The Taliban raided the offices of a longstanding Swiss nonprofit group based in Afghanistan, detaining 18 workers – including one American and several women – for allegedly preaching Christianity, the country’s government said.
The International Assistance Mission (IAM) confirmed Friday that the Taliban stormed its office in Ghor – located 400 miles outside of Kabul – on September 3 and 13 and took away nearly 20 workers.
Three members, including the American, were taken in the first raid and the 15 others were taken 10 days later.
They were transferred to an unknown location in Kabul.
The Swiss charity — which helps improve healthcare and education in the country — said it was “unaware of the circumstances that led to these incidents and have not been advised of the reason for the detention of our staff members,” it said in a statement.
“At this time, we have no information about the nature of allegations against our staff and are, therefore, unable or to comment or speculate about this ongoing situation.”
According to Wikipedia, The International Assistance Mission (IAM) is the longest continually serving non-profit organisation in Afghanistan.
They are a well-respected NGO working to improve lives and build local capacity in health, development and education. They are a partnership between the people of Afghanistan and international Christian volunteers, who have been working together since 1966.
Taliban officials, however, said the detainees were taken into custody for “propagating and promoting Christianity” in the largely Muslim country.
Government spokesperson Abdul Wahid Hamas said several women, including the American, were among those held, VOA News reported.
“The well-being and security of our colleagues are paramount to us, and we are doing everything possible to ensure their safety and secure their swift release,” the organization said.
The group sent a letter to the Ministry of Economy, where it is registered as a non-government organization, and is working with the UN and ACBAR to “deepen our understanding of the situation” and work for their release.
The nonprofit has operated in Afghanistan for nearly 60 years and is a Christian-based organization working to improve healthcare, education, and community development.
However, the non-profit follows the customs of the Middle Eastern country.
Non-profits have fallen under greater scrutiny since the Taliban took over after the US pulled out of the country two years ago, introducing stricter laws.
The Taliban have also banned women from working for aid organizations in impoverished Afghanistan. Women are not allowed to visit public parks, gyms or bathhouses, and a close male relative must accompany them for long road trips.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters in New York this week that “the question of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan is absolutely central to all concerns and will be one of the issues that will be very much in the agenda” of the General Assembly session this month.
Sources: NY Post, VOA.