Swedish Group Halts Afghanistan Aid After Taliban Bans Sweden’s Activities

Islamabad — The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, a major foreign humanitarian organization, has suspended all its operations following a Taliban decree demanding a halt to Sweden’s activities in the country.  

The SCA noted in a statement Tuesday that the Taliban government had issued the decree in response to burnings of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, in Stockholm last year. There was no immediate response from de facto Afghan officials.  

“We are extremely saddened by the current situation and the effects our suspension will have on the millions of people who have benefitted from our services over the past four decades,” the non-governmental group said, in a statement.  

It said that SCA representatives were seeking talks with Taliban authorities to resolve the situation and ensure that the needs of its target groups are met.  

The aid group emphasized that it was an impartial entity with no links to the Swedish government or any government and received funding from a broad range of donors. 

The SCA condemned and distanced itself from the burning of copies of the Quran in Sweden. 

“Desecration of the Holy Koran is an insult to all Muslims around the world who hold this sacred text dear to their hearts, and it constitutes a flagrant attack on the Islamic faith,” the statement said.  

The organization said that it was “gravely concerned” about the future of its nearly 7,000 employees across 16 provinces of Afghanistan. “Many of them are the sole breadwinners of their families, and if they lose their jobs, thousands of families will suffer,” it said. 

In 2023, 2.5 million patients visited SCA clinics and hospitals across Afghanistan, while tens of thousands of others, including children, benefited from livelihood support and education programs. 

The aid sector in Afghanistan has been severely hampered by a series of restrictions the Islamist Taliban have imposed on local female aid workers since seizing power in August 2021. 

The United Nations estimates that more than 24 million Afghans are in need of humanitarian assistance in the country, reeling from years of war and natural disasters.  

Aid workers say the Taliban takeover has worsened humanitarian conditions in Afghanistan. Human rights concerns, particularly restrictions on Afghan women’s access to education and work, have deterred the international community from recognizing the Taliban government. 

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