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.
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.
- French NGO 'Christians of the Orient' and its ties with the Assad regime - Mediapart, 29/09/2020
- French Christian NGO's links to pro-Assad Syrian militia - Mediapart, 5/10/2020;
- How a French Charity Built Ties with Pro-Assad Christian Militias - Bellingcat, 04/11/2020
- Les liaisons dangereuses de SOS Chrétiens d’Orient avec les milices d’Assad - Mediapart, 17/09/2020
- SOS Chrétiens d’Orient, une «start-up» française au service du régime de Bachar al-Assad - Mediapart, 23/09/2020
- Comment SOS Chrétiens d’Orient a utilisé le village syrien de Maaloula - Mediapart, 1/10/2020
- (Arabic) - Al-Jumhuriya, 25/09/2020
- Come opera in Italia la ong francese cattolica di destra che appoggia il regime di Assad - L'Espresso, 28/09/2020
- SOS Chrétiens d’Orient visée par une enquête pour complicité de crimes de guerre - Mediapart, 17/02/2022
- L’association SOS Chrétiens d’Orient visée par une enquête pour complicité de crimes de guerre - LaCroix.com, 18/02/2022
- L’association SOS Chrétiens d’Orient visée par une enquête pour complicité de crimes de guerre - Le Parisien,17/02/2022
- L'association SOS Chrétiens d'Orient dans le collimateur pour "complicité de crime de guerre" - France3, 18/02/2022
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