More than 360,000 Foreign Fighters have fought the Syrian Army” Firil Center For Studies FCFS, Berlin, Germany


Foreign Fighters have fought the Syrian Army

Dr. Jameel M. Shaheen

Berlin 19/02/2016

Firil Center For Studies FCFS, Berlin, Germany




A statistics-based study that covers what has happened in Syria between April 10, 2011 and 31 January 2016. The study focuses on the Syrian opposition, in general, and the number of the foreign fighters, in particular. Some of the numbers mentioned here are approximate due to the disappearance of the bodies. The study literature builds on [starlist][/starlist]what has been published by websites, media and internet pages, both inside Syria and outside it. It also depends on other 51 sources, some of which are listed at the end of the research.

Key Findings:

  1. The number of foreign fighters who have fought the Syrian army between April 2011 and the end of 2015 is 360.000. The number does not indicate a totality of all the fighters who fought together rather it refers to the total number in the time span of the study. The figure includes men and women, all those who participated in the fighting directly, by taking up guns, or indirectly, by providing military and logistic support, in addition to doctors, nurses, marriage  jihad women, drivers who took up arms, and the people involved in digging tunnels or building soil mounds. It is found that 95.000 were killed, and that 120.000 have departed, either temporary or permanently, to their home or other countries, and 24.000 were missing. The missing person, by definition, is the one who has not shown for more than 6 months.
  1. The number of the foreign fighters who are fighting the Syrian army is estimated to be 90.000 in Syria, most of them fight within the ranks of ISIS and al Nusra Front, compared to those fighting with other factions.
  1. More than 3000 children under 18, of those who took up arms and fought mostly with ISIS and al Nusra, are killed.
  1. 23000 of suicide bombers are killed, most of whom are affiliated with ISIS and Al Nusra.
  1. The largest numbers of the armed opposition, including the foreign fighters, died in Syria were killed by the Syrian army, with the Lebanese Resistance (Hezbollah) coming in the second rank  after the Syrian Army with regards to the reason behind their deaths.  In addition, the conflicts amongst those factions as well as the Russian strikes have   increased this death toll. By contrast, the US-led coalition killed only 2500 fighters of ISIS despite what the commanding general of U.S. Central Command Lioyd Austin has said to CNN of killing 27000 ISIS fighters, as a result of the coalition strikes.
  1. The number of fighters who hold the Syrian citizenship, of those who have fought the Syrian army, including clandestine inactive cells, is 600.000 as of March 2015. This number decreased largely starting from the end of spring 2015 as a result of the following factors:
  • The defeats suffered by various armed factions in the provinces of Homs, Daraa, Latakia, Aleppo, Damascus and Hasaka, in addition to Russian airstrikes, have caused together the fleeing of tens of thousands of fighters to Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, or to Europe where they have got residencies through asylum.
  • The reconciliations made by the Syrian government with the militants in a number of cities and neighborhoods. The militants, as a result of that, abandoned their weapons or were moved into other areas.
  • Tens of thousands of militants who hold the Syrian citizenship were killed in the five years of fighting. Clandestine inactive cells still exist in all cities, including those cities under the control of the Syrian army.
  1. The highest number of foreign fighters was in September 2015, reaching 150.000; the figure has decreased after the Russian intervention and the intensive airstrikes.
  1. The largest rally of foreign fighters in history happened in Syria; the fighters came from 93 nationalities and from all continents, including Oceania. The militants also came from all Arab countries without exception.
  1. The number of fighters who hold European and American citizenships is 21,500, and 8,500 of whom returned to their countries.
  1. Turkey occupies the first rank regarding the overall number of fighters; this includes members of the Turkish army, the intelligence, the Organization of the Gray Wolves, and Turkmens Turks.
  1. Saudi Arabia still occupies the first rank in the number of fighters killed, with 24,500 Saudi identified as participating, 5990 of whom were killed.
  1. Tunisia is still the first with regard to the number of women, with 180 Tunisia women and female teenagers identified as participating in the fighting, 45 of whom were killed.
  1. The participation of foreign women in fighting is very limited and was restricted to their role in sex and amusement for the fighters.
  1. The year 2015 witnessed a significant rise in the number of Islamic fighters from central Asian states (Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Turkistan) including China’s Xinjiang province, as a result of the Turkish and Saudi activities in these countries and the calls for Jihad which have been active there by Turkish and Saudi intelligence.



