Taliban detain NGO staff on charges of promoting Christianity in Afghanistan

International Assessment Mission says 18 of its members were arrested without information on the nature of the allegations

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban's central spokesman, said they are still 'collecting information regarding these detentions'. AP
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The Taliban have detained 18 staff members of an NGO, including a foreigner, on charges of "promoting Christianity in Afghanistan".

Workers of the International Assessment Mission were all detained "as they were preaching Christianity”, two sources within the Ghor provincial governor's office told The National.

Abdul Wahid Hamas, a spokesman for the governor, told local Tolo News that those detained for "propagating and promoting Christianity” included "seven women, one of whom is a US national".

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban's central spokesman, told The National that they were still "collecting information regarding these detentions" without further explanation.

Afghanistan's hardline Taliban rulers follow a strict interpretation of Sharia laws.

The IAM said on its website that two Afghan nationals and one international team member working at its office in Ghor province were detained on Sunday, September 3 and that additionally, "15 Afghan national staff members were taken from the same office on Wednesday, September 13”.

The organisation says it had no information on the nature of allegations against its staff.

“Should any charges be lodged against our organisation or any individual staff member, we will independently review any evidence presented,” it added.

The IAM has been working in Afghanistan since 1966, in health care, education and community development.

“Over the last decade alone, IAM has profoundly impacted the lives of over 4.2 million people in Afghanistan through its dedicated efforts," it says on its website.

“During this period, IAM has spent over US$40 million on initiatives aimed at improving healthcare, education, and community development.”

Locals who spoke on condition of anonymity said there appeared to be no evidence of these charges and that they "welcome any organisation which helps Afghans in this difficult time"

The Taliban retook control of Afghanistan in August 2021 and have arrested dozens of activists, journalists and rights defenders.

Women have been banned from working in offices as well as going to schools and universities.

Despite facing criticism from the international community and various rights organisations for breaches of human and women's rights, the Taliban have consistently justified their actions by invoking their interpretation of Sharia.

Updated: September 17, 2023, 1:32 PM