FRANCE: FECRIS, atheism, and support for the Russian war against Ukraine

The leader of an association “created” by a French FECRIS affiliate to deal with radical Islam and subtly propagate atheism continues to root for Putin. (The titles in the text are from HRWF)

Version en français

by Massimo Introvigne

Bitter Winter (11.03.2024)- FECRIS is the European Federation of Centers of Research and Information on Cults and Sects, an international anti-cult umbrella organization largely supported by French taxpayers. It has been criticized by scholars and even by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for spreading discriminatory attitudes against groups it stigmatizes as “cults.” “Bitter Winter” has documented its dangerous connections and support for the bloody repression of minority religions in Russia and China.

FECRIS’ support to Russia’s war on Ukraine

One of the largest and most active FECRIS affiliate operated in Russia. Since 2014 (and in fact even earlier), it systematically supported the aggression against Ukraine by Putin’s regime. When Putin invaded Ukraine in February 2022, this support became a source of embarrassment for FECRIS. Yet, FECRIS waited until March 2023 to severe its connection with its Russian branch. This means that for more than one year the Russian FECRIS leaders supported Putin’s crimes against the Ukrainian people while remaining members of FECRIS in good standing, which caused strong reactions in Ukraine.

FECRIS was compelled by international pressures to put an end to this in March 2023. However, FECRIS has now another problem with the war of aggression against Ukraine, this time not in Russia but in France.

GEMPPI is a French FECRIS affiliate whose acronym stands for “Groupe d’étude des mouvements de pensée en vue de la protection des individus” (Group for the Study of Thought Movements for the Protection of the Individual). GEMPPI representative Didier Pachoud is (or was, since the FECRIS is sometimes slow in updating its official records) FECRIS’s treasurer. As late as July 15, 2022, almost five months after the war of aggression against Ukraine had started, GEMPPI organized an anti-cult symposium in Paris featuring among the speakers Roman Silantyev, one of the most fanatically anti-Ukrainian Russian anti-cultists.

Turquoise Freedom: pro-Eric Zemmour (extreme right), anti-NATO, anti-Macron

So far, we are still talking of Russians. However, a French (not Russian) association “created” by GEMPPI, and which had a direct relation with FECRIS before being dissolved on March 21, 2023, called Turquoise Freedom had a president that continues to support Putin’s aggression against Ukraine to this very day. In the 2022 yearly report, of GEMPPI, the FECRIS affiliate admitted that “we [GEMPPI] have worked to create an association specialized in this field [radical Islam], Turquoise Freedom.”

In fact, Turquoise Freedom had its own direct connection with FECRIS as well. At FECRIS’ General Meeting of May 20, 2016, Turquoise Freedom, following a proposal by Didier Pachoud, was unanimously welcomed to the FECRIS Scientific Council for one year.

The former President of Turquoise Freedom, Khaled Slougui, is a regular participant in FECRIS activities and conferences. In 2018, Slougui became a member of the GEMPPI Board of Directors.

May 20, 2016: Turquoise Freedom presided by Khaled Slougui establishes an official connection with FECRIS.

Before coming back to why GEMPPI needed to create Turquoise Freedom, let’s have a look at Slougui’s position on the Ukrainian conflict. February 2022: Putin starts its criminal aggression against Ukraine. Slougui loses no time in tweeting his support—for Putin. “I just listened to Éric Zemmour on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and he was imperial in going back to the root of the problem. American provocations are unbearable, and NATO no longer has any reason to exist. France should therefore leave the integrated command.” “Macron seems furious, and with good reason: Putin has laughed at him, and his internal plan for the presidential election is collapsing. The man who refused to enter the arena to defend his record. At Rothschild, ‘you don’t think, you count.’ The KGB prefers action.” “A unipolar world is the greatest danger to humanity. As a shrewd strategist, Putin is doing something about it, and the great Russia is back for a multipolar world. The rest is just sterile agitation, and the game is up. It would be better if NATO disappeared.”

One of Slougui’s tweets hailing “the great Russia” and “Putin the shrewd strategist” after the invasion of Ukraine.

The war continues as do the tweets of the the president of Turquoise Freedom. On May 19, 2022, he posts: “Instead of using French taxpayers’ money to arm the clown [Zelensky] and please the senile U.S. [Biden]… the French government must realize that this is not its war, and preserve its relations with Russia.”

Slougui keeps working with the French-supported FECRIS but at the same time slanders the “Macronie” (the country and government of Macron) as being “cultic” itself. On June 11, 2022, he tweets “I‘m taking part in the FECRIS (Fédération Européenne des Centres de Recherche et d’Information sur les Sectes) congress in Brussels. In the past, I had put forward the idea that in Macronie, the cult spirit is dominant. So the cult spirit is also present in ‘secular’ environments.”

