Here is a picture of a gigantically-jacked bald guy with a huge beard stomping through the bullet-riddled streets of Tikrit, Iraq during one of the largest and most brutal urban street warfare the Middle East has ever seen. He is wearing tactical kevlar body armor packed with grenades, has a grenade-launcher-equipped M4 assault rifle slung from his back, and is carrying an old-school scimitar in a manner that indicates he’s probably swung one of these things in anger before.
As can be the case with some of the great mysterious man from history, there exist only rumors about his history, and since this dude is basically sitting at the top of ISIS’s “People We Need to Behead on Twitter” list, he’s not exactly thrilled about the idea of writing down his phone number and home address on a Post-It and sending it to a group of rampaging homicidal Jihadis on a paper airplane.
Some claim that he used to be a lecturer at a university somewhere in Iraq, and that he was once the Iraqi national Taekwondo champion, but that he left his home at age 37 after he saw some ISIS dudes behead a Shi’ite with an axe in the streets outside his house. This is the story I prefer, mostly because it’s weird and awesome, and also because when he re-tells the story he off-handedly comments that he personally tracked down the leader of the beheaders a few days later, grabbed him by the throat, took away the guy’s axe and “butchered him into gravy,” which is such an awesome pump-up expression that it makes me want to get KFC on the way home from work tonight and eat it straight out of the Styrofoam container like some kind of fucking barbarian. Other folks claim that this dude is actually an experienced Special Operations soldier with decades of combat experience in locations from Lebanon to Syria and that he could potentially even be a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard who has received additional training from Hezbollah, the Mujahideen, and American Green Berets. I don’t know, maybe he’s some combination of the two.Whatever the case, here’s a picture of him holding an axe I was just talking about.
Since I assume most people these days get their news by skimming poorly-researched clickbait headlines while scrolling their Facebook feed for Grumpy Cat pictures, here’s the deal with ISIS. These guys are a bunch of men who are looking to overthrow every legitimate government in the Middle East and build some humongous fundamentalist empire that basically combines every Muslim country from Indonesia to Morocco under one big black pirate flag where nobody can smoke pot and it’s totally OK to punch women in the head whenever you want. These radical dudes like to think they are the modern-day successors to the great Islamic Caliphates of the Abbassids and the Umayyads during the Middle Ages, and typically like to spread their message by loading Humvees full of C4 and then driving them into army checkpoints.
For reference, here is a contemporary illustration depicting Baghdad in 1200 AD, at the height of the Caliphate:
You know what? A return to the Golden Age of Islam wouldn’t be a bad thing! During an incredible and unprecedented age of thought, literature, art, and culture that flourished across the Middle East between 700 and 1300 AD, Islamic scholars performed amazing works of advancement in mathematics, science, astronomy and medicine. The astronomer al-Battani accurately calculated the solar year and created numeric tables charting the course of the moon and planets through the night sky (these tables would later be used by guys like Copernicus and Galileo), then further developed these tables using complicated astrolabes invented by other Arab scientists. The mathematician al-Kwarizmi created Arabic numerals (those numbers across the top of your keyboard) and invented algebra, setting up other Islamic mathematicians to later create trigonometry and calculus. The physician and researcher al-Razi wrote a 23-volume work assembling all the combined medical expertise of Ancient Greece, China, India and the Middle East into one cohesive tome.
What’s ISIS doing to bring that Golden Age back, you might ask? Well, when they captured the city of Mosul a few months ago they burned every book in the library, crucified all the Christians, beheaded Shi’ites, set a few people on fire, and enslaved all of the women they could catch. Oh yeah, and then they set all the cigarettes and beer on fire as well, which is kind of like kicking a dude’s dog after you’ve just murdered his entire family in front of him.
Unfortunately, there’s not much stopping these fucks either. The Iraqi Regular Army pretty much collapsed when Ramadi fell in May, and now there is a huge, unsettling reliance on minuteman-style militia groups to step up and protect the people of Iraq from an onrushing horde of ultra-fundamentalist mass-murdering maniacs hell-bent on reducing the Iraqi people and their homeland into a pre-Dark Ages smoking ruin.
