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‘I don’t want to die’ in Kabul

Gay person desperate to leave Afghanistan with family

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Kabul, Afghanistan, in July 2021. (Photos courtesy of Dr. Ahmad Qais Munhazim)

KABUL, Afghanistan — A gay person in Afghanistan says the Taliban will kill them if they and their family don’t leave the country.

“I don’t want to die,” they told the Los Angeles Blade on Tuesday during a telephone interview from Kabul, the Afghan capital. “I have a lot of dreams in my life.”

The person, 25, said their mother and sister are currently living with a relative after they fled their home when the Taliban came into their neighborhood. The Blade is withholding their name and gender identity in order to protect their identity.

“I’m 100 percent sure that my life is not safe any more … they will definitely kill me,” they said. “Being gay is not a good thing in Afghanistan.”

The Taliban entered Kabul on Aug. 15 and toppled then-President Ashraf Ghani’s government.

Dr. Ahmad Qais Munhazim, an assistant professor of global studies at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia who is originally from Afghanistan, in an op-ed the Blade published last month wrote the Taliban hanged men in soccer fields who had been accused of having same-sex relationships when they controlled the country from 1996-2001. A Taliban judge in July said the group would once again execute people if it were to return to power in Afghanistan.

“People were going to work, people were going to school,” said the person when the Blade asked them what Kabul was like before the Taliban regained control. “We were living in freedom. We never thought we would be under pressure.”

“I’m scared,” they added. “I can’t go outside … everything has totally changed. Nobody is happy here.”

They told the Blade that men have repeatedly raped them and threatened to kill them. They said the perpetrators have also told them they would report them to the Taliban.

“They are still doing this because they think we have another pervert,” they told the Blade. “They will kill you. They will cut off your hand, your nose.”

Taliban ‘will definitely kill me’

The U.S. evacuated more than 123,000 people — including upwards of 6,000 American citizens — from Afghanistan since the Taliban regained control of the country until American military operations ended on Aug. 30. Dozens of members of Congress have urged the U.S. to evacuate LGBTQ Afghans from the country, but it remains unclear how many of them have been able to leave.

Canada thus far is the only country that has specifically said it would offer refuge to LGBTQ Afghans. Immigration Equality, the Toronto-based Rainbow Railroad, ILGA Asia and other groups continue to try to assist LGBTQ people who remain in Afghanistan.

The person with whom the Blade spoke said Immigration Equality has contacted them. They also said they have reached out to American and European politicians, but they said “we can’t help you.”

“I texted everywhere,” they said. “I called everywhere.”

“I’m just trying … to leave as soon as possible Afghanistan because of the situation I’m facing,” they added. “I’m getting death threats from people and now it’s especially hard for me … I’m suffering. My mom is suffering. My sister is suffering.”

They added the current situation in Afghanistan is “very difficult, not just for me, but for everyone who is facing these kinds of issues.”

“I’m 100 percent sure that my life is not safe any more … they will definitely kill me,” they said. “Being gay is not a good thing in Afghanistan.”

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Southern-Central Asia

LGBTQ Afghans seek help from Immigration Equality

Immigration Equality last week said 80 LGBTQ Afghans who want to leave Afghanistan have contacted the organization for assistance.

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Kabul, Afghanistan, in July 2021 (Photo courtesy of Dr. Ahmad Qais Munhazim)

NEW YORK — Immigration Equality last week said 80 LGBTQ Afghans have requested assistance from the group.

Aaron Morris, executive director of the New York-based group, in a press release noted “our attorneys spoke directly with 50 queer people before the U.S. government left the nation” on Aug. 30.

“We did everything in our power to get as many people out as possible,” said Morris.

The Taliban entered Kabul, the Afghan capital, on Aug. 15 and toppled then-President Ashraf Ghani’s government.

The U.S. evacuated more than 123,000 people — including upwards of 6,000 American citizens — from Afghanistan since the Taliban regained control of the country until American military operations ended on Aug. 30.

A Taliban judge in July said the group would once again execute people if it were to return to power in Afghanistan.

