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French NGO found to fund Syrian regime accused of committing series of war crimes

The non-governmental organization, SOS Chrétiens d'Orient (SOSCO), has been collecting funds in France from unidentified donors to assist hospital projects in the war-torn country.

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The Newlines Magazines-led investigation revealed that a French NGO had been involved in fundraising activities for a pro-Assad militia since 2014.

The NGO, SOS Chrétiens d’Orient (SOSCO), collected funds from unspecified contributors in France, who believed that payments had been put towards hospital projects in Syria, whereas very few finances and equipment were supplied to these hospitals.

Through collecting leaked documents, a money trail, and confidential testimonies, the investigation concluded that money was sent to a Christian militia known as the National Defense Forces (NDF). Hundreds of thousands of euros were sent annually by intermediary financial institutions and the NGO’s offices in Iraq and Lebanon. The operation bases have helped the NGO to avoid sanctions.

The military commander of the NDF, Simon Al-Wakil, is reported to receive around €46,000 ($56,000) in cash from SOSCO. According to experts, SOSCO secured its funding by relying on a political narrative that Assad is protecting minorities.

Despite SOSCO’s links to far-right white supremacist groups in Europe, the NGO continued to work as a partner of France’s Ministry of Defense in the Middle East between 2015 and 2020. Previously, US Representative Elissa Slotkin, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken to designate SOSCO as an overseas violent white supremacist group. SOSCO’s status is thought to meet the criteria for Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

A network of researchers, investigators, journalists, and lawyers are sharing efforts to this day to document the financial link of SOSCO with the Syrian regime. Presenting new shreds of evidence, the latest investigation would build up their efforts to prosecute the suspected NGO.

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