Fears for lives of LGBTIQ+ people in Afghanistan


Anti-war protest by members of the Afghanistan diaspora in Canada (Pic: Meandering Images / Shutterstock)

With the rapid collapse of the US-backed government in Afghanistan, LGBTIQ+ people in the country are facing an uncertain and potentially deadly future.

There are fears that the return of the Taliban militant group to power will see grave human rights abuses, including the loss of basic human rights for women and girls, more gender-based violence and the extreme persecution of LGBTIQ+ people.

Afghanistan was already an unsafe country in which to be LGBTIQ+, says the NPO Rainbow Railroad, which helps LGBTIQ+ people facing extreme violence and state-sponsored persecution find a path to freedom.

According to the US State Department, public attitudes towards LGBTIQ+ people in Afghanistan are extremely negative, which leads members of the community to keep their gender identity and sexual orientation a secret in fear of harassment, intimidation, persecution, and death.

Now, with the return of the Taliban, which espouses a strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law, the situation is likely to worsen. “And although it remains to be seen how the Taliban will respond to international pressure to uphold human rights, early signs are not encouraging,” noted Rainbow Railroad in a statement.

Last month, a Taliban judge told Bild that gay men will be brutally executed should the group regain control of Afghanistan.

“For homosexuals, there can only be two punishments: either stoning, or he must stand behind a wall that will fall down on him. The wall must be 2.5 to 3 metres high,” the judge said. He added that “For the Taliban, this is a perfectly normal law.”

Abdul, a 21-year-old gay man in Afghanistan told the BBC that he was depressed and terrified about his future: “Even if the Taliban accepts a woman in the government, in school, they will never accept gay or LGBT people. They will kill all of them on the spot.”

Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Nemat Sadat, a gay Afghan man and author now living in the US, said “They are going to do what the Nazis did to LGBT people. They are going to try to exterminate us.”

Rainbow Railroad is concerned that the impending crisis will lead to a spike in requests for help.

“So far in 2021, we have received 50 requests for help originating in Afghanistan,” the group revealed, “and we anticipate an uptick in requests due to the deteriorating security situation that threatens the safety of LGBTIQ+ people.”

It pointed out that there are few human rights defenders in the country and civil society engagement is minimal, meaning that support for LGBTIQ+ people from within Afghanistan is limited.

The group called on other countries to step up and support LGBTIQ+ Afghan refugees and welcomed the Canadian government’s announcement that it will resettle 20,000 Afghans threatened by the Taliban and forced to flee Afghanistan.

Canada also committed to introducing a special program to focus on vulnerable groups, specifically naming LGBTIQ+ individuals.

Rainbow Railroad, which fields 3,000 to 4,000 requests for help from around the world annually, said it will engage with the Canadian government to identify and refer LGBTIQ+ Afghans in need of emergency assistance.

“At the same time, however, we must not lose sight of the fact that we need more proactive policies to help LGBTIQ+ persons in crisis situations. Whether it is state-sponsored crackdowns on LGBTIQ+ persons in Ghana or Uganda, the continuous migrant crisis in Venezuela, or refugees in Kenya and Turkey still awaiting resettlement, we need to immediately resume the resettlement of LGBTIQ+ refugees.”

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