War hits close to home for Latin Americans of Syrian descent

English: President Bashar al-Assad of Syria . ...

English: President Bashar al-Assad of Syria . Original background. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The recent news of the Venezuelan-Syrian member of parliament, Adel El Zabaya, leaving to fight alongside the government of Bashar Al Assad was no surprise to the millions of people of Syrian descent in Latin America.

Syrians began to arrive in Latin America in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

In many countries they were known as “Turcos” or “Turks” because they arrived while Syria was still part of the Ottoman Empire, and thus possessed Ottoman or Turkish passports. There are no reliable figures on the size of the Syrian diaspora in Latin America but it is thought there are around 18 million. Brazil has the largest population at around 8 million, followed by Argentina.

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