Ali Akbar Salehi

Iran has called on the United Nations to intervene and secure the release of Iranian captives in Syria.

Reuters reports that in a letter to Ban Ki-moon, Iran’s Foreign Minister refers to the captives as “pilgrims and relief workers.”

Iranian authorities claim that 47 Iranian pilgrims were abducted together with their Afghan translator on August 4 on their way to the Shrine of Zeynabieh in the suburbs of Damascus.

The Free Syrian Army, however, has released a video of the captives claiming they are militiamen.

The Islamic Republic denies the allegations and has called on Qatar and Turkey, which are allied with the rebels, to assist in the release of the kidnapped Iranians.

Ali Akbar Salehi has reportedly told ISNA, however, that there are some retired members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards among the pilgrims.

Salehi said in his letter to the United Nations: “The desire to visit holy places in Syria is so strong that we cannot stop the faithful from making these pilgrimages.”

Referring to recent reports that three of the Iranian captives were killed, he urged the UN to act immediately toward the release of the Iranian captives.

Iran has supported the Beshar Assad regime during nearly a year and a half of Syrian unrest. Saeed Jalili, the head of Iran’s Supreme Council of National Security, recently visited Beshar Assad and reiterated Iran’s solidarity with the Assad regime.