Three French hostages and one Iraqi kidnapped in Iraq released in January
The Elysee Palace announced on Thursday the release of three French nationals and an Iraqi, all employees of the French NGO SOS Chrétiens d’Orient, missing since January in Baghdad.
Two months after their kidnapping in Baghdad, the three French nationals and an Iraqi, all employees of the French NGO SOS Chrétiens d’Orient, were released, the Elysée Palace announced on Thursday 26 March.
“The President of the Republic welcomes the release of our three compatriots Antoine Brochon, Julien Dittmar, Alexandre Goodarzy, and the Iraqi Tariq Mattoka, all employees of the NGO SOS Chrétiens d’Orient. They had been kidnapped in Baghdad Monday January 20, 2020 “, read a press release. “France has made every effort to reach this outcome. The President of the Republic expresses his gratitude to the Iraqi authorities for their cooperation.”
Seen for the very last time near the French embassy in Baghdad, they went there to renew their visa, but also to continue the registration procedures of the association in Iraq, whose branches are located only in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Humanitarian aid for the Christian populations
Created in 2013, the association, which provides humanitarian aid to the Christian populations living in the Middle East, acts in particular in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon. It was following the takeover of the Christian village of Maaloula, in Syria, by the rebel group of Salafi jihadist ideology, Front al-Nosra, that Charles Meyer and Benjamin Blanchard founded SOS Chrétiens d’Orient. Since then, the NGO, which also has a branch in Jordan, has been sending more food and volunteers, mainly to Iraq and Syria, to help Christian minorities in the region.
In February 2017, the NGO obtained, by a decree signed by the hand of the Minister of Defense, Jean-Yves Le Drian, the status of “partner of national defense”. Among the fifty institutions, companies and associations concerned by the decree, SOS Chrétiens d’Orient was rewarded for its “commitment” to the promotion of national defense.
If it presents itself as “apolitical”, the NGO is also regularly singled out for its links, present or past, with the extreme right, or identity and nationalist movements.