Dr. Ahmad Qais Munhazim, an assistant professor of global studies at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia who is originally from Afghanistan, in an op-ed the Washington Blade published last month wrote the Taliban when they controlled the country from 1996-2001 hanged men in soccer fields who had been accused of having same-sex relationships. One LGBTQ Afghan who commented under a Facebook post said the Taliban “will kill us one by one, so I have no choice but to escape.”

More than 60 members of Congress have urged the U.S. to evacuate LGBTQ Afghans from their country.

Canada thus far is the only country that has specifically said it would offer refuge to LGBTQ Afghans. Immigration Equality, the Toronto-based Rainbow Railroad and ILGA Asia are among the groups that continue to try to assist LGBTQ people who remain in Afghanistan.

“Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan two weeks ago, the reality for Afghan LGBTQ people has become a living nightmare,” said Morris. “The punishment for being gay in Afghanistan again includes public stoning, being crushed by a wall, and other violent horrors. All of the LGBTQ Afghans we have spoken to are begging for someone to save their lives. They are terrified, and they are desperate.”

“Immigration Equality won’t stand for the abhorrent treatment of our Afghan LGBTQ brothers, sisters and non-binary siblings,” added Morris.

“Now that airplanes are no longer taking off, there are still scores of people who need urgent evacuations. And there is still time to save lives,” said Morris. “We must all work together to find safe passage for those in our community who need to leave. Evacuating LGBTQ and other vulnerable populations is a long-term undertaking, and we intend to do our part to get them to safety. We implore the people of America not to forget LGBTQ Afghans. Let us welcome them as refugees and expedite their safe arrival in this country.”

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Southern-Central Asia

Efforts to evacuate LGBTQ Afghans continue after US troop withdrawal

Taliban entered Kabul on Aug. 15

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Two men in Kabul in July (Photo courtesy of Dr. Ahmad Qais Munhazim)

KABUL, Afghanistan — The last American troops have withdrawn from Afghanistan amid continued efforts to evacuate LGBTQ people from the country.

Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command told reporters on Monday the last American C-17 left Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, the Afghan capital, at 12:29 p.m. PT (11:59 p.m. on Monday in Afghanistan.)

“Tonight’s withdrawal signifies both the end of the military component of the evacuation but also the end of the nearly 20-year mission that began in Afghanistan shortly after September 11, 2001,” said McKenzie.

The previous White House in 2020 brokered a peace deal with the Taliban that set the stage for the withdrawal. President Biden last month announced American military operations in Afghanistan would end on Tuesday.

The Taliban entered Kabul on Aug. 15 and toppled then-President Ashraf Ghani’s government.

McKenzie and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday noted the U.S. evacuated more than 123,000 people — including 6,000 American citizens —  from Afghanistan since the Taliban regained control of the country.

“This has been a massive military, diplomatic and humanitarian undertaking — one of the most difficult in our nation’s history — and an extraordinary feat of logistics and coordination under some of the most challenging circumstances imaginable,” said Blinken in remarks he delivered from the State Department.

Blinken acknowledged “a small number of Americans — under 200 and likely closer to 100 — who remain in Afghanistan and want to leave.” Blinken in his remarks did not specifically mention LGBTQ Afghans who remain in the country, but he did refer to “at-risk Afghans” when he referenced the Taliban’s commitment “to let anyone with proper documents leave the country in a safe and orderly manner.”

“We are all committed to ensuring that our citizens, nationals and residents, employees, Afghans who have worked with us and those who are at risk can continue to travel freely to destinations outside Afghanistan,” reads a statement the U.S. and more than 100 other countries signed on Sunday. “We have received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authorization from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country.”

“We will continue issuing travel documentation to designated Afghans, and we have the clear expectation of and commitment from the Taliban that they can travel to our respective countries,” adds the statement. “We note the public statements of the Taliban confirming this understanding.”

Blinken in his remarks noted the U.N. Security Council on Monday “passed a resolution that enshrines that responsibility — laying the groundwork to hold the Taliban accountable if they renege.”

“The international chorus on this is strong, and it will stay strong,” said Blinken. “We will hold the Taliban to their commitment on freedom of movement for foreign nationals, visa holders, at-risk Afghans.”

“We will work to secure their safe passage,” added Blinken.

