MONTREAL (JTA) – Skepticism is rising over the Montreal businessman dubbed the “Jewish Schindler” for purportedly rescuing Yazidi and Christian women and children from ISIS in Iraq.
Steve Maman has earned worldwide praise for his efforts to save 128 people.
But in a statement released Wednesday, the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, or FRRME, rejected Maman’s assertion that the Rev. Canon Andrew White, its founding president, has been “instrumental” in the success of Maman’s group, the Liberation of Christian and Yazidi Children of Iraq, or CYCI.
Some reports “have inaccurately made a connection between CYCI’s activities, as publicized by Mr. Maman,” the statement by the United Kingdom-based FRRME said. But while Maman is a “personal contact” of White who has supported CYCI’s aims, “FRRME does not collaborate with CYCI either financially or in terms of practical assistance.”
Similarly, the CICY website says that rescued girls are sent to a displaced persons camp run by White in Kurdistan, but the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees has denied such a camp exists.
In the same vein, Gillian Rosenberg, a Canadian-Israeli who fought with Kurdish forces against ISIS, said she has stopped working with Maman because of his “lack of transparency,” despite supporting CYCI’s overall goals.
“If there’s no documentation and evidence, I can’t attach my name to it,” Rosenberg said in an interview with Vice News.
Canada’s taxation authority, the Canada Revenue Agency, has said contrary to claims on the CYCY website, it is not a registered charity but a non-profit corporation that does not enjoy tax-deduction benefits.
Maman claims to have helped raise nearly $400,000 through behind-the-scenes payoffs and negotiations. But that was called into question by Yazidi leaders in an Aug. 26 public letter that said Maman has not backed up his “dubious” claims with proof, and that Christians in Iraq have not been targeted.
Maman has been adamant that his efforts have been genuine and issued a cease-and-desist order to the letter’s authors.
Two days ago, CYCI said on its Facebook page that “major media outlets on Israel and America” were “on the ground in Iraq vetting our catalogue of rescues and documenting CYCI’s work.”
Maman is also seeking retractions from the media that have reported on the public letter, especially Vice News, which first reported on it.