Markus Frohnmaier employs a refugee who presents himself as a propaganda fighter for the Syrian government. Research by Chillreport and the ARD political magazine Kontraste show perhaps the most unusual employment relationship in the Bundestag.
“Syrian refugees from the civil war do not have an easy time in Lebanon”: This understanding comes from AfD politician Markus Frohnmaier. When a young man in Beirut gets on a plane to a conference in Switzerland and then applies for asylum in Germany, it is actually quite alarming for AfD politicians.
But today this refugee works in the office of the Bundestag member Frohnmaier. In 2015 and 2016, while living in the asylum seekers’ center, he went to campaign appearances with, for example, Björn Höcke and warned against the majority of the other refugees there.
Best Graduate Diploma
Frohnmaier employee Kevork Almassian is one of the Syrian regime’s most active voices on social networks today. How does someone who is actually an economic refugee by AfD standards become an employee of an AfD legal interpreter?
Kevark Almassian has a great career in store. In 2005 he started his studies “Diplomacy and International Relations”. He is a student at the private Kalamoon University, which is run by the son of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s office manager.
The expectation of graduates from the department, according to the website, “must be able to defend national concerns and interests” and “work to achieve national and national goals.” Almassian is sent to Paris as the best of his year, sponsored by the university.
He returns and continues his studies in 2010 in Syrian neighboring Lebanon. In 2011, he was on the list of participants at a conference in Syria with senior politicians – his professor introduced him, he said when asked. When civil war broke out in Syria, he had to work full-time to finance his life. In his hometown Aleppo was also shot and murdered in mid-2012.
His father’s business was bombed and his brother, who now lives in Armenia, was kidnapped – with a ransom of $ 12,000.
The escape story ended in Aleppo
That’s how he tells it, and it is entirely possible. A former militia leader from Aleppo was sentenced to life imprisonment in Germany in 2018. The situation must have been dire for many people.
When his family fled to Lebanon, his public accounts of the reasons for his flight were regularly closed. For the political scientist Christian Thuselt of the Chair of Politics and Society of the Middle East at the University of Erlangen, it is unclear why the family did not seek protection in Damascus but opted for exile.
On the other hand, it is only mid-2012 and Almassian then posts photos of wheat beer in the German schnitzel restaurant in Beirut, from the gym and of himself in the pool. He is a presenter at a television station near Hezbollah and writes for a newspaper with a similar focus. To this end, he made political analyzes for a company in 2015.
Application for asylum in Germany after ten days
Then he would cover a conference in Zurich in October 2015, become an asylum seeker in Germany and call Frohnmaier’s number. What happened?
Almassian lands in Zurich on October 5. He attends a conference at the four-star Mövenpick Hotel Regensdorf. Afterwards, he says Kontraste and Chillreport, he got on a bus to Freiburg. He looked at Germany for ten days and then decided to apply for asylum here in order to be able to work. At the height of the refugee wave with more than 10,000 newcomers a day, he works for the Freiburg police.
Refugees on the march to Germany in autumn 2015: Kevork Almassian arrived in a coach from the four-star hotel in Zurich. (Source: Image Images)
Why does he want asylum? In Lebanon, the situation for Syrians has deteriorated, he told “Kontraste” when asked. He was told that skilled jobs like his would now be filled with Lebanese. He pretended to accept it and moved on. But he was discovered. He should have left the country within two weeks.
I got to know Frohnmaier in Donbass
He saw the best prospects in Germany, also because his uncle lives in Hamburg and he knows people. He could also have gone to Sweden, he says. But: “I believe the system and the way of life in Germany suits me.”
It was pure coincidence that he is not far from Markus Frohnmeier’s hometown. It is no coincidence that he seeks help from Frohnmaier. The history of this connection goes back at least to 2013 and leads via Syria and the Donbass – to a Frohnmaier confidant who no longer works in the Bundestag after allegations against him of an arson: Manuel Ochsenreiter. Almassian does not want to talk about him.
In 2013 there are two texts about Almassian in the extreme right-wing German military magazine, of which the editor-in-chief was Ochsenreiter. In the summer of 2014, Almassian and Ochsenreiter are even together near Aleppo in a car that is being shot at by snipers, Almassian reports several times.
2014 together in Syria: Manuel Ochsenreiter and Kevork Almassian, here with a friend of Almassian. Their car was shot at near Aleppo, the Syrian reported. (Source: Screenshot Facebook)
In May 2015, they met again at another source of conflict: in Donetsk, the pro-Russian separatists were invited to a conference following the proclamation of the internationally unrecognized People’s Republic.
At the conference, Ochsenreiter sits in the front row next to Frohnmaier. Now the then JA chairman and Almassian are getting to know each other, both report.
First appearance at the JA state convention
Six months later, in October 2015, Almassian arrived in Germany and answered the phone: Frohnmaier’s number. The door is wide open. There is a photo from mid-November where they are both having a beer in the pub “Sophia’s” in Stuttgart.
Just over a week later, Almassian spoke with Frohnmaier and Ochsenreiter at the Junge Alternative Berlin State Congress. For him, it is the prelude to a tour that will take him to some AfD rallies ahead of the state elections in Baden-Württemberg after a “Conference on the Preservation of Christian European Values” organized by Frohnmaier.
For a beer in Stuttgart: Frohnmaier took care of the refugee and helped him a lot, Almassian reports. (Source: Screenshot / Facebook)
At the same time, as an accommodation resident, he played a key role in organizing a refugee demonstration in the first months. In between appointments on AfD stages, he stands in front of the Ludwigsburg district office and calls on those responsible to arrange the procedures of the people. He wanted to contribute to pacification in the accommodation. Waiting and uncertainty increase aggressiveness, he says.
