People shout slogans during a protest against Sweden and the Netherlands, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, 25 January 2023. EFE-EPA/FILE/STRINGER

Swedish Committee seeks dialogue after bans on its activities in Afghanistan

Kabul, Jul 12 (EFE).- The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA), one of the largest humanitarian organizations in the Asian country, on Wednesday sought dialogue with the Taliban government, a day after the Islamist group suspended its activities in the country.

The Taliban on Tuesday banned the activities of all Swedish entities in Afghanistan, after a person publicly burned a copy of the Quran – the holy book of Islam – in Stockholm two weeks ago.

“Today at eleven in the morning, all staff in Kabul left the office until further notice,” an SCA employee told EFE on the condition of anonymity.

The humanitarian organization, which mainly focuses on education and health services in the country, said in a statement that “SCA is seeking dialogue with the de facto authorities of Afghanistan to clarify if the directive of July 11 to suspend all Sweden’s activities in Afghanistan will affect our organization.”

It stressed that SCA was an independent organization that has been working for more than four decades in rural areas of Afghanistan with “deep respect of both Islam and local traditions.”

“SCA strongly condemns all acts of desecration of the Holy Quran, just as we condemn any attempt to create conflict or hostility between people based on religious belief, ethnicity, nationality, or any other division,” it said.

The committee, which employs 8,000 Afghans and has provided health and education services to more than 2.6 million patients and school children in the past year, said it would remain “committed to support the people of Afghanistan.”

However, the Taliban had said all activities of Swedish entities in Afghanistan would remain suspended until Stockholm apologized to the Muslim world for the “heinous act” of burning the Quran.

On Jun. 28, an individual of Iraqi origin burned a copy of the Quran in Stockholm in an act attended by around 200 people amid strong police presence on the day of Eid al-Adha, or Feast of Sacrifice, one of the two main Islamic festivals.

The act was widely condemned by the Arab and Islamic world, where countries such as Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan and the Emirates summoned the Swedish ambassadors to denounce the burning of the Quran.

In January, a far-right sympathizer burned a copy of the Quran in front of the Turkish embassy in Sweden, causing diplomatic protests and criticism from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A day later, a leader of the anti-Muslim Pegida movement Edwin Wagensveld vandalized a copy of the Quran in front of the Dutch Parliament in The Hague. EFE