'No One Would Dare To Utter LGBT Here': Afghan Queers Live in Terror
"The Taliban have their reservations against women, but LGBTQIA+ people, they just kill on the spot.”
(This article is based on phone conversations with members of the LGBTQIA+ community in Afghanistan. The Quint will be publishing many such oppressed voices from Afghanistan. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
(Trigger warning: This article contains descriptions of sexual assault and physical violence. Reader discretion is advised.)
On 19 August, Afghanistan’s Independence Day, Sayed Fawad (name changed) joined a protest in Kabul to honour the country’s national flag that had been taken down by the Taliban.
The Islamist group’s crackdown on the demonstrators took away the last bit of hope he had.
“They opened fire and people were running in all directions," he says. If they can do this to ordinary people, what will they do to us?”
Sayed Fawad is gay, and he is certain the Taliban will kill him.
He feels terrified as the Islamist group comes to power in Afghanistan again after 20 years. Even though the country’s previous US-backed government punished same-sex relationships with long imprisonment, he had managed to pursue his desires in secrecy.
'Not Met My Partner For a Month'
“I had a boyfriend, we had a room, we could meet two to three times a week and spend time together. We were happy,” he says. But, as per the Sharia law that Taliban upholds, homosexuals must be executed publicly by being stoned, crushed under a wall or thrown off a tall building."
A doctor by profession, Fawad had lived a quiet private life in Kabul with his partner.
“We used fake Facebook profiles on LGBTQIA+ groups, found each other, chatted for months, and then met in person,” he says.
The 25-year-old has not met with or spoken to his partner for a month. One of his friends, who knows about his sexual orientation, has recently joined the Taliban, and Fawad fears he could out him any moment.
Being a Woman & Queer in Afghanistan
“Being LGBT+ in Afghanistan was already a challenge, but now it's officially hell,” says Merzeh Mansoor (name changed), a bisexual woman and gender rights activist. She has gone into hiding since Kabul collapsed on 15 August.
The 23-year-old had been at the centre of one of Kabul’s many underground LGBT+ communities.
“In January, we had a gathering of 12 people in my apartment. It was a beautiful night. We danced, sang songs and had dinner,” she says.Merzeh Mansoor
But now, none of her peers are reachable. Some have changed their numbers and others have escaped the country. “There is too much fear,” she says.
“No one can utter the word LGBTQIA+. The Taliban have their reservations against women, but LGBTQIA+ people, they just kill on the spot.”
'Pleas Getting Desperate'
Fawad and Mansoor are directing all their efforts towards escaping the country. However, the Afghanistan passport’s low-ranking status makes it next to impossible to get a visa from another country.
This has forced some Afghans to cross the borders illegally into neighbouring countries.
In recent days, Turkey has built a wall along its border to stop the refugee exodus. Artemis Akbary, a gay Afghan who works with an NGO that provides legal, psychological and financial help to LGBT+ asylum seekers, says:
“The immigration office of Turkey doesn’t want to register Afghan refugees.”
Meanwhile, Afghans' pleas for help are getting more desperate with every passing day. “I got a video from a gay man who was living under a tree on the street because the Taliban burnt down the houses in his village,” he says.
'Afghan Queers Suffering For Years'
Although the Taliban have been portraying themselves as more inclusive than before, Akbary doesn’t believe them.
“They will target and hunt the LGBTQIA+ community,” he says. “They are active on Facebook and Twitter and have already been honey-baiting gay men in Afghanistan. One man was allegedly raped by a Taliban soldier last Monday.”
The UK, the US, and Canada among other countries have announced plans to offer refuge to Afghans.
But, Nemat Sadat, a gay US-based Afghan author and LGBT+ campaigner, takes that with a pinch of salt. In the past three days, he has received more than 125 requests for help from LGBTQ individuals trying to escape Afghanistan.
He has been compiling their details and documents, forming evacuation lists and sending them to Scott Peters’ office, the congressman of his district in San Diego.
But every time the State Department flags up a missing identity card or passport, he loses his patience. “They have made everything so bureaucratic,” he says. “People are leaving concentration camp-like conditions. It's a humanitarian crisis, and you are asking for ID proof?"
According to him, LGBT+ of Afghanistan have been trying to flee for years.
“Many asylum seekers who reached Europe, the bastion of human rights, were denied asylum or deported back saying they were not coming from ISIS-occupied Iraq or Syria, but from Afghanistan, which was a democracy, despite the fact that the Taliban were controlling 40 to 50 percent of the country."
Alif Zafar (name changed), a 25-year-old gay man from a northern province of Afghanistan, who was disabled during a bomb blast as a child, has tried every trick in the book to escape. From applying to European countries for visas, trying to cross the border through the mountains to contacting international LGBT+ organisations, but nothing worked out.
“I have been suffering for years, and they (Western countries) can get me out of here. I don't know what kind of situation I have to be in to receive help” he says.
“A man shouldn't cry, but thinking about my future, I just can’t stop the tears. It’s like a terrible nightmare, only there is no waking up.”
(Names have been changed to protect the respective individuals identities. Shivangi Vaswani is a freelance journalist with three years of experience. She covers cinema, music, fashion and food through a socio-cultural perspective.)
Topics: Afghanistan Crisis
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