In short, for the former president of the FECRIS-connected Turquoise Freedom Zelensky is “a corrupt comic dictator used to wage war by proxy.” And while he publicly expresses his support for Putin, he continues to attend the FECRIS events and there is no evidence that either FECRIS or GEMPPI have disassociated themselves from him or Turquoise Freedom.

Turquoise Freedom, the fight against radical Islam and religion in general

In fact, why GEMPPI needed to create Turquoise Freedom is not connected with Russia but is a fascinating story in itself. One can start understanding it by reading an article published in “La Provence” on May 16, 2015, explaining that Pachoud announced to a FECRIS conference that the emergence of radical Islam “necessitated the creation of Turquoise Freedom,” since in this field, the “job” of GEMPPI under its name was “not, for example, to bring [Muslims] back to a moderate Islam. We are secularists!”

But the cat comes out of the bag in two “confidential” pages of FECRIS’ own website. They are there but are not easy to spot and access. A friendly suggestion to FECRIS: don’t waste your time in removing them from your website, as you did with other embarrassing texts before. Of course we at “Bitter Winter” have preserved them for the posterity.

Although on FECRIS’ website there is also a small text in both French and English, the clearest explanation is offered by a PowerPoint presentation offered in PDF, again both in English and French.

Pachoud explains that GEMPPI has a “method” targeting relatives of followers of radical Islam (and other religions), who are at risk of being “radicalized” themselves. This method attacks directly and brutally the Holy Qu’ran and the Bible. While paying a lip service to the fact that these holy scriptures also include positive elements, Pachoud states that “No religion is innocuous and harmless , it always contains radicality in its sacred texts, extreme thought.” The Bible and the Holy Qu’ran are deconstructed in two hours as “contrary to science,” “anachronistic,” “violent” and “undemocratic.”

What is the purpose of this “procedure” created by GEMPPI? The cat comes out of the bag in slide #18: “This process highlights the idea that it is not God who creates man in his image, but the reverse. (We observed on the groups that took part in the procedure that the results are at the rendezvous: relativization of texts and truths).”

This is an important slide because it shows that when FECRIS tells us that it is not against religion it is simply lying. “The idea that it is not God that creates man in his image, but the reverse” is a classic, if outmoded, statement of atheism. The “procedure” aims at transforming in two hours religious believers, persuaded that God creates humans, in atheists who claim that it is the other way around and God is just a human creation. And “the results are at the rendezvous,” the FECRIS executive assured its audience.

But what about Turquoise Freedom? Its role is explained in a separate slide in English and in the second sentence of slide #18 in French. Obviously the procedure has “rational and desacralizing contents” (read, it promotes atheism). It is possible that some Muslims and others “are not interested, especially because of their religious sensibilities.” If the GEMPPI method, practiced under the name of GEMPPI, is rejected by some who, after all, do not want to become atheists, then an ostensibly separate organization, “Turquoise Freedom, supports them directly without using the ideological protection process proposed by GEMPPI.”

Atheism and dissimulation: a clear explanation of why GEMPPI needed to create Turquoise Freedom (French original and English version).

Make no mistake, Turquoise Freedom and Slougui have no sympathy for God either. When Macron mentioned God, Slougui tweeted: “It’s a heresy in our secular Republic!” Simply, they hide the atheism and the name of GEMPPI that is too obviously connected with the secular humanist anti-religious propaganda to enroll some naïve believers in their anti-cult and anti-“separatism” crusade. The “rendezvous” with atheism is just postponed.

Slougui and Turquoise Freedom were also utilized to keep the Putin aficionados within the French anti-cult circuit. There is no way out: the more one looks at FECRIS, the more its “liaisons dangereuses” with Putin and anti-Ukrainian propaganda keep popping out from all sides.


Massimo Introvigne (born June 14, 1955 in Rome) is an Italian sociologist of religions. He is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), an international network of scholars who study new religious movements. Introvigne is the author of some 70 books and more than 100 articles in the field of sociology of religion. He was the main author of the Enciclopedia delle religioni in Italia (Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy). He is a member of the editorial board for the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion and of the executive board of University of California Press’ Nova Religio.  From January 5 to December 31, 2011, he has served as the “Representative on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, with a special focus on discrimination against Christians and members of other religions” of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). From 2012 to 2015 he served as chairperson of the Observatory of Religious Liberty, instituted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to monitor problems of religious liberty on a worldwide scale.

Further reading about FORB in France on HRWF website