Taliban ‘will kill us one by one’

The Taliban instituted a strict version of Sharia law in Kabul and the large swaths of Afghanistan it controlled from 1996 to 2001.

Dr. Ahmad Qais Munhazim, an assistant professor of global studies at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia who is originally from Afghanistan, in an op-ed the Los Angeles Blade published earlier this month wrote the Taliban hanged men in soccer fields who had been accused of having same-sex relationships.  

A Taliban judge last month said the group would once again execute people if it were to return to power in Afghanistan. One LGBTQ Afghan who commented under a Facebook post said the Taliban “will kill us one by one, so I have no choice but to escape.”

More than 60 members of Congress last week urged the U.S. to evacuate LGBTQ Afghans from their country. Canada thus far is the only country that has specifically said it would offer refuge to LGBTQ Afghans.

“With the Taliban’s takeover of the country, LGBTQ+ Afghans face the prospect of violent death. Sharia law, cemented in Afghanistan’s constitution, prohibits all forms of same-sex activity, and makes same-sex activity punishable by death,” reads the letter the members of Congress sent to Blinken. “Just as it was for ISIS in Iraq, Sharia law is the Taliban’s guiding compass as it establishes its rule over Afghanistan’s government and society. During its campaign in Iraq and Syria, ISIS frequently executed LGBTQ+ individuals by stoning them to death, castrating and hanging them in public squares, and throwing them off buildings.”

“Under Taliban rule, LGBTQ+ Afghans will suffer a similar fate,” it adds.

Nick Herbert, a member of the British House of Lords who advises Prime Minister Boris Johnson on LGBTQ issues, urged the U.K. to offer sanctuary to LGBTQ Afghans.

“The safety of LGBT+ people in Afghanistan is now a huge concern and many have not been able to leave,” tweeted Herbert on Aug. 27. “Afghans most in need, including LGBT+ people, will rightly be prioritized and welcomed to the UK under the Resettlement Scheme. We must do everything we can to help them.”

Rainbow Railroad, a Toronto-based organization that assists LGBTQ refugees around the world, on Monday said it remains in contact with LGBTQ Afghans who hope to leave their country. Stonewall, a British LGBTQ rights group, tweeted it “won’t stop working to get LGBTQ+ Afghans to safety.”

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Countries urged to offer refuge to LGBTQ Afghans

Taliban has said it will execute gay men

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(Bigstock photo)

KABUL, Afghanistan — Advocacy groups have urged the U.S. and other countries to offer refuge to LGBTQ Afghans after the Taliban regained control of the country.

“As Afghanistan falls to the Taliban, members of the LGBTIQ community are among those at greatest risk of suffering under Taliban rule,” tweeted the Organization for Migration, Refuge and Asylum on Tuesday. “The international community must act quickly and decisively to aid all those fleeing persecution.”

Stonewall, a British LGBTQ rights group, echoed ORAM’s call.

“LGBTQ+ Afghans have endured routine discrimination, abuse and persecution, including by the state,” said Stonewall CEO Nancy Kelley on Tuesday. “With the Taliban in power we expect this situation to deteriorate further, including the potential for a return to active enforcement of the laws that prohibit same sex relationships.”

President Biden last month announced U.S. military operations in Afghanistan would end on Aug. 31. The previous White House in 2020 brokered a peace deal with the Taliban that set the stage for the withdrawal.

The Taliban on Sunday entered Kabul, the Afghan capital, and toppled President Ashraf Ghani’s government. Evacuation flights resumed at the city’s Hamid Karzai International Airport on Tuesday, a day after thousands of Afghans who were desperate to leave the country swarmed it.

Media reports indicate a Taliban judge last month said the group would execute gay people if it once again governed Afghanistan.

“Afghanistan already is not a safe place to be LGBTQI+ people,” said Kimahli Powell, executive director of Rainbow Railroad, a Toronto-based organization that assists LGBTQ refugees around the world. “According to the U.S. State Department, public attitudes across the diversity of Afghan society towards LGBTQI+ people are extremely negative, which leads members of the LGBTQ+ 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, there is understandable fear that the situation will worsen.”

