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March 16, 2017 7:21 am

Crowd Funding Site Shuts Down Iranian-backed Militia’s ‘Charity’ Campaign

avatar by John Rossomando

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An Iraqi military convoy in Mosul, November 2016. Photo: Mstyslav Chernov via Wikimedia Commons.

An Iraqi military convoy in Mosul, November 2016. Photo: Mstyslav Chernov via Wikimedia Commons.

Hashd al-Shaabi — an Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite militia that has been accused of war crimes — is trying to take advantage of global sympathy for ISIS victims in Mosul. On Wednesday, the group tried to solicit donations through the California-based crowd funding site, YouCaring.com.

Using its English name — the “Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units” — Hashd al-Shaabi solicited money for “the new campaign ‘For Your Sake’ to aid the displaced Iraqi citizens from Mosul and other cities and provinces of Iraq as the war against ISIS rages.”

In November, Iraq’s government officially recognized Hashd al-Shaabi as a branch of its armed forces, even though the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force — which is listed by the US Treasury Department as a terrorist group — closely coordinates Hashd al-Shaabi’s activities. The US State Department also lists Kata’ib Hezbollah, a related group , as a foreign terrorist organization.

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In a 2015 video, a Hashd al-Shaabi unit called the “Brigades of Imam Ali” burned a Sunni civilian alive. And in January of this year, Amnesty International accused Hashd al-Shaabi of using American weapons to commit war crimes.

University of Maryland researcher Phillip Smyth worried that money raised by the group could ultimately end up going to Hezbollah — not to mention its own terrorist activities.

YouCaring expressed alarm when contacted about the situation by the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT). It subsequently deleted Hashd al-Shaabi’s account, and adapted its algorithm to prevent the group from creating new accounts. At the time it was shut down, the account had already collected $200.

“Our Trust and Safety team has been actively investigating this fundraiser since it launched yesterday. We have robust algorithms in place to check if a campaign is in violation of our policies. Each fundraiser is thoroughly investigated by our Trust and Safety team — this fundraiser was flagged for removal this morning as it was in violation of our policies. We take a hardline stance on fundraisers for militia groups. It was removed,” YouCaring Online Marketing Director Jesse Boland told the IPT in an email. “This organizer has been blocked from starting fundraisers in the future.”

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