A recent trip by a Taliban official to Germany and his speech at a gathering of Afghan citizens in the country has sparked widespread reactions. Critics of the Taliban argue that normalizing relations with this group will have adverse consequences for the global community, especially the West. The German Foreign Ministry, however, stated that it was not aware of the matter and is conducting an investigation. The Interior Ministry of Germany also strongly condemns the visit of this Taliban official to the city of Cologne. The ministry’s statement emphasizes that German political representatives have not issued visas to Taliban officials and the country does not officially recognize the Taliban. On the other hand, the Minister of Public Health of the Netherlands, who had taken a photo with a Taliban official, expressed regret and labeled the Taliban regime as “horrifying.”
The release of a video of a Taliban official’s speech in the city of Cologne, Germany, has faced a widespread wave of reactions. Social media users, women’s rights activists, and civil and political activists state that Taliban officials are listed under the sanctions of the United Nations Security Council, and without official permission from Germany, they should not be allowed to travel freely to the country.
The German Foreign Ministry has stated that it was not previously aware of this trip. In a press release, the German Foreign Ministry emphasized that Berlin does not officially recognize the Taliban and “as long as the Taliban in Afghanistan blatantly violate human rights, especially the rights of girls and women, normalization of relations with the Taliban will not take place.”
Meanwhile, the German Interior Ministry has also declared that the Taliban have no place in the country. This ministry strongly condemns the presence of a Taliban official in the city of Cologne. The ministry’s statement asserts that the presence of a Taliban representative in Cologne is unacceptable, and no one is allowed to facilitate a platform for radical Islamists in the country.
The German Interior Ministry has added that the Taliban are responsible for widespread human rights violations, and the country provides protection to many Afghan refugees against the oppression of this group. According to the statement from this ministry, authorities in Germany are currently investigating this case and are requesting clarification from the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DİTİB).
Meanwhile, Ernst Kuipers, the Minister of Public Health of the Netherlands, who had taken a photo with Abdulbari Omar, the head of the Directorate of National Food and Drug Control under Taliban control in Afghanistan, has apologized and described the Taliban regime as horrifying. He wrote on his X (formerly Twitter) account, “I can imagine that this is harmful to many. Needless to say, I do not in any way want to associate myself with this horrifying regime. At the recent World Local Production Forum in The Hague, I took a photo with a Taliban representative. At that time, I did not know who this person was.”
The Minister of Public Health of the Netherlands has deemed taking a photo with a Taliban official a mistake, emphasizing that such an action should “absolutely not” have occurred. He continues to underscore that an investigation is underway regarding the circumstances of this individual’s presence at the World Local Production Forum in The Hague.
In addition to the Dutch official, Geert Wilders, the leader of the Party for Freedom (PVV) and a member of the lower house of the Dutch Parliament, has described the photo of his country’s Minister of Public Health with a Taliban official as shameful. He wrote, “Ernst Kuipers, the Minister of Public Health, has taken a photo with the Taliban, a terrorist organization [composed of] the worst kind of killers and extremists. What an unbelievable and shameful disgrace!”
Meanwhile, Gulchehra Yaftali, the head of the Afghan Women’s Cooperation Association currently residing in the Netherlands, states that Geert Wilders, the leader of the Party for Freedom (PVV) and a member of the lower house of the Dutch Parliament, contacted her after his critical tweet and promised to follow up on the matter. Ms. Yaftali adds that the photo of the Dutch Minister of Public Health with a Taliban official has also sparked widespread reactions within the country. According to her, many Dutch citizens have called for the resignation of Ernst Kuipers, the Minister of Public Health of the Netherlands.
The head of the Afghan Women’s Cooperation Association emphasizes that political parties in the Netherlands, both in the cabinet and parliament, have had strong reactions and have urged their foreign and justice ministries to seriously investigate this matter. She adds, “The leftist party has taken a firm stance, and it’s election time. This party has criticized the social liberals severely, arguing that the result of their work is collaborating with a terrorist group, and this act is a political stain on the social liberals.”
However, Azimullah Warsaji, the former official at the Afghan Embassy in Qatar, states that Germany played a significant role during the peace talks of the previous Afghan government and the Taliban. According to him, Germany is inclined to host potential peace talks on Afghanistan in collaboration with Qatar for the long-term future. Mr. Warsaji adds that the speech by a Taliban official in Germany does not indicate the country’s readiness to engage with the Taliban, and they likely entered Germany from the Netherlands with Schengen visas.
The former official at the Afghan Embassy in Doha suggests that this Taliban official may have participated in the World Local Production Forum in The Hague with a Pakistani passport. He says, “Some of the Taliban have lived in Pakistan. It is possible that Abdulbari Omar entered Europe through Pakistani pharmaceutical companies because the Germans, due to their overarching policies within the European Union and their domestic issues, do not currently want formal and normal interactions with the Taliban.”
On the other hand, Abdulbari Omar, the acting head of the Directorate of National Food and Drug Control under the Taliban, has released a video featuring him engaging in discussions with participants of a gathering, accompanied by Taliban songs. The video depicts several attendees taking photos with him, and supportive slogans for the Taliban regime can be heard from within the venue.
Social media-released videos indicate that one of the speakers at this event, representing the organizers, states that Abdulbari Omar has expressed a desire to meet and talk with the leadership of the “Kunar Cultural Society.”
In response to widespread criticism from citizens on his X (formerly Twitter) page, this Taliban official writes that he is still in Europe. He adds that during this trip to the Netherlands, Belgium, Slovakia, and Germany, he has met with some Afghans and certain ambassadors and diplomats, and will soon publish photos of those meetings.
Meanwhile, the Islamic center “Dianat” in the city of Cologne, the cultural center that invited the Taliban, has accused the organizers of misuse. In a statement on its X (formerly Twitter) page, the institution mentioned that it had no prior knowledge in this regard and positively responded to the citizens’ request to hold a “religious ceremony” for the Afghan community.
The center confirmed in a statement that the organizers turned the program “contrary to the agreement, with the invitation of an unidentified speaker, into a political event.” Dianat characterizes this act as a breach of agreement and misconduct, adding, “We are shocked and deeply saddened that our trust has been abused.”