KABUL (Reuters) -The Taliban administration halted all activities by Sweden in Afghanistan on Tuesday in response to the burning of a Koran in Stockholm last month, and a major Swedish aid group said it was seeking clarification about the impact on its programmes.
“After the insulting of the holy Koran and granting of permission for insulting of Muslim beliefs …The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is ordering the stopping of all activities of Sweden in Afghanistan,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban administration, in a statement.
An Iraqi immigrant to Sweden burned a Koran outside a Stockholm mosque last month, causing outrage in the Muslim world. Swedish officials have deplored the act but said they could not prevent it because of free speech rules.
Sweden no longer has an embassy in Afghanistan since the Taliban took over in 2021. The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA) aid organisation said it was seeking clarification with Taliban authorities on whether its operations would be affected.
“SCA is not a Swedish government entity, SCA is independent and impartial in relation to all political stakeholders and states, and strongly condemns all desecration of the Holy Quran,” the NGO said in a statement.
“For over 40 years SCA has been working in close collaboration with the rural population and in deep respect of both Islam and local traditions in Afghanistan,” it said.
Thousands of Afghan staff work for the organisation throughout the country in health, education and rural development, and treated 2.5 million patients in its health clinics last year.
The Taliban administration did not provide details on which organisations would be affected by its ban.
Afghanistan’s aid sector has already been severely hampered by a series of restrictions, including on female aid workers. Funding reductions for a United Nations-led annual humanitarian plan suggests donor countries are pulling back on financial support.
(Reporting by Mohammad Yunus Yawar and Charlotte GreenfieldEditing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Peter Graff)
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