LGBTQ Afghans face increase in rape, torture after Taliban takeover, report says

LGBTQ Afghans have been increasingly threatened, beaten and raped since the Taliban took control of the country in August, a new report says.

The advocacy groups Human Rights Watch and OutRight Action International have put together a snapshot of how the recently re-activated Taliban regime has targeted Afghans based on sexual orientation or gender identity. their. And while LGBTQ Afghans have long lived in peril, the groups concluded that the situation had “become significantly worse” after the Taliban took over.

“The thing that I think we hear most often from the people we interviewed, who are still in Afghanistan, is that they don’t leave their rooms. The level of fear of being targeted is so great that they feel like they are risking their lives to buy food,” said J. Lester Feder, one of the study’s co-authors and senior fellow of emergency research at OutRight Action International. . “And before that, these are people who have a job or a way to eat, who can go back to their city – and that’s a real change.”

Give report, published Tuesday night, researchers interviewed 60 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and homosexual Afghans, most in their 20s, between October and May. 12 years ago. By telling the stories of abuse allegations made by interviewees, the report shows that threats, violence and harassment against LGBTQ people have become more common under Taliban rule. .

Weeks after Taliban forces captured the Afghan capital Kabul in August, a 20-year-old gay man reported that Taliban members detained him at a checkpoint. He was then beaten and gang raped, he said.

Taliban members told him after the attack, according to reports. “And we’ll do whatever we want with you.”

The report said that after the incident, the young man went into hiding, but the Taliban then continued to harass and attack members of his family. In one case, Taliban fighters stayed in his family’s home for three days, interrogating and beating them, researchers say.

The report also details the increase in abuse faced by LGBTQ Afghans from their own family members.

One interviewee, a lesbian from