Afghanistan’s LGBTQ neighborhood say they’re being hunted down after Taliban takeover

Afghanistan's LGBTQ community say they're being hunted down after Taliban takeover


As quickly because the Taliban recaptured Kabul in August, Balkhi and her household went into hiding. The names of Balkhi and 5 different LGBTQ folks inside Afghanistan who spoke to Source for this story have been modified for security causes — Balkhi selected to make use of the title of a well-known feminine Afghan poet who she thought-about “brave” and a “hero.”

The 20-year-old college scholar is considered one of a whole bunch of LGBTQ folks in Afghanistan who’re urging advocates exterior the nation to assist them escape the Taliban regime. Two LGBTQ activists exterior of Afghanistan — Ritu Mahendru and Nemat Sadat — informed Source they’d separate lists every with a whole bunch of names of people that wish to flee.

“The situation gets worse every day … fear of arrest is part of life now and I have such stress that I can’t even sleep,” Balkhi informed Source by textual content message from an undisclosed location.

It’s not clear but how severely the Taliban will implement its strict non secular legal guidelines in opposition to Afghanistan’s LGBTQ residents. No official assertion has been made, however in an interview with Germany’s Bild newspaper in July, one Taliban choose stated there have been solely two punishments for homosexuality — stoning or being crushed underneath a wall.

In response to a request for remark, a Taliban spokesman informed Source they’d no official plans for his or her LGBTQ inhabitants but. “When there is anything I will keep you updated,” he stated.

The LGBTQ folks in Afghanistan Source spoke with stated they’d heard stories of mates, companions and members of their neighborhood being attacked and raped. And they have been terrified that Islamic fundamentalists and vigilante teams emboldened by the brand new regime might do the identical to them — or worse.

Balkhi stated one homosexual man in her neighborhood had been raped after being discovered by the Taliban.

Some LGBTQ folks informed Source they’ve been hiding in single rooms and basements for weeks, staring on the partitions or endlessly watching their telephones for any trace of a approach out.

Some are being hidden by mates who’re serving to hold watch or bringing them provides. Others informed Source they’re alone, remoted and working out of meals.

But all stated they really feel deserted by the worldwide neighborhood, with evacuation flights in a foreign country now completed and the Taliban pushing to normalize relations with Western nations. LGBTQ folks say they need assistance to flee Taliban fighters earlier than they’re found and compelled to face the brand new regime’s brutal legal guidelines.

Prejudice resurgent

Even earlier than the Taliban took energy in August, life wasn’t simple for LGBTQ folks in Afghanistan.

A 2020 US State Department report on Afghanistan stated LGBTQ folks confronted “discrimination, assault and rape” in addition to harassment and arrest by authorities. “Homosexuality was widely seen as taboo and indecent,” the report stated.
Under the earlier authorities, sexual relations between folks of the identical gender have been unlawful and punishable by up to two years in jail.
Those legal guidelines weren’t all the time enforced, however they did depart LGBTQ folks open to extortion and abuse by authorities, in accordance with a UK government report printed in 2013.

The LGBTQ folks in Afghanistan that Source spoke to stated earlier than the Taliban takeover they usually confronted discrimination, together with verbal abuse and the specter of bodily violence, however there was not less than an area in society for them.

Nemat Sadat, an LGBTQ Afghan writer who lives within the United States, stated the nation’s homosexual, lesbian and transgender residents had helped the nation’s cultural life flourish within the 20 years because the Taliban’s final rule.

“(Transgender people) dominated the makeup industry and worked as makeup artists … There were concerts and fashion shows and all of this was dominated by the LGBTQ community,” he stated.

LGBTQ individuals who spoke to Source stated whereas only a few felt comfy or protected sufficient to be brazenly homosexual, lesbian or transgender earlier than the takeover, many have been in a position to quietly construct lives true to their identities.

Balkhi stated for some time she had a girlfriend, who she was in a position to see secretly on weekends. Hilal, a 25-year-old homosexual man, stated he used to have a boyfriend and had even labored brazenly to advocate for LGBTQ rights in Afghanistan.

Now in hiding, Hilal stated few predicted how briskly the state of affairs in Afghanistan would deteriorate. “We couldn’t imagine that the government would collapse so quickly,” he stated.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid (C) gestures as he addresses the first news conference in Kabul on August 17, following the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan.

Living in worry

After the Taliban took cost, Balkhi stated being a lady had successfully ended her goals of ending her college research in Afghanistan.

As a lesbian, she faces a good graver menace.

In an interview with Reuters in August, one of many Taliban’s prime resolution makers, Waheedullah Hashimi, stated underneath the fundamentalist group the nation can be ruled by “Sharia law and that is it.”

Under the Taliban’s interpretation of Sharia legislation, homosexuality could be punished by demise.

Balkhi stated when she and her household heard the Taliban had entered town, they went into hiding, leaving their dwelling in Kabul and shifting to a brand new secret location to flee detection.

“The Taliban have exact information about every family here,” she stated.

Balkhi fears her household could possibly be attacked or killed for knowingly hiding an LGBTQ particular person. Unable to sleep out of worry of being found, she stated she is apprehensive if the Taliban discover her, they may stone her to demise for being a lesbian.

