German Muay Thai Fighter Valdet Gashi Has Joined ISIS in Syria
The rumors that German Muay Thai fighter Valdet Gashi had joined ISIS started in March and earlier today the fighter himself confirmed them. He posted on Facebook that he was currently in Syria working to enforce Shariah law and that he was armed.
You can see the full translation of the German language interview which was published verbatim here. It represents a remarkable change of career from the 28-year-old who was once one of the better foreign Muay Thai fighters in Thailand. He competed all over South East Asia.
Gashi fought in places like Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Phnom Penh and Phuket, and appeared on cards put on by relatively well-known Muay Thai promotions including Thailand vs Challenger, I-1 and Z-1. I actually commentated on one of his fights: he lost a decision to Seulokkao Kor Kraivilas and was extremely upset about the scoring.
That fight took place on a Thailand vs Challenger card in Bangkok in July, 2011 and it was around that time I became Facebook friends with Gashi. If we ever had an actual conversation I can’t remember it but his social media posts would occasionally attract my attention.
I remember him writing that he had met a Thai woman and that she was going to convert to Islam so that they could get married. According to his Facebook page the wedding took place in January, 2012, and it seems they have two children together.
I also remember that it was Gashi who broke the news last year about former Lumpinee super lightweight champion Damian Alamos converting to Islam. The story sent shockwaves through the expat Muay Thai community because the Frenchman was arguably the best pound-for-pound, non-Thai fighter on the planet at the time.
When the allegations that Gashi had joined ISIS were first aired publicly in March I treated them with skepticism. My initial suspicion was that someone who didn’t like the tone of his social media posts was deliberately spreading malicious rumors, particularly as he had posted pictures of himself posing with a newborn baby girl just four month’s previously.
On March 10th, Gashi responded to these rumors with a post on facebook, written in his native German, in which he vehemently denied having joined the Islamic State. He claimed to have been busy starting a Muslim friendly Muay Thai camp in Switzerland which would be open to all but would not allow drinking, swearing or women.
The Muay Thai camp in question is real but several of its students have travelled to Syria in order to join ISIS and one of them was apparently killed by an airstrike. On 23rd March Gashi posted on Instagram and Facebook that he was mourning the death of his ‘Kurdish Muslim Brother’.
It seems Gashi went to great lengths to ensure that his family didn’t find out he was in Syria, leaving posts on Facebook which suggested he was in Bangkok or Yala. His most recent interview also seems deliberately designed to play down parental concerns, stating that he is not involved in ‘hostilities’ and his job is to clarify ‘misunderstandings’. (Translation is here).
Gashi states that he has never actually used his gun but one clue to his current state of mind was spotted by the Swiss media. They feel a reference to meeting his deceased friend again in ‘Jannah-al-firdaus’ indicates that the former Muay Thai fighter wants to die a martyr’s death.
It is a lot easier to join ISIS than it is to leave. Should Gashi decide to try and return to his family, or resume his former life, he is likely to come under severe scrutiny from law enforcement authorities who might not appreciate the distinction he is trying to make between going on armed patrols and being an actual fighter.
Gashi remains active on social media but with stories like this in circulation his current Instagram and Facebook output might not be sustainable. The 28-year-old has left behind his wife, children and a relatively successful Muay Thai career to embark on this new path.
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