  1. About $ 45 billion were paid to fund military actions against the Syrian army; these billions covered monthly salaries, weapons, ammunition, vehicles, SUVs, flight tickets, accommodation in transit countries, forged passports and treatment in hospitals. The price of weapons was six times the real price, while the price of a forged passport reached to 12 thousand dollars. Syrian armed opposition leaders, both Syrians and foreigners, fled with $ 3.7 billion to other countries like Turkey, Germany, Jordan and Egypt. The first murder by a leader of an armed group was upon the payment of salaries of armed men in Daraa.
  • There is a great exaggeration about ISIS financial revenues from oil trade and the sale of looted relics; this is meant to cover up the real supplier of funds from donors from the Arab Gulf states and governments there.
  • The Gulf States come first in funding Syrian and foreign fighters in Syria, with Saudi Arabia occupying the first rank by 18 billion while Qatar coming in the second rank with 17 billion dollars. Funding has been under the supervision of intelligence from all Gulf countries, except for Oman as there is no evidence on the involvement of any of its officials, whereas, officials from Kuwait have participated in fighting.
  • Unprecedented activity in Europe by the Turkish organization the Grey Wolves, especially in Germany, attempting to recruit fighters to fight the Syrian army. This organization has an effective role in the fighting in Syria and particularly in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo.
  • All factions and armed opposition groups fighting the Syrian Army adopt Sunni Islamist and sectarian slogans with similar goals: establishing an Islamic religious state based on Sunni Islamic Sharia (law), as its constitution.
  • Chechen fighters are the most trained amongst the foreign fighters.
  • Syrian fighters in the countryside of Aleppo are the first in fleeing the fighting, with the fighters from Lebanon coming next.
  • ISIS fighters are the steadiest because of the punishments imposed on the escapees.
  • Saudis fighters are the least trained, experienced and the most frightened fighters.
  • Both the Turkish intelligence and the Turkish army have lost more than 350 soldiers, officers and pilots. Their deaths are attributed, in the Turkish media, for the following reasons: car accidents, PKK attacks in southeast Turkey, food poisoning, cold and snow. It was found that three officers from Saudi Arabia and a Qatari officer along with two officers from the French intelligence were killed after the Russian warplanes have bombed  one of the   armed opposition sites in the countryside of Aleppo. 
  • Drug trade is active in Syria across Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq, making Syria amongst the first ten countries in the world in consuming drugs. The fighters of the Syrian opposition, Syrian and foreigners, take cheap drugs like: Tramadol, Fenetyllin or Cannabis.
  • The Turkish hospitals come first in the world in human organs trafficking; this trade has spread within the ranks of the Syrian and foreign fighters. The disappearance of hundreds of dead bodies, hostages and refugees who drowned in the Aegean Sea is attributed to the removal of their organs. The bodies were burnt and buried in unknown locations, or thrown into wells and deep ground wholes.
  • The first military action carried out by the Syrian opposition against the Syrian Arab Army, with the participation of foreign fighters, was on 04/10/2011. It took place in the highway of the coastal city of Banias and the foreign fighter was from Akkar in Northern Lebanon.

Dr. Jameel M. Shaheen, Berlin 19/02/2016 Firil Center for Studies FCFS, Berlin, Germany

A table of the countries from which the fighters come, their numbers, the death toll and the number of the missing, according to the death toll

Firil Center for Studies FCFS, Berlin, Germany