LGBTQ+ Afghans being attacked and threatened under Taliban rule

A report conducted by Human Rights Watch and OutRight Action International found the situation “increasingly desperate” for the country’s queer community.

Members of the Taliban on an army tank as LGBTQ+ Afghans are under threat.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

LGBTQ+ Afghans are facing significantly worse realities under Taliban rule according to a harrowing new report published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and OutRight Action International. The organisations spoke to sixty members of the nation’s queer community between October 2021 and December 2021, hearing details of threats, violence, and sexual assault.

Homosexuality has long been illegal in Afghanistan, but under Taliban rule, there is a zero-tolerance attitude. LGBTQ+ people are facing abuse from strangers and loved ones alike, who either now support the Taliban, or feel they must punish queer people to protect themselves against reprisals.

Speaking on the ongoing situation, Heather Barr of HRW said: “Things were always rough […] But people had found ways to survive and build community and support each other, and they had hope that things were gradually improving. On August 15, all of that ended.”

It is obvious from the 43-page document that since the Taliban took control, circumstances have worsened for LGBTQ+ Afghans. Senior fellow for emergency research at OutRight Action International, J Lester Feder, explained: “We spoke with LGBT Afghans who have survived gang rape, mob attacks or have been hunted by their own family member who joined the Taliban, and they have no hope that state institutions will protect them.”

Many have been forced to flee the country due to fears for their safety, but unfortunately, according to Lester Feder, “there are few good options.”

“Most of Afghanistan’s neighbours also criminalise same-sex relations. It is difficult to overstate how devastating, and terrifying, the return of Taliban rule has been for LGBT Afghans.”

Just this week, Iran, a border country of Afghanistan, has been urged by Amnesty International to release Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani from custody, after being arrested in October 2021 for “promoting homosexuality”. The human rights activist was detained while trying to flee to Turkey, after previously arriving in Iran from Iraqi Kurdistan. 

Women’s rights have also deteriorated since August 2021, with the Taliban banning them from the workplace, secondary education, and sports. This has a knock-on effect for queer women trying to leave the country, with Barr stating that men have “got more options to escape.”

“The people we were able to interview who had made it out of Afghanistan were all men […] They are more likely to have money and more likely to have freedom of movement.”

In comparison, it is difficult for women to travel around the country unaccompanied by a man.

Barr added, “It’s critically important for concerned governments to urgently put pressure on the Taliban to respect the rights of LGBT people.” The ruling party has previously pledged the opposite, with their actions reflecting the sentiment.

To help protect LGBTQ+ Afghans from the Taliban, Nemat Sadat set up a fundraiser and has been successfully conducting evacuations as a result. To support the cause and free those in need, donate here.

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