One homosexual man who has been in contact with Sadat, the US-based LGBTQ advocate, stated he informed him he watched from his hiding place within the ceiling as Taliban fighters beat the pal who had refused to reveal his location. Sadat shared a video with Source of the beating, taken by the person in secret.

Another homosexual man Source is asking Hasan stated he had been hiding in a pal’s home in Kabul for greater than a month and was working out of meals and cash.

Armed Taliban fighters stand next to a Mullah, a religious leader, speaking during Friday prayers at the Pul-e Khishti Mosque in Kabul on September 3.

Per week in the past, Hasan received a cellphone name from an unknown quantity that he stated implied he was being focused for being LGBTQ. When Hasan requested who was calling, a person’s voice replied, “Do not talk too much, we will find you wherever you are,” Hasan stated. He has since modified his quantity.

Hilal, who used to advocate for LGBTQ Afghans, stated males got here round to his household’s home asking for him shortly after Kabul fell. “They made threats to my brother, and they said to him that if I return home, they will kill me (for being LGBTQ),” he stated.

For three weeks, Hilal has been hiding within the basement of a pal’s home.

The former college scholar stated he has no cash, little meals and has accepted he could by no means have the ability to return to his household’s dwelling.

“We are LGBT. It is not our fault. It has been written as such in my destiny, in my spirit … No one can change this. All they can do is to kill me,” Hilal stated.

The US Embassy walls after being painted with the Taliban flag in Kabul on September 8.

Abandoned and offended

The US and its allies raced to evacuate hundreds of individuals from Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport earlier than the withdrawal deadline of August 31.

But LGBTQ Afghans, activists and NGOs informed Source they knew of only a few folks of their neighborhood who had managed to flee Afghanistan on these flights or throughout land borders.

Most folks stated they did not know anybody who had managed to get out.

Hilal, the LGBTQ activist, stated he was livid on the US authorities and different Western nations who he felt had deserted him and different homosexual, lesbian and transgender Afghans. “Journalists, women’s rights activists or those who worked with foreigners, they were removed … but nothing has been done for us,” he stated.

“We will definitely be killed … We are asking to (be) evacuated immediately from Afghanistan.”

Multiple organizations and activists Source spoke to are trying into methods to soundly extract LGBTQ folks from Afghanistan, however up to now no protected route has been discovered.

Rainbow Railroad is an NGO which helps LGBTQ folks all over the world escape persecution. Executive Director Kimahli Powell stated evacuating LGBTQ folks from Afghanistan was particularly exhausting as they have been usually alone, in hiding and unable to contact one another.

“Many of the evacuations have been families or large communities, and that’s been harder for LGBTQ communities,” he stated.

Some of them are so determined they’re falling sufferer to scams, together with a suggestion of faux Ugandan visas which gave many people false hope, he stated. Some informed Source they refuse to reply native cellphone numbers for worry the Taliban have tracked them down.

Powell stated he believed routes out of Afghanistan can be found to extract LGBTQ folks, however he stated Rainbow Railroad’s focus now’s on reaching folks most in danger.

“(It’s uncertain) what the Taliban takeover looks like around access to borders and access to migration, but we’re committed to trying to find pathways to keep people safe and get people out,” he stated.

Taliban fighters in new uniforms station themselves at a traffic junction in Kabul on September 5.

‘God constructed us like this’

As they watch for assist, some LGBTQ Afghans informed Source they’re attempting to cover among the many broader neighborhood.

Ritu Mahendru, a human rights advocate with greater than 10 years’ expertise working in Afghanistan, stated not less than one transgender girl had informed her she was rising out her beard and dressing like a person to keep away from attracting consideration.

One 24-year-old lesbian informed Source she had married a male pal to maintain her protected till she might escape the nation.

And, a 25-year-old gender non-conforming homosexual man stated he had tried to look extra masculine, however a Taliban fighter beat him with a plastic pipe when he was seen strolling in a road. “He cursed me, and he said, ‘Don’t you know how to walk like a man?'” the person stated.

Balkhi stated lesbians like her have one benefit over different LGBTQ folks — as some girls conceal their faces in public, they’re able to disguise their identities underneath chadri, a cloak-style garment that covers the physique and face.

Last month she and her household wore chadris to Kabul airport, hoping to board an evacuation flight out, however they have been pushed again by the Taliban. Balkhi stated they have been informed that no Afghans have been allowed to enter the airport, and after they tried to press the purpose, they have been threatened with whips till they left.

“I don’t know if I can get out of here, but I know I can’t live here with this situation,” she stated.

Others are dropping out of contact. Sadat stated day by day he’s dropping contact with increasingly more LGBTQ folks on his listing, as he struggles to attempt to discover a method to get them out of Afghanistan.

“I’m not sure if they’re dead or they escaped out of the country and unable to receive my calls. A lot of LGBTQ Afghans are losing hope and telling me they are begging for food or starving,” he stated.

It’s unclear how lengthy they’re going to have to attend.

Hilal stated he has no concept how he can safely cross a land border as a result of doing so would imply revealing his identification — and as a former public advocate, he worries about being acknowledged.

He stated he does not suppose LGBTQ folks will survive in Afghanistan.

“I want life and democracy,” he stated. “We are human, we want life like other people, but other people can live and we cannot.

“It will not be our fault that we’re LGBTQ. God constructed us like this.”

Source’s Jeevan Ravindran contributed to this text.

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