As it stands right now, the front line of the war in Iraq is just 70 miles north of Baghdad. The barbarians are at the gates, and the Iraqi people need a hero.
What they’ve got is Abu Azrael, a dude who looks like a combination of Kratos and The Rock and goes into battle with a scimitar, an assault rifle, and two iPhones strapped to his armor.
Abu Azrael is the commander of the Imam Ali Brigade, a rag-tag volunteer militia of Shi’ite Muslims who would rather eat beer-battered bacon than watch a bunch of ISIS stomp through Bagdad setting all its citizens on fire. Fighting on the front lines of dozens of battles across the northwest of Iraq (and possibly even into Syria), Azrael styles himself as a defender of “all oppressed people”, from Christians to Sunni Muslims, rocking a heavy MG and a razor-sharp scimitar as he stomps around the desert looking for ISIS losers to decapitate with extreme prejudice. Backed by everyone from the United States to Iran, Abu Azrael can be found near the battlefront from Fallujah to Tikrit, fighting with everything from RPGs to SAW machine guns. And, unlike a few other Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias out there that are committing war crimes and atrocities of their own, Abu Azrael makes a point of ordering his men to avoid injuring civilians of any persuasion at all costs, saying that “We are all one country, one Iraq,” and that he won’t stop until ISIS has been thrown out of there.
Even getting blown up by a grenade didn’t slow this guy down – Abu was blown out of his pickup truck by an RPG a few months ago, broke his hand in several places, and was still on the front-lines spraying fire from a custom M4 he’s outfitted with a 100-round drum magazine and a grenade launcher like he just didn’t care. Azrael was also recently called in by the Iraqi Army to help retake the country’s largest oil field, which has fallen into ISIS hands, and it’s pretty fair to reason that on the mission he’s going to be working with a few Green Berets or SEALs or possible some other ultra-black-ops PMC as well.
On a completely unrelated note, here’s a picture of him laughing at a man-eating tiger that is currently growling at him from less than three feet away. I have no idea what’s happening with this but what the hell.
Every time you read a story about this guy, like half the article is dedicated to telling you that Abu Azrael has a pimped-out Facebook page and it has like a ton of followers or whatever. The first couple times I read this I was like who cares, but honestly this is actually kind of the point of this guy. Abu Azrael is badass not JUST because he kills Medieval Revivalists with a sword in the year 2015 AD, but because he posts videos of it on YouTube and then takes a selfie with an Iraqi Colonel and the decapitated head of his enemies so he can post it as a comment on ISIS’s Instagram page. He’s the ultimate anti-ISIS propaganda weapon – a native Iraqi, kicking asses for Iraq, who live streams the entire battle on Twitch so his people can finally see something morale-boosting on the Internet for once. When you’re dealing with an enemy that live-Tweets car bombings and broadcasts the aftermath to the world, the only way to keep your army and your population from being completely demoralized is to strap an iPhone to your chest, grab a woodcutter’s axe, and show the Iraqis that there are big scary dudes out there fighting on their side as well. I honestly don’t even care if everything about this guy is a total lie – Abu Azrael serves a powerful purpose to the Iraqi people just because he’s super famous over there for kicking the pieces out of ISIS and not letting a bunch of guys come in and crush your city without a fight. I mean, every time this guy gets called to an Army base to help with a mission, he’s mobbed by troops who want pictures with him or to shake his hand or something. That ability to inspire that kind of morale in an army that is fighting a losing war a dozen miles from their capital is even more valuable than Abu Azrael going Super Saiyan and hosing down hundreds of enemy soldiers with a minigun he just ripped off the door of a Blackhawk.
Abu Azrael has a catchphrase: “illa tahin”. It means “into flour.” Apparently, in one of his videos Azrael took a walkie-talkie off an ISIS fighter he’d just killed with his bare hands by crushing his skull with a gigantic dictionary-sized fist. Azrael talked into the radio and was surprised to hear an ISIS voice come back asking him for a status update. Abu Azrael introduced himself, did an “ooooh, I’m very sorry Hans. I didn’t get that message,” bit, and then told the guy on the other line that he was going to kill every last ISIS fighter he could find and grind them all into flour.
Nowadays you can’t walk down the street in Baghdad without seeing this phrase printed on someone’s t-shirt.