Living in the darkness: the persecution and oppression of the LGBTQ+ community in Afghanistan

Afghanistan now lives in a period stricken by fear and radicalization of laws, instituted by the Taliban, that place a retreat on the rights and freedoms that many Afghans were able to reach in the past 20 years.  Those who identify themselves with the LGBTQ+ community are the most affected with this new government, controlled by the fundamentalist Islamic group, and live each day with the fear of death.

After dominating the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul, the Taliban were able to take control of the rest of the country, reaching the top spot with little resistance. Despite the belief that they would follow a more moderate route and notwithstanding the initially made promises by the extremist group, it seems that the reality might be the opposite. With the Taliban government already constituted, there are already numerous worries from the international community in relation to the violation of human rights in the country.

Women, children, people with disabilities, members of national/racial/Ethnic minority groups and LGBTQ+ people are some examples of groups that have always suffered by their fragility on Afghanistan. Following the report elaborated on 2020 by the department of state of the US referring to the practices of human rights in Afghanistan, discrimination, verbal abuse, and threats against the physical integrity on these people have always existed on the country.

Life was never totally secure nor pleasant for the LGBTQ+ people, but the situation of vulnerability is worsening day by day. Before the arrival of the Taliban on the power, there were reports of persecution and violence by civilians and police against these people, many could even face years of prison according to the criminal code of the country, in 2017. We should take note that the conditions guaranteed to the members of the community were and still are very precarious, notably on the access to health services, but also to work employment, just because of the sexual orientation, that has forever been seen as taboo and inappropriate.

Sharia is an Islamic law applied in several countries, including Afghanistan, that will start to be governed based on it, just as referred by the Taliban commander, Wahidullah Hashini:“We will not discuss what type of political system should we apply in Afghanistan because it is clear. It is Sharia law and that is it”, on a release to Reuters. On the previous mandate of this group, back in 1995 to 2001, homosexuality was a crime punished by death penalty, following the Taliban interpretation of Sharia. It’s interpretation and actual application, despite being a little less radical and severe than the previously period controlled by the group, it is a clear demonstration of the retrocession in the face of the achieved advances of the society during the US intervention on Afghanistan (2001-2021).

Living in the dark seems to be the best solution for these people. The majority feels abandoned by the international community because they were not offered the best assistance in fleeing the country. Considering this, there aren’t that many organizations dedicated to protecting the rights and freedom of this community. Most of them operate in a clandestine way since registration with the government isn’t possible, which complicates their work and assurance of the given support to the ones who need it the most. Other established organizations, express their position towards the situation of these people in the country, like Rainbow Railroad, who said that “We must not lose sight of the fact that we need more proactive policies to help LGBTQI+ persons in crisis situations”.

There are other factors that interfere even more with the assistance or safety’s assurance of these LGBTQ+ Afghans. Afghanistan is a country with a permanent conflict. Besides that, by searching for asylum, these people face some dangers such as being sent to other countries who don’t have a good relationship with the acceptance and assurance of the rights of this community, taking the risk of being submitted to invasive physical tests in order to deduce their homosexuality.

In that way, we realize that, today, the LGBTQ+ community is still perceived in a negative way by many countries. Considering the series of threats faced every day, they continue to be the most unprotected and vulnerable people in countries like Afghanistan. If we don’t see a bigger intervention of NGO’s specialized in supporting refugees, who are forced to flee for multiple reasons, the oppression and persecution of this group will continuously get worse in the country. Therefore, it’s also urgent that States are open to assure the protection of the asylum seekers, particularly every person affected by conflicts, in which their Human Rights are being denied daily, such as the right of life and safety.

Translated by: Maria Luís Dias and Matilde São José

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