territory, stating that they would usually stick to areas they control.

Academic Muhammad Mohsen Abu al-Nour, head of the Arab Forum for Analysis of Iranian Policies, told Al-Arabeya: “Tehran wants to have followers in the Syrian lands under any pretext, including religious ones. That’s why it is restoring these graves. To use them religious tourism coming from Iran, and thus utilize them for strategic, economic, military, and religious purposes later.”

A group of soldiers at a sign saying Deir Ez-Zor welcomes you.

Iran’s participation in the Syrian conflict has been raging for over a decade now, with no end in sight. According to Chatham House, It sought to accomplish two main goals that it considered were of extreme importance. The first is setting a strong Shia foothold within the region through educational, social, and cultural programs, as well as offering monthly salaries or aid to bolster their militias. This situation puts pressure on other civilians in the area as they would be swayed to convert to reap the benefits or avoid persecution. Chatham House also claims that Iran’s second plan is to establish a land corridor to Lebanon and the Mediterranean through Iraq and Syria.

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