French Christian NGO's links to pro-Assad Syrian militia

By , Elie Guckert and Frank Andrews

French Catholic association SOS Chrétiens d’Orient (SOS Christians of the Orient) claims to help Christians in Syria without interfering in the conflict that for nine years has been tearing the country apart. But as an investigation for Mediapart has already shown, it has forged close relations with bodies and people supporting the Damascus regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. And as this second investigation reveals, the NGO - which for several years has been a 'National Defence Partner' of France's Ministry of Armed Forces – also supports pro-Assad militia.

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A man in his sixties dressed in military fatigues is sitting in a comfortable armchair somewhere in Syria. “I want to thank SOS Chrétiens d'Orient,” he says, “we will never forget [its] support.” Interviewed in 2019 by a member of the right-wing French association, the man, referred to as “Monsieur Simon”, presents himself as “a son of Mahardeh [editor's note, a Christian village north of Hama, in western Syria], “a civilian who took up arms to defend his city”. He then pays “great tribute to the leader Bashar al-Assad” and the Russian army.