Afghanistan’s secret gay community lives in fear of Taliban terror

  • Several gay Afghans spoke to Insider and described how they live in fear for their lives following the Taliban victory.
  • During the previous period of the Taliban regime, the militant group executed homosexuals.
  • An Afghan activist predicted that homosexuals in Afghanistan would be “wiped out and exterminated” by the Taliban.

In tears, Rameen * said his life had looked like a “nightmare” since Kabul fell to the Taliban on Sunday. “I just hope someone comes and wakes me from this bad dream,” the 37-year-old gay Afghan man told Insider in a phone call.

Rameen, who works for the United Nations, once enjoyed Afghanistan’s vibrant “underground” gay scene.

Even though homosexuality was illegal, he said he felt relatively safe during his weekly visit to an underground karaoke bar in Kabul to sing and dance with other members of the country’s hidden LGBTQ communities. “It was fantastic and so much fun,” Rameen recalls.

But within days Rameen’s life, like so many gay Afghans, was turned upside down. He now lives in constant fear and has been too afraid to be reunited with his boyfriend for three years.

“If the Taliban find out about our existence, they will sentence us to death,” Rameen said, crying. “I think we’ll have to end our relationship.”

Taliban fighters fly their flags during a patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, August 19, 2021.

Taliban fighters fly their flag on patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan on Thursday, August 19, 2021.

Rahmat Gul / AP

Like Rameen, the 21-year-old student Ghulam * also fears that he will never see his partner again.

“If we get caught, the Taliban will kill us,” he told Insider on a phone call.

The Taliban should apply a strict interpretation of Sharia law, which means that homosexuality would be punishable by death. In July, the German newspaper Bild reported that a judge from the radical Islamist group had sworn to sentence gay men to death by stoning or being crushed by a nine-foot wall.

Ghulam is so terrified of being identified as gay and put to death that he has not left his home since the Taliban took power.

“We cannot go out because we are just afraid for our lives,” he said.

The student, who dropped out of college, said he saw “no future” in Afghanistan. “If I had permission to get a visa to go to another country, I wouldn’t stay here a second longer,” he said.

Read more: Surreal videos appear to show armed Taliban fighters riding bumper cars and merry-go-round after their takeover of Afghanistan

Sayed *, a 36-year-old gay man from northern Afghanistan’s Balkh province, told Insider via Facebook Messenger that he is also desperately seeking asylum from the new hard-line Islamist regime.

Life, he said, changed dramatically for the worse in the space of a week. “Previously, I could meet a partner one-on-one without feeling the slightest bit of shame,” Sayed said.

Homosexual relations have technically been punishable by death in Afghanistan for decades, but according to the UK Country of Origin report on Afghanistan, they have not been enforced since the end of the first Taliban regime in 2001 .

Now Sayed fears that executions will become commonplace, as was the case during the Taliban’s previous period of power. “It is 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,” he said.

Sayed told Insider that he dreams of one day living authentically as a gay man in Canada.

Nemat Sadat

Activist Nemat Sadat fears that homosexuals in Afghanistan will be “wiped out and exterminated” by the Taliban.

Provided by Nemat Sadate

Nemat Sadat, the first Afghan public figure to champion LGBTQ rights, told Insider he was helping Afghan gays like Sayed seek asylum and leave the country.

Sadat was the organizer of a nascent LGBTQ rights movement in Afghanistan while working as a professor of political science at the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul. After receiving death threats, including a fatwa against him, he left the country in 2013 to live in the United States.

“It is not hyperbolic to say that homosexuals will be eliminated”

He urges the international community to act quickly to help vulnerable people escape persecution by the new regime.

“It is not hyperbolic to say that homosexuals will be wiped out and exterminated by the Taliban, just like the Nazis did,” he said. “People are texting me saying this is my passport, this is all my information, please take me out of this country i am going to die.”

Hamid Zaher

Hamid Zaher left Afghanistan in 2001.

Provided by Hamid Zaher

Hamid Zaher, 47, who was one of the first Afghans to speak publicly, told Insider that while LGBTQ Afghans have always faced risks of violence and imprisonment at the hands of authorities, these dangers are pale in comparison to the brutality and intolerance of the Taliban.

He left Afghanistan in 2001 and, after living in Turkey, was able to apply for asylum in Canada in 2008.

Zaher said that even under the government backed by the United States, it was “a very bad time” for gay men. “Before, they could be put in jail, or they could be beaten,” he explained. “But now if the Taliban stop them, they will kill them.”

Najib Faizi

Najib Faizi hopes other LGBTQ Afghans will be granted asylum like him.

Najib Faizi / Instagram

Najib Faizi, 21, who describes himself as the first drag queen of Afghan origin, left Afghanistan at the age of 10 and applied for asylum in Germany with his older sister.

Faizi told Insider he doesn’t take his freedom for granted. “I’m so happy here. I can do whatever I want. I’m free,” he said.

His public activism and striking social media presence still means he receives death threats from conservative Afghans.

The drag queen said that over the past week he made desperate Instagram calls from locals who hope to live freely like him one day.

“I hope others can get asylum. I have contacted people in Germany and told them they need to help LGBTQ people. They need help,” he said. “Nobody accepts them.”

“Now is the time for governments to intervene”

Pressure is mounting on countries to accept vulnerable asylum seekers fleeing persecution by the Taliban.

Rainbow Railroad, a Canadian charity that helps LGBTQ people escape oppression in their home countries, issued a statement urging governments to welcome vulnerable Afghan refugees.

“The time has come for governments to step up and support LGBTQI + Afghan refugees,” the association said.

Canada intends to resettle over 20,000 Afghans, prioritizing minorities, including activists and people from LGBTQ communities.

The United States is expected to host fewer than 10,000 refugees this year, the lowest number since 1975, and has accepted fewer than 500 Afghan refugees in 2021, Insider previously reported.

More than a dozen governors have urged President Biden to welcome more Afghan refugees, and critics have said the application process is bureaucratic and well overdue.

The message to politicians, bureaucrats and Western officials from Afghan homosexuals is clear. “I hope to get out of here alive,” Ghulam said.

(* The names of gay men Insider spoke to in Afghanistan have been changed to protect their identities)


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