Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban has detained 18 aid workers from a non-governmental organisation for allegedly “propagating and promoting Christianity,” according to local Afghani authorities.
The Swiss-based International Assistance Mission (IAM) reported that Taliban officials twice stormed its office in the central province of Ghor earlier this month. The Associated Press reports two Afghani staffers and an American female volunteer surgeon were taken in the first raid, with the rest who were all Afghanis seized 10-days later.
The charity said it was unaware of the exact circumstances that led to the detentions: “IAM has written to the Ministry of Economy, where we are legally registered as an international NGO, about these extremely concerning developments. We are also working with the United Nations and ACBAR, the coordinating body for NGOs in Afghanistan, to deepen our understanding of the situation and to work for the quick release of our 18 colleagues.”
The mission said it values and respects Afghanistan’s customs and cultures, standing by the principle that aid will not be used to further a “particular political or religious” point of view. It said all its staff agree to abide by the country’s laws.
The charity only works in Afghanistan. Its website outlines its mission and its vision, but it’s unclear whether details of its staffing are current and have been updated since the Taliban took control of the country two years ago.
The website says: “IAM is the longest continually serving non-profit organisation in Afghanistan. We’re a well-respected NGO working to improve lives and build local capacity in health, development and education. We are a partnership between the people of Afghanistan and international Christian volunteers, and we have been working together since 1966.”
“IAM has over 300 paid Afghan staff and 20+ volunteer expatriate Christian professionals working alongside them. Our volunteers come from Europe, North America, Asia and Oceania. All foreign team members spend time learning the local language and culture, and our focus is serving the people of Afghanistan through capacity building.”
“IAM exists to bring hope and transformation to the people of Afghanistan. Hundreds of thousands of people benefit from IAM’s work in eye care, mental health, education and development every year. In 2018, we spent 61% of our budget on eye care, 22% on mental health, 11% on development and 6% on education. We design our projects and programs to aim for long-term, sustainable development, partnering with foreign experts to bring about innovation and new solutions to old problems.”
The website adds that: “We believe that the people of Afghanistan can build a more just, peaceful and sustainable future .You can help bring long-lasting change to this beautiful country by partnering with us. We recognise that only with God’s guidance and help can we do anything worthwhile. We believe every human being has the same God-given value, and therefore deserves our love and care. We will therefore not discriminate, but treat everyone with respect, paying special attention to those most marginalised.”
It’s unclear what has happened to the detained aid workers and whether more foreigners are still working for the charity in Afghanistan.
The Associated Press reports NGOs have come under greater scrutiny since the Taliban seized control of the country two years ago. A US watchdog reported earlier this year that Taliban officials and soldiers have been harassing NGOs operating in the country.
Image: Screenshot – iam-afghanistan.org