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Outrage after Taliban member speaks at German mosque

November 18, 2023

German politicians have demanded answers after the head of Afghanistan's food and drug body spoke at a mosque in Cologne. Abdul Bari Omar was previously in the Netherlands for a World Health Organization event.

A file photo of three men at the Chorweiler Mosque in Cologne in 2015
The event was held by an Afghan cultural association at the Chorweiler Mosque, whose umbrella organization, DITIB, sharply criticized the incidentImage: Oliver Berg/dpa/picture alliance

A Taliban representative has sparked an outcry in Germany after it was revealed that he attended a mosque in Cologne.

Videos shared on social media show Abdul Bari Omar, the director of Afghanistan's food and drug authority, speaking at the mosque on Thursday.

Germany's Foreign Ministry said it had not been informed about Omar's visit to the country and said it had not issued his visa.

"We strongly condemn the appearance of Taliban representative Abdul Bari Omar in Cologne," the Foreign Ministry said on social media on Friday.

"We are examining further measures in close dialogue with the interior authorities and partners."

Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser also criticized the incident, saying on Saturday that "nobody is allowed to offer radical Islamists a stage in Germany."

"We protect many refugees from Afghanistan from the oppression of the Taliban," she said. "Their functionaries have no business in Germany."

What do we know about the event?

Omar attended an event at the Chorweiler Mosque in the north of Cologne. The mosque belongs to the umbrella organization DITIB.

DITIB said it had allowed the local Afghan Cultural Association to organize a religious event.

"Contrary to the contractual agreement, it became a political event to which a speaker unknown to us was invited," said the local DITIB branch.

"We are deeply disappointed that our trust was exploited in this way," the organization added.

DITIB said that the Afghan Cultural Association has now been banned from the premises.

Prior to visiting Germany, Omar was in the Netherlands where he attended a World Health Organization conference in the Hague.

At the event, he was photographed alongside Dutch Health Minister Ernst Kuipers.

Following the scandal in Germany, Kuipers said he regretted the photo and added that he did not realize who Omar was at the time.

German authorities condemn Taliban representative

Serap Güler, a member of Germany's federal parliament from Cologne who is also on the parliamentary commission into the Afghanistan mission, said she was "stunned" by the incident.

"All the details of this matter must now be fully clarified," she told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland.

A spokesperson for the North Rhine-Westphalia administration also condemned the incident.

"The fact that members of a radical organization such as the Taliban are spreading their ideologies unfiltered on German soil is an unspeakable act," they told the city's Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper.

Germany's Foreign Ministry also said there would be no normalization with Taliban authorities if they continue to "exclude half of the Afghan population from participating in society and blatantly trample on human rights, especially the rights of women and girls."

zc/sms (dpa, epd, KNA)

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