“Rainbow Railroad is concerned that the return to power of the Taliban will lead to instances of extreme violence directed at members of the LGBTQI+ community in Afghanistan,” added Powell. “And although it remains to be seen how the Taliban will respond to international pressure to uphold human rights, early signs are not encouraging. Just last month, a Taliban judge threatened that gay men will be crushed to death by toppling walls onto them should the group regain control of Afghanistan.”

Powell said Rainbow Railroad has received 50 “requests for help originating in Afghanistan” so far this year, “and we anticipate an uptick in requests due to the deteriorating security situation that threatens the safety of LGBTQI+ people.”

“Moreover there is very limited human rights defenders and civil society engagement to support LGBTQI+ persons at risk,” said Powell. “However, we are currently relying on our deep international network and contacts within the country in order to reach people at risk. “

‘We don’t know what’s happening’

Charbel Maydaa is the founder and general director of MOSAIC, a Lebanon-based advocacy group that works throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Maydaa is also the first alternate co-chair of ILGA Asia.

Maydaa on Tuesday noted to the Washington Blade that the Taliban use Sharia law to target LGBTQ people. Maydaa noted the Taliban wants “to look good in front of the international community,” but added LGBTQ Afghans who remain in the country are terrified.

“We lost contact with many people there,” said Maydaa. “We don’t know what’s happening. They’re not online or they are really afraid to talk on Facebook.”

Maydaa said three female academics with whom he has worked “disappeared” five days ago. Maydaa told the Blade an LGBTQ person in Kabul with whom he spoke on Monday “didn’t mention anything.”

“He was really afraid to communicate, so he was just like I’m alive. I’m fine,” said Maydaa.

Maydaa said ILGA Asia is currently working to find shelters for LGBTQ people in Afghanistan before they are able to leave the country. Maydaa added ILGA Asia is also “trying to advocate for some governments” to “literally rescue them.”

The Canadian government on Friday announced it will allow up to 20,000 Afghans — including members of the LGBTQ community — to resettle in the country.

“Canada will continue to implement the special immigration program for Afghans who contributed to Canada’s efforts in Afghanistan,” a Canadian government spokesperson told the Blade on Monday. “In addition, we will introduce a special program to focus on particularly vulnerable groups that are already welcomed to Canada through existing resettlement streams, including women leaders, human rights defenders, journalists, persecuted religious minorities, LGBTI individuals and family members of previously resettled interpreters.”

“The program will welcome government-supported and privately sponsored refugees, along with those sponsored by family already in Canada,” added the spokesperson. “In the coming weeks and months, we will be engaging with our international and domestic partners to develop a plan for moving forward.”

President Biden on Monday said the U.S. will expand “refuge access to cover other vulnerable Afghans who worked for our embassy; U.S. non-government agencies — or the U.S. non-governmental organizations and Afghans who otherwise are at great risk; and U.S. news agencies.” State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Monday also said the State Department will “continue to pursue all options to relocate interested and qualified Afghan SIV (Special Immigration Visas) applicants and their immediate families, as well as other vulnerable Afghans.”

Price and Biden in their remarks did not specifically mention LGBTQ Afghans. Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet did not either on Tuesday.

“We call on the international community to extend all possible support to those who may be at imminent risk, and we call on the Taliban to demonstrate through their actions, not just their words, that the fears for the safety of so many people from so many different walks of life are addressed,” said Colville.

Log Cabin Republicans Managing Director Charles Moran on Monday sharply criticized the Biden administration.

“Make no mistake, the reinstatement of the Taliban is a literal death sentence for LGBT Afghans,” said Moran. “Human rights abuses will absolutely increase under this radical regime. The Biden administration talks a tough game about supporting the LGBT community, but that support evidently doesn’t extend to our allies in Kabul.”

“We hope the administration will be held accountable by both parties for this unprecedented disaster, but right now the priority must be to evacuate as many proven U.S. partners and allies from Kabul as possible, including LGBT Afghans,” added Moran.

Powell stressed “now is time for governments to step up and support LGBTQI+ Afghan refugees.” He specifically noted the Canadian government’s announcement.

“Rainbow Railroad is looking forward to engaging with the Canadian government to identify and refer LGBTQI+ Afghans in need of emergency assistance,” said Powell. “We strongly encourage other governments to do the same.” 

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