Words: Alastair James; pictures: Unsplash (posted by model)
LGBTQ Afghans have told researchers that they have been attacked, abused, raped, or threatened by the Taliban, as well as members of their family, friends, and others who are known to them.
In horrifying accounts detailed to the Human Rights Watch and OutRight Action International, 60 Afghans spoke about their experiences since the Taliban regained control of the country last August.
Some shared they had been turned on by people now supporting the Taliban and wanting to protect themselves.
"Who should I hide from first? From my father or from the Taliban?"
Most of those interviewed were in Afghanistan, while some had managed to flee to nearby countries where they are still in danger, with only a few now in countries where they feel safe.
One account of someone, identified as 18-year-old 'Ali. A', details that he went into hiding after the Taliban takeover last August. Well known in the capital Kabul's queer community he was afraid of being recognised.
He told the researchers that he began receiving text threats before his mother told him his father, who was close with the Taliban, was hunting him. He said: "Who should I hide from first? From my father or from the Taliban?"
He hid in an abandoned warehouse, surviving on two biscuits a day. He also said: "I love my country, but I have to leave because I have to survive."
'Ramiz S.' said he was raped on his way to work one day. Armed men shouted homophobic abuse at him before beating him. He was then loaded into a car, taken somewhere else, whipped, and gang-raped.
He was threatened with it happening again with the men telling him, "From now on anytime we want to be able to find you, we will. And we will do whatever we want with you."
Ramiz was later told the Taliban had occupied his family home for three days demanding his family tell them where he is and beating his siblings.
Afghanistan has long been a dangerous place for LGBT people.— Human Rights Watch (@hrw) January 26, 2022
But when the Taliban regained control in 2021, the situation dramatically worsened. pic.twitter.com/KRLYwObIeS
The report contains numerous other horrendous accounts detailing horrific abuses and ordeals.
The situation in the country is as dire as many predicted and feared after the withdrawal of allied troops last year. It also confirms fears that harsh Sharia law would be imposed on LGBTQ people.
In July 2021, speaking to the German newspaper the Bild, Taliban judge Gul Rahim said: "For homosexuals, there can only be two punishments: either stoning or he must stand behind a wall that will fall down on him."
Fleeing is difficult for many Afghans, according to the research, given that many of Afghanistan's neighbours also criminalise homosexuality
The report says, "All governments have an obligation to promptly and fairly process asylum claims, including those from LGBT Afghans who fear persecution under the Taliban." So far, it says, the UK is the only country to have publicly said it has resettled some LGBTQ Afghans, which it did in October.
As well as calling on governments to do more, the report's authors call on the Taliban to end their abuses and revise laws punishing homosexuality.
The report clarifies that it's hard to gauge the extent of violence against the LGBTQ community and that documenting killings is difficult due to fears of being turned on.