We already knew about the Chechens, Bosnians, and Australians fighting in Syria. Foreigners from countries across the globe have been increasingly flocking to this civil war-ravaged country to lend a hand to the massacre on both sides of the conflict.
But this video of two AK47-wielding LA gang members claiming to fight for president Bashar al Assad takes the Syrian war’s cosmopolitanism to a whole new level of absurdity.
In the video below, the two introduce themselves with heavy American accents and a profusion of “homie” and F-bombs. They claim to be “Creeper,” from the GW-13 gang in Sun Valley, a Hispanic neighborhood of Los Angeles, and “Wino,” from the Westside Armenian Power gang.
“We got the enemigos right there, homie,” Creeper says while standing behind a wall in an unidentified location that looks like it could be in Syria.
“Still puro Surenos putting it down, homie,” he adds, before showing off his ink and giving a shout-out to his buddies back home.
“In Syria, homie, we’re in Syria homie,” Wino says after shooting a few demonstrative rounds. “Frontline, homie.”
LA Gang members claim to have joined Syria's civil war.
The GW-13 gang is an affiliate of the Sureños, a group of Southern California gangs linked to the Mexican mafia. Armenian Power, also known as AP, is an LA-based Armenian-American criminal organization. Armenian Christians are a minority in Syria, and staunch supporters of Assad’s regime. Initial reports identified the duo as "Mexican" gang members, but acquaintances identified them both as Armenian Syrians.
Barev Hokis, a US-based Armenian friend of Wino, confirmed that his name is Nerses Kilajyan. Hokis told VICE News that both men in the video were deported from the US back to Syria.
“He is protecting our Armenian villages neighborhoods from rapist terrorists that are trying to rape and kill my innocent Armenian people,” Hokis wrote. “He was deported from Los Angeles back to Syria along with the other guy with the tattoos, he is also Armenian that was deported back to Syria. They are protecting our children from those blood thirsty demons.”
Hokis declined to answer further questions about his friend, saying that “Nusra is looking for him” — a reference to the Al Nusra Front fighting against Assad’s regime in Syria. But he recently posted his support for his friend on Facebook.
“Big wino, the turkish slaughterer, proud to have you protect our people dawg,” he wrote. “It’s people like you gonna be written in our history books to come. Modern day fedayi homies.”
Another acquaintance of Kilajyan in the US, who asked not to be named, told VICE News that Kilajyan was born in Syria and has been back there for at least two or three years. He also explained the Mexican connection claimed by Creeper and Wino in the video.
Kilajyan’s Armenian Power gang is under the “umbrella” of the Sureños, who have ties to the Mexican mafia, the acquaintance said. The Armenian gang members receive the Sureños’ protection in the penitentiary system, where solidarity runs along racial lines.
“Any street gang that operates in the southern California area answers to the Mexican mafia,” he said. “In the California prison system its color brown with brown, black with black, white with white, so Armenians usually line up with brown of color.”
The acquaintance added that Kilajyan is in Syria to protect his fellow Armenians there. “Basically supporting the Syrian President cuz his always supported the Armenians in Syria,” he said. “We support him and know he can be shot any second, there’s a lot of snipers out there.”
The video was uploaded to YouTube by the Middle East Media Research Institute, a pro-Israel group that monitors media in the region, after Wino posted it on his Facebook page.
Wino’s page — under the name Wino Ayee Peeyakan — features dozens of photos of him showing off weapons and posing with fighters in Hezbollah garb. The Lebanese Shiite group has helped Assad fight back against rebel groups.
His Facebook page suggests Wino has been in the Aleppo area for several months already.
Wino also posted the video below, including photos of himself in what appear to be California and Syria, as well as the usual showcase of guns, gang signs, and tattoos.
Images posted by Nerses Kilajyan, aka "Wino," show the California gang member in Syria, where he claims to have joined the regime.
At least 50 Americans have reportedly joined the rebels’ ranks in Syria, but no known Americans have fought on the regime’s side of the conflict, according to The Washington Post.
There are currently 7,000 to 11,000 foreigners fighting in Syria — mainly on the rebels’ side — Secretary of State John Kerry said in a recent address.
“Those foreign fighters are learning the worst methods of persuasion — terror,” Kerry said. “And many of them will return to the countries from which they have come.”