President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has some unlikely fans in the US among far-right communities.
In a video that was posted on Twitter, three men who took part in the Charlottesville protests talk about their support for Assad, the notorious Syrian leader accused of killing thousands of his own people. One of the men is wearing a T-shirt that reads “Bashar’s Barrel Delivery Co.”
"Support the Syrian Arab army," one of them says.
"Assad did nothing wrong" - Baked Alaska at UVA tonight. "Barrel bombs, hell yeah!" pic.twitter.com/GCsR5oy1ts
— Brandon Wall (@Walldo) August 12, 2017
Assad is accused of dropping barrel bombs on civilian populations to terrorize them.
There was a picture of Assad on the Facebook page of James Alex Fields Jr., the man accused of being the driver of the car that hit and killed counterprotester Heather Heyer. In the picture, Assad is in full military uniform, wearing sunglasses. Below him is the word "undefeated."
A picture posted on the Facebook page of James Fields who ran his car through the crowd in Virginia today. pic.twitter.com/xGB4vclsFG
— Yashar Ali (@yashar) August 13, 2017
According to Joyce Karam, a reporter with The National and Al Hayat, support for Assad among far-right groups is not new. It's just more visible.
For example, she says, David Duke, former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, has been praising Assad for years. In 2009, he visited Syria and spoke with members of the Assad government.
Syria is a beautiful nation, with a rich history & amazing leader. President Assad should be our close ally (there's no question about that) https://t.co/idycwANHn7
— David Duke (@DrDavidDuke) March 13, 2017
Karam believes there are three main reasons why the far-right is fascinated with the Syrian leader.
One, his stance on Israel. "[David Duke] looks up to the Assad regime as an anti-Israel body politic in the Middle East," Karam says. "[It's] a regime that bashes Zionism publicly."
Next, his defiance in the face of ISIS. "I think what Assad represents today [is] somebody who is, to them, barrel bombing radical Islamists. They see that as a good thing," Karam says.
The third reason behind this fondness for Assad is the ferocity with which he has crushed the uprising in his own country. The far-right views Assad as a strong man, as an authoritarian who will use any means to reach his goals.
Karam adds that Assad is aware of his own appeal within the far-right community in the US. And maybe even doesn't mind it.
"This is a leader who jumps at any opportunity [for] admiration from the United States," she says.
From PRI's The World ©2017 PRI