His performances on the AfD are noticeable and Germans confront him with questions on the internet. He does not join any party, he replies, but, “Any political party that supports the Syrian army deserves my support.”
Quote on Propganda: “Translation errors”
It is such sharp, uncompromising statements that make him appear as Assad’s mouthpiece. He is not fighting with weapons for his country, he told the new right-wing magazine “Secession”. “In this war, we need everyone with some expertise in their place,” he replied. “Someone must also do counter-propaganda. You should not leave Syria to the enemies of the country by public opinion abroad.” This quote “Someone must also make counter-propaganda” was corrected in the “Secession” in the summer of 2020. It says “Someone has to face the propaganda”. According to the “Secession”, the previous version was the result of a translation error when the original sound was transcribed to writing. Almassian presents it on Twitter in such a way that he only wants to counter propaganda. *
A clear announcement in a tweet: he was for the Syrian army, he was radical in his love for Syria and hated the revolution and he had chosen Assad. (Source: Screenshot / Twitter)
Frohnmaier also had no problems with the first draft: “What Mr. Almassian does in his spare time is his private affair, as long as he doesn’t break any laws.”
During one of his performances in the months after his arrival, Almassian warns that there will be five million refugees in 2019. Most of them are Islamists and would not integrate. Whether there should be a massacre at a train station before anything changes, he says. The AfD audience euphorically welcomes such warnings.
But he also says what AfD politicians in the front row regularly officially emphasize: “I actually believe that Germany should help the real refugees, those who have fled the war in Syria.”
Regulation by third countries is not a problem
He is presented in the AfD as a model refugee, but the circumstances of his trip to Germany are not discussed. No one in the AfD remembers the third country regulations in his case and demands that he be returned to safe and competent Switzerland.
Frohnmaier doesn’t seem to care about details either. He summarizes the case in a simple formula: “Mr. Almassian has the right to asylum. His family is of Armenian ethnicity and Christian faith. They were victims of Islamist violence.”
In the asylum procedure, Almassian claims to be recognized as a refugee and is allowed to stay for a limited period on the basis of article 25 paragraph 2 of the residence law. For the authorities, this means that he is either a refugee under the Geneva Convention, who has no domestic alternative to flights in his home country, or enjoys international subsidiary protection because the conflict in his home country threatens his life or his integrity.
Gaining experience for Syria in Germany
He himself says that 70 percent of Syria is safe today. He also wants to go back at some point to pass on what he learned in Germany. First he wants to record more, so that he can take more home. For Syria, he could learn a lot from the Bundestag trials.
He is not currently thinking of a return, which AfD politicians often call on Syrian refugees. If such demands from Germany become known in Syria, there will be mockery on the social networks, he says: “No, please keep them. They are gone, goodbye.” Many of his statements speak of contempt and dislike for many refugees.
In the beginning, the uprising against the regime was not one of democratic forces, he says. He made the topic the content of his master’s thesis, which he completed in Germany: “The Anatomy of Syria’s Revolution”.
Responsible for social media at Frohnmaier
Almassian is part of a scene that is quick to shout “lies” when there are allegations against the regime. He himself called an Amnesty report on mass executions in Syrian prisons “weak biased propaganda”.
For Erlangen-based political scientist Thuselt, “basically everything he says is consistent with what can be heard and seen in the Syrian state media and the media outlets of the government’s allies in Damascus.” Almassian calls Syria a rule of law. “This is grotesque that we are sure this government tortured at least 6,800 people in their prisons between 2011 and 2013.”
Almassian says he speaks about Syria ‘only privately’ with his employer Frohnmaier. For this there are other advisers in the AfD. He is employed by the MP to analyze social media activities. He also provides photos and videos for postings. With the position at Frohnmaier, he was not on the pockets of Germany, that was important to him.
Videos are also his daily activities: in January 2017 he started an English-language YouTube channel “Syria Analysis” in Germany and has so far collected 28,000 subscribers. Only at the weekend did he thank the “unfair media” in a new video that, as an “independent” journalist, would drive viewers to him.
Answered questions for an hour and a half
In a one and a half hour conversation in the Bundestag, he answers questions from Kontraste and Chillreport patiently, friendly and balanced. The regime also violates human rights, he admits. But also the other side, and that would not be reported in the West. However, that was repeatedly a topic in the coverage.
He denies having any connection with the government. He also criticized the Ba’ath Party and was not involved in political activities or projects. But there is no foreseeable alternative to stability and security with Assad.
Thuselt says that supporters of the Assad government do not necessarily have to be supporters of his party. Almassian’s statements showed sympathy for the loyalist Syrian Social National Party bloc party. He considers Almassian an “activist”.
“Don’t Talk About ‘Rapefugees'”
What about Almassian’s relationship with the party that calls itself “Alternative” in Germany and is drawing attention with statements that are hostile to refugees? The Syrian says he doesn’t even know many politicians. In a video, he appealed to right-wing politicians not to mention “rapes” in general.
There is a lot of polarization in Germany, he explains to Kontraste and Chillreport. Some say ‘no one is illegal’ and some say ‘everyone is illegal’. Can’t people meet in the middle and say there are good people and bad people? ‘
The AfD’s “good refugee” is hoping for an unlimited residence permit in June if he has passed the C1 language test by then. Job, language skills, integration course – he brings everything with him. In Germany he has also become an avid photographer because he likes it so much. He shows on Instagram that he loves Christmas markets, fairs and German cars.
In another two years he also wanted a German passport. “There’s almost nowhere to go with the Syrian.”
* Update, November 25, 2020: This passage was added after a reference from Kevork Almassian to the correction in the “Secession”.
The ARD political magazine Kontraste aired on Thursday 28 February reported on the topic. The contribution is no longer available: after a certain time the ARD and ZDF have to take most contributions offline.