The Syria Charity Scam

by Paul Larudee, from Syria Solidarity Movement, January 5, 2020

Doctors Without Borders, the International Rescue Committee, the Syrian American Medical Society, the White Helmets, Islamic Relief USA, CARE and other major tax-deductible charities all advertise that they are providing humanitarian aid to Syrians. Their ads can be found in Facebook, Twitter and other social media on a regular basis. But their aid is not reaching roughly six million displaced and needy Syrians in Syria. This is because they work through “partners” on the ground, and those partners function only in the tiny portion of Syria that is controlled by al-Qaeda terrorists and their Turkish army allies.

Badiaa, a Syrian Child. photo from Syria Solidarity Movement

The vast majority of displaced persons are in the rest of Syria, and U.S. sanctions do not permit international organizations to distribute aid there through charitable organizations registered with the Syrian government, such as the Syrian equivalent of the Red Cross. The sanctions permit aid to enter these areas only if the foreign organization distributes the aid through its own personnel (paid or volunteer). Very few organizations have created their own distribution system inside government-controlled Syria. Among those that do are the United Nations and the tiny Syria Solidarity Movement, which are possibly the only ones with 501(c)(3) tax exempt status in the U.S that are offering this service.

Syria is suffering like few other places on earth. Only a decade ago it was self-sufficient, with healthy exports, but that now seems a distant memory. The war is a main factor, of course, but vast wildfires also destroyed grain and other crops, as well as grazing areas. In addition, the U.S. is confiscating (stealing) nearly all of Syria’s oil production. Worse than all of this, however, have been the crushing economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its allies.

Medical services and education, including university, is free to all Syrians, but the sanctions have severely affected Syria’s ability to deliver those services. Even its pharmaceutical industry cannot import the necessary components, and its hospitals cannot get replacement parts for medical tools. The US theft of Syria’s oil is crippling both income and the transportation sector, and its currency has dropped to a quarter of its former value. Syria cannot even repair many of the homes destroyed in the fighting, due to lack of building supplies. The economy is in shambles and the 9% unemployment rate would be much higher if not for the flight abroad of millions of Syrian citizens, many of whom have expressed the preference to return home when the economy improves.

Ammar, a Syrian Soldier handicapped in the war. Photo from Syria Solidarity Movement

The main international charity organizations are doing nothing to make things better in most of Syria, and their appeals for funds are misleading, since they fail to state that they do not operate in most of Syria. They do not acknowledge that they only operate in small portions of Syria under the rule of al-Qaeda and its allies, or that some of its “local partners” have strong connections to the terrorists.

Sadly, this is what we have come to expect from “charitable” organizations that function at the behest of U.S. interests and in the service of U.S. imperialism. It’s not that they do not provided needed aid; it’s that they only do so when it also serves U.S. hegemony in territories of interest to U.S. foreign policy.

On the other hand Facebook and Twitter refused the paid advertising of the Syria Solidarity Movement although it was very similar in presentation and humanitarian activity to that of the larger charities. They did not state why, but Facebook threatened that if any attempt was made to place the ad the group’s Facebook page would be closed.

Humanitarian aid that fails to serve the interests of Western imperialism will be shut down, while aid that serves those interests will be encouraged.


Dr. Paul Larudee is a former Ford foundation project supervisor and Fulbright-Hays lecturer in Lebanon, and a U.S. government advisor to Saudi Arabia. He is co-founder of the movement to break the Israeli siege of Gaza by sea, and was one of the Gaza Flotilla captives taken by Israel in 2010.  Paul is also a member of the Steering Committee of Syria Solidarity Movement.  You can make a donation to assist the suffering civilians in Syria on the SSM Website.

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