Venezuelan Assads Army

Meet the American-bashing, Tweeting Venezuelan Politician who Joined Assad’s Army

Abdel el-Zabayar is the most unlikely combatant in Syria's bloody civil war

Did you hear the one about the 49-year-old Venezuelan politician who became a volunteer in President Bashar al-Assad’s army?

No, really. Abdel el-Zabayar is the most unlikely combatant in Syria’s bloody civil war. His family is of Syrian descent, but he was born and raised in Venezuela, where he now serves as a congressman for the ruling socialist party.

El-Zabayar made headlines at home a few weeks ago in Venezuela when he asked Congress in Caracas for permission to stay in Syria, where he had travelled to visit family. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro gave him his blessing, and the lawmaker became a soldier. He has kept his countrymen informed of his activities through his Twitter account, where he posts political statements and photos of himself and his comrades armed with AK-47 assault rifles. He also regularly tweets updates to President Maduro. 

“Thank you president and extraordinary brother @NicolasMaduro. It’s important for the world to punish and stop the imperialist arrogance here.”

“The truth about what happens in Syria must come to light!” he tells Vocativ. “Whatever the Americans may do, they have already lost the political battle.”

With Syria still in the U.S.’s crosshairs despite talks of a possible deal involving Assad handing over his chemical weapons, el-Zabayar’s presence on the ground is a sign of the persistently amicable ties between Venezuela and Syria, a relationship established by Hugo Chávez and cemented by Maduro. The bond between both nations is not so much based on common ideological grounds, as it is on a shared hostility towards the U.S.

To Assad, Venezuela is one of the few allies he has left. Despite the Syrian strongman’s political isolation and the international sanctions against his government, Venezuela continues to ship oil to the regime and maintains that any American intervention in the war is illegal. Last May Damascus confirmed it had received 35,000 tonnes of Venezuelan diesel, one of at least three shipments sent this year.

“The Syrian Christians raise their voice and ask the Pope to condemn the attacks against Christians by the hands of mercenaries allied to the U.S.”

But el-Zabayar is more of an ideological soldier than an actual one. Though he brandishes a firearm, the Venezuelan congressman has no combat experience and lacks any real weapons training. Consequently, he has not yet seen real war and most of his tasks have been more administrative in nature. “I am stationed near the Jordanian border, some 90 kilometers south of Damascas and around 20 kilometers from the front line,” he tells Vocativ. “My unit is in charge of maintaining a control point near the border, to avoid mercenaries getting into the country.”

Despite his lack of experience, el-Zabayar says he is not afraid of the rebels or of Washington, despite the ongoing possibility of a U.S. strike. “They can pick whatever weapon they like, they cannot defeat us,” he says. “I am confident victory will be ours.”

In other words, there are allies and then there are allies.

Respond Now
Activists of the Right Sector movement and their supporters gather outside the parliament building to demand the immediate resignation of Internal Affairs Minister Arsen Avakov, in Kiev March 27, 2014. A prominent Ukrainian far-right activist, part of a hard-line nationalist movement that played a leading role in the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovich, was shot dead by police overnight, authorities said on March 25. The Interior Ministry said Oleksander Muzychko, also known as Sashko Bily, was killed by officers of the 'Sokol' special unit as he tried to escape from a cafe in the western Ukrainian region of Rivne. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko (UKRAINE - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTR3IWHV
UKRAINE

Organizing a Right-Wing Ukrainian Militia? There’s an App for That

Rachael Levy
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila sit in front of the Taj Mahal while touring city of Agra October 4, 2000. Building on the first day of a visit aimed at rekindling Soviet-era amity, Putin told India's parliament that ties with New Delhi would remain a key element of Moscow's foreign policy. - RTXK1TW
RUSSIA

Meet the Putins

Vocativ Staff
Shoppers walk past an advertising billboard for shoes in the central business district (CBD) of Beijing November 3, 2008. A measure of Chinese manufacturing activity showed factory output shrank sharply in October in the face of waning orders, while officials pledged further steps to boost domestic demand to keep the economy from slowing too much. Capital controls and the relative conservatism of China's banks have largely insulated the world's fourth-largest economy from direct hits from the global financial crisis, but its reliance on exports to the United States and Europe makes it vulnerable to a drop-off in Western demand.    REUTERS/David Gray    (CHINA) - RTXA6ZX
INDUSTRY

New Strike Breaks Out at China Factory That Michael Jordan Made Famous

Versha Sharma
Snoop Fancy
CELEBRITY

Living a Snoop Dogg-Curated Life

Emily Levy
LOVE HOTEL POSTER 6
SOCIETY

Brazil’s By-The-Hour Love Hotels

Ramon Iriarte
Lionel Gonzalez (16) dreams of crossing the border and reunite with his family in Denver, Colorado. In the background dowtown El Paso
MEXICO

Teens Caught in Cartels’ Trafficking Crossfire

Jan-Albert Hootsen
Ana Paula Maciel Playboy 05
BRAZIL

Greenpeace’s Brazilian Playboy Jailbird

Mac Margolis
NASA Selfies 01
SCIENCE

NASA Spaces Out Its Social Media Orbit

Emily Levy
Join the Fray
Grounded! Teen Girl Exiled by Virginia Parents to Siberia