Forty-eight Iranian prisoners set free by Syrian rebels received a warm greeting at the Sheraton Hotel in central Damascus on Wednesday.
They were released in exchange for 2,130 civilian prisoners held by the Syrian government.
The men were captured in early August by rebel forces, who accused them of being members of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, sent to fight for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Iran, one of Assad’s closest allies, denied this and said they were Shi’ite Muslims visiting shrines.
Iran’s Ambassador to Syria accompanied the men, he said: “The people of Iran rejoice today, for the release of her children and their safe return home.”
Bulent Yildirim, the head of the Turkish aid agency IHH which helped broker the deal, said the prisoners being released by the government have also begun to return.
Most of them are Syrians, but there are also believed to be Turks and other foreign nationals among them.