2020-09-17

French humanitarian NGO SOS Chrétiens d’Orient (SOSCO) claims to support persecuted Christians in Syria and the wider Middle East without interfering in conflicts or local politics. But in reality, the seven-year-old NGO—which was founded by far-right, conservative, Catholic activists— thinly veils its agenda to amplify Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s propaganda and push for a normalisation of diplomatic relationships between Damascus and EU countries.

Using open-source analysis and extensive reporting, the 8-month investigation reveals that SOSCO’s Syrian operations have provided support to Christian militias fighting for Assad that have been accused of multiple war crimes. The NGO’s support could make it complicit in these crimes.

The French NGO also works with charities linked to the Syrian regime, sometimes even funding them. One such organisation is led by Asma al-Assad, Bashar’s wife, who is now under U.S. sanctions for her critical role in supporting the regime crackdown against peaceful protests and funding the regime’s security apparatus. 

While working on small-scale projects in regime-held areas, SOS Chrétiens d’Orient also runs an extensive PR campaign designed to portray Bashar al-Assad as the defender of Christian minorities, whitewashing and even denying his extensive list of crimes against humanity.

Image © SOSCO Facebook page

The team was assisted by a fourth journalist, who wants to remain anonymous for security reasons.

IMPACT 

After this investigation, the National Anti-terrorist Prosecutor's Office (Parquet National Antiterroriste, PNAT) has opened a preliminary investigation targeting the association, implicated for its supposed links with Syrian militias accused of war crimes. This association was labeled as "national defense partner" of the Ministry of the Armed Forces by a decree signed in 2017 by Jean-Yves Le Drian. On January 31, 2022, the Ministry of the Armed Forces announced the removal of SOS Chrétiens d'Orient from the partnership.     
 

Team members

Ariane Lavrilleux

Ariane Lavrilleux is a French journalist working in the Middle East.

Frank Andrews

Frank Andrews is an independent British journalist.

Elie Guckert

Elie Guckert is a French independent journalist. 

Mentor

Edouard Perrin

Edouard Perrin is an investigative reporter since 1997. In 2011 he joined Premières Lignes, an independent tv production and news agency based in Paris.

Edouard Perrin
Supported
€4,930 allocated on 15/01/2020 (Money Trail) + €9,000 allocated on 03/04/2020 (ECBG)
ID
ECB/2020/OSF3/548 - MT/2020/104

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