The Charity Commission recently issued an alert directed at aid charities operating in Turkey and Syria regarding the risk of inadvertently benefitting terrorist groups in the region.
The alert was issued following reports that Hay’at Tahir Al-Sham (HTS), an off-shoot of Al Qaeda, have taken control of the Bab Al-Hawa border crossing between Syria and Turkey.
Many charities in the area use the crossing to deliver aid to the people of Idlib, the last rebel stronghold in the country. Given HTS control of the passage, the commission fears that any donations could be “inadvertently funding” the terrorist group.
The Commission went on to say that charities still using the Bab Al-Hawa crossing “either directly, or through partner organisations” should consider “suspending or stopping the movement of aid” through the crossing and explore “alternative routes”, otherwise they may be committing a criminal offence under the Terrorism Act 2000 (TACT).
Section 17 of TACT states it is a criminal offence “to enter or become concerned with an arrangement as a result of which money or other property is made available or has reasonable cause to suspect that it will or may be used for the purposes of terrorism”.
While this is worrying news, it should not discourage you from donating to charities working in Syria— providing you exercise caution when doing so.
There are a number of legitimate organisations that we should be supporting as long as they satisfy the protocols of safe giving.
The Charity Commission provides guidelines for donating both in person and online. Many of these recommendations follow simple common sense, however they do offer further advice on researching any charity that is receiving your money.
If you are uncertain about a charity, make sure they are registered with the Charity Commission before donating. You can do this by entering their registration number into the Charity Commission’s website.
Take Syria Relief for example. The charity’s registration number can be found at the very bottom of their website. When entered into the search field on the Charity Commission page, it will bring up results detailing their registration number, activities, places of operation and financial records. If you cannot find these details about a charity on the Commission’s website, it is wise to avoid donating to them.
As conflict continues in Syria, we must continue to support the people on the ground helping those affected by war. Yet given the forces at play, it is our responsibility to ensure our donation is going into the right hands.
For more information about safe giving, click here.