As the ongoing humanitarian crisis continues to unfold across Afghanistan following the fall of Kabul on Aug. 15 and the Taliban’s swift takeover of the country, concerns over a new human rights crisis are starting to emerge. Gay and bisexual men in the country now fear that with the Taliban and Islamic militants back in control of the country, they could soon all face mass execution.
The Advocate has reported that queer men in the region do have a legitimate reason to worry.
“The German newspaper Bild already spoke to one Taliban judge who said the group would stone gay men,” Advocate reported, adding that “the group is known for its extremist view on Sharia Law, which would make homosexuality punishable by death.”
In an interview with Insider, a 37-year-old man working for the United Nations who opted to keep his identity private for his safety said, “I just hope that somebody comes and wakes me up from this bad dream.”
In the past, the man who Insider identified as Rameen recalled joyous times in the Afghanistan capital city, going dancing, frequenting karaoke bars, and hanging out with members of Kabul’s underground LGBTQ community.
“It was fantastic and so much fun,” he said. But that has all changed in just over a week. Now Rameen is scared to even leave his house, go to work, or meet his boyfriend.
“If the Taliban finds out about us, they’ll sentence us to death,” he said. “I think we will have to stop our relationship.”
According to Advocate, gay and bisexual men are now desperate to find a way out of the country and escape living under Taliban rule.
While homosexuality was still considered illegal and a deadly sin under the previous Afghanistan leadership, there was an uneasy acceptance of LGBTQ individuals, and no one had been sentenced to death for the “crime” for more than twenty years. However, during the Taliban’s rule in the 1990s, gay men were routinely hunted down, persecuted, beaten, and sentenced to death in cities like Kabul, Kandahar, Herat and elsewhere throughout the country.
“It’s clear to me that as soon as the Taliban know that I am a gay man, they will kill me without even thinking about it,” another Afghan man told Insider.
Although resources in the region are limited, Nemat Sadat — who was the first public figure in Afghanistan to promote LGBTQ rights — is among those currently trying to help at-risk men in the country as the crisis continues. A former political science professor at the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul, Sadat regularly campaigned for LGBTQ rights in Afghanistan until he began receiving death threats and was forced to flee to the U.S.
Today he is working feverishly to try and secure asylum for men still living in the country. Sadat told the Advocate, “it’s not hyperbolic to say that gay people will get weeded out and exterminated by the Taliban, just like the Nazis did. People are messaging me saying, ‘here’s my passport, here’s all my information, please get me out of this country, I’m going to die.’”
The Canadian LGBTQ organization, Rainbow Railroad, is one of several human rights groups around the globe currently attempting to save many of those at-risk Afghani men.
Rainbow Railroad is concerned that the return to power of the Taliban will lead to instances of extreme violence directed at members of the #LGBTQIA community in Afghanistan. We call on governments to step up and support Afhgan refugees. Full statement: https://t.co/5QigIKIrOV
— Rainbow Railroad (@RainbowRailroad) August 18, 2021
In a statement, the group said: “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. And although it remains to be seen how the Taliban will respond to international pressure to uphold human rights, early signs are not encouraging. Now is the time for governments to step up and support LGBTQI+ Afghan refugees.”