Afghan Taliban Official’s Puzzling European Visit Stirs Controversy

Germany confirmed Saturday that it has launched an investigation into an alleged unauthorized trip to the country by a senior member of Afghanistan’s Islamist Taliban regime.  


The controversy erupted after Abdul Bari Omar, head of the Taliban-led food and medicine authority, appeared at a mosque in Cologne on Thursday, addressing an audience largely made up of Afghan expatriates.  


The German Interior Ministry, on the X social media platform, condemned the appearance of Omar as “completely unacceptable,” saying Taliban members have no place in the country. It urgently sought clarification from the organizers, the Turkish-Islamic Union, or DITIB, on how the appearance came about.  


“Nobody is allowed to offer radical Islamists a platform in Germany. The Taliban are responsible for massive human rights violations,” the ministry wrote. “The responsible authorities are investigating the case intensively.”

‘We are shocked’


The DITIB distanced itself from the event, saying it had only rented the space to a Cologne-based Afghan cultural association for a religious gathering and did not know the Taliban official had been invited. 


“We are shocked by this incident,” the DITIB said in a Friday statement, insisting it “learned from the press” that the speaker was a Taliban representative.  


“Contrary to contractual agreement, this turned into a political event to which a speaker unknown to us was invited,” it said. This constituted a “blatant breach of contract,” and the association has been banned from the premises, it added. 


On Friday, the German foreign ministry said its official data shows that none of the country’s visa offices had issued a visa to Omar, nor was it informed about his visit. The ministry stressed in a statement posted on X that Germany does not recognize the Taliban government.  


“As long as the Taliban in Afghanistan blatantly tramples on human rights, especially the rights of women and girls, there will be no normalization with the Taliban regime,” the ministry added. 


Chief Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed Friday the presence of Omar in Germany by tweeting pictures from the controversial Thursday event. 


“He encouraged the Afghan participants to return to the country and use their capital to contribute to the reconstruction and development of the country, telling them security has returned to the country,” Mujahid wrote.  


The DITIB is reportedly the largest Sunni Muslim organization in Germany and is linked to the Turkish government.  


Separately, the Dutch health and sports minister apologized Saturday for having his picture taken with Omar while both attended the Second World Local Production Forum in the Hague from November 6 to 8.   


Ernst Kuipers wrote on X that he stands for human rights, particularly women’s rights, and does not want to associate himself with what he denounced as the “terrible” Taliban regime.  


“I didn’t know who this person was at the time. This was a mistake, and it should not have happened, and I regret it,” he said. “We are investigating how this person was present at this conference.” 

The hard-line Taliban reclaimed power in August 2021, when U.S.-led Western troops chaotically withdrew after nearly two decades of involvement in the Afghan war.  


No foreign country has recognized the male-only Taliban regime mainly because it bans female education beyond the sixth grade in Afghanistan and bars women from most public and private sector workplaces, including the United Nations.  


De facto Afghan authorities justify their governance, saying it is aligned with Afghan culture and Islamic law. They have rejected international criticism of the Taliban government and calls for removing sweeping restrictions on women. 

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