Taliban use monkeypox as an excuse to persecute LGBTQ+ Afghans

Attacks and arrests against LGBTQ+ people in Afghanistan haven't ceased and now the Taliban are using monkeypox to justify the violence.

A protest against the Taliban, who are using monkeypox as an excuse to persecute LGBTQ+ people.
Image: Via Unsplash - Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona

In Afghanistan, the Taliban are using the spread of monkeypox as an “excuse” to round up and detain LGBTQ+ people. Even though no officially recorded cases have emerged in the country, the Taliban are justifying their attacks on the LGBTQ+ community with the need to prevent the spread of the virus.

Monkeypox is a rare disease that usually occurs in some parts of Central and West Africa, where it’s endemic. However, many cases of the disease have recently been reported in other parts of the world, with more than 500 cases officially confirmed in Europe, North America and Australia.

Due to the fact that a large number of cases were detected among gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men, media reports on monkeypox have inaccurately linked the disease to such communities.

However, the UNAIDS has condemned such news reporting as homophobic and potentially dangerous, as not only does it increase the stigma against men who have sex with men, but it also gives the false impression that everyone else is safe from the virus. As a matter of fact, everyone is at risk of catching the disease, as it spreads through prolonged physical contact, primarily through large respiratory droplets.

In Afghanistan, such misleading media coverage seems to have had a very practical dramatic effect, as the Taliban are using the spread of monkeypox as a justification to harass and detain members of the LGBTQ+ community. Pink News interviewed two gay men from Kabul, who shared their perceptions and experiences of what is happening in the country.

“The Ministry of Health has stated that no cases of the disease have been registered, yet they are still looking for excuses to harass the Afghan gay community.” said one of them, explaining how the persecution of LGBTQ+ people has worsened since the monkeypox outbreak.

“Wherever they see handsome men wearing no local clothes, they check their cell phones and, if they find the slightest evidence that they are gay, they arrest them and take them away.” he continued “When they detain homosexuals, [they tell the public it’s to] prevent the spread of monkeypox.” He said the situation was not better for Trans Afghans, as many of them weren’t even leaving their homes for fear of what might happen to them.

The other interviewee said that he believes that the Taliban are using the spread of monkeypox as another reason to “torture” LGBTQ+ people. “I’m afraid in Afghanistan. I’m afraid of being arrested by the Taliban,” he said “I’m not leaving home. I’m scared and miserable.”

He expressed the wish to leave the country and escape persecution. “I’m asking the big governments of London and other countries to help me and all LGBTQ+ people leave Afghanistan,” he said.

The persecution of LGBTQ+ Afghans by the Taliban certainly didn’t start with the outbreak of monkeypox. According to reports published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and OutRight Action International, the queer community in Afghanistan is facing threats, violence and sexual assault since the group seized power in August 2021.

One of the men interviewed by Pink News explained how he had to change his entire behaviour and the way he presents himself in public in order to be safe. “We no longer go to beauty salons to cut our beards, we can not even cut our hair in a modern way. We can not wear stylish and acceptable clothes. Trans people cannot even come out of their house because they are arrested immediately.”

He added “Personally, I go out in local clothes now. I do not bring my smartphone with me when I leave home. I try not to leave home without doing my homework. Their checkpoints are very dangerous.”

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