Photo: Swedish Committee for Afghanistan

Swedish Committee for Afghanistan Cease Operations Citing Taliban Pressure

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA), a major humanitarian organization, has announced the cessation of all its activities in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s demand for the termination of all Swedish operations in the country.

As reported by Radio Sweden, the Taliban’s demand for the cessation of the committee’s activities has been ongoing for a considerable duration. But the organization now deems it infeasible to continue, particularly due to concerns for the safety of its staff.

“We have experienced lately that it has become increasingly difficult,” said Andreas Stefansson, SCA Secretary General for Afghanistan.

Established in 1980 in protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the SCA is a Swedish non-governmental humanitarian organization that offers education, healthcare, disability support, and rural development services in Afghanistan.

Thousands of individuals have been employed by the organization across the country during its four decades of operation. In 2022 alone, it said to have treated 2.5 million patients in its health clinics, reached over 133,000 children through its education programs, and provided support to 20,000 people with disabilities.

Following the Taliban’s resurgence to power in August 2021, Sweden closed its embassy in Kabul and has since cautioned its citizens against traveling to Afghanistan due to security concerns.

In July of last year, the Taliban halted all Swedish activities in Afghanistan due to the burning of Quran copies by two individuals outside Stockholm mosque in June 2023.

At that time, the Taliban spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, said that unless Sweden apologizes to the Muslim world, all activities of Sweden and Swedish organizations in Afghanistan will remain suspended.

Although the SCA strongly condemned all desecration of the Holy Quran and asserted its status as an independent and impartial organization with no affiliation to the Swedish government, the Taliban remained unmoved.

Following the Taliban’s announcement, the SCA said that it has partially suspended its operations. However, it expressed its intention to continue dialogue with Taliban authorities to “find a way forward” to resume operations.

The organization asked its 8,000 employees across 18 provinces of Afghanistan to work from home until they reach an agreement with the regime in Afghanistan.

“SCA stands firm in its commitment to support the Afghan people and will do its utmost to secure the necessary approvals to promptly resume operations,” SCA said. “We continue to seek engagement and dialogue with authorities at regional and national levels to find a way forward,” it added.

The recent development comes amid one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with nearly two-thirds of the country’s population, mainly women and children, in dire need for humanitarian assistance.