The NGO SOS Chrétiens d’Orient has been without news since Monday noon from four of its employees traveling to Iraq. The information was revealed this Friday by LCI.
The associations, three French and one Iraqi, were present in Baghdad “to renew their visa and register the association with the Iraqi authorities,” said Benjamin Blanchard, the director general of the NGO during a press briefing.
According to the latest information, the group was near the French embassy. There is no evidence at this time to ensure that this is a kidnapping, no claim or request for ransom having been received.
The Iraqi capital has been the scene of strong tensions in recent weeks, particularly in the context of the clashes between the United States and Iran. The American embassy is thus regularly the subject of rocket fire.
The identity of the missing has not been revealed
Requested by AFP, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs made no comment, any more than the French Embassy in Baghdad. “The French and Iraqi authorities are coordinating today to investigate and find their traces,” however assured Benjamin Blanchard, adding that he was “in close contact” with the families.
No information on the identity of the missing has been revealed. The director of the association, however, assured that they had “a perfect knowledge of the crisis zones” and that they had acted “in perfect coordination with the consular authorities for the organization of this mission”.
A controversial association
Call for donations, humanitarian mission, meeting with politicians … The association, very active on social networks, however enjoys controversial notoriety. In 2017, the Church of France also disassociated itself from its work. Mgr Gollnisch had said his “uneasiness” before this association which makes take “reckless risks” to young volunteers “very deserving” sent to Syria and Iraq.
Within the framework of a controversy concerning a regional subsidy granted by Laurent Wauquiez (LR), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had also expressed strong doubts about the effectiveness of the action of this association in Iraq. The NGO SOS Chrétiens d’Orient, close to far-right identity circles, is also regularly accused of complacency with the power of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
Minorities Persecuted in Iraq During the Daesh Caliphate
During the three years of the self-proclaimed Caliphate of Daesh, religious minorities, especially the Yazidis and Chaldean and Syriac Christians were persecuted.
In Iraq, Christians, 1.5 million before 2003, were in the summer of 2019 “well below 150,000”, according to the Catholic organization Aid to the Church in Need (AED), an international foundation of pontifical right. Last November, the AED had however indicated that the persecution of Christians had “considerably decreased” in Syria and Iraq, due in particular to “the military defeat of the Islamic State group”.