ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Afghan Taliban say they have suspended all the activities of Swedish organizations in the country in response to the recent burning of Islam’s holy book in Stockholm.
The announcement left a Swedish non-governmental aid group perplexed about the future of its programs in Afghanistan, which provide education and medical facilities to thousands of people across the country.
The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan said it was seeking clarification from the Taliban.
Two weeks ago, a man identified in Swedish media as a refugee from Iraq burned a Quran outside a mosque in central Stockholm during the major Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
The burning drew widespread condemnation in the Muslim world, including Pakistan and Afghanistan. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested that the incident would pose another obstacle to Sweden’s bid for NATO membership, although he later scaled back his objection.
On Tuesday, Zabihullah Mujahid, the spokesman for the Taliban government, took to Twitter to announce the suspension of Swedish activities in Afghanistan.
“The Islamic Emirate suspends Sweden’s activities in Afghanistan until they apologize to the Muslims for the heinous act” of the desecration of the Quran, he said.
Sweden has had no embassy in the Afghan capital, Kabul since the Taliban seized the country in August 2021 while U.S. and NATO troops were in the final weeks of their withdrawal after two decades of war.
In a statement, the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan said it “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 was still unclear Wednesday whether the aid organization would be allowed to continue its operations.
The Afghan Taliban announced the measure Tuesday as the U.N. Human Rights Council was discussing the issue of the burning of Quran in Sweden.
On Wednesday, the U.N. body approved a measure calling on countries to do more to prevent religious hatred in the wake of Quran burnings in Europe, over the objections of Western countries who fear tougher steps by governments could trample on freedom of expression.
Applause broke out in the cavernous chamber of the Human Rights Council after the 28-12 vote, with seven abstentions, on a measure brought by Pakistan and Palestine that was backed by many developing countries in Africa, as well as China, India and Middle Eastern countries.
Last week, Pakistanis held nationwide anti-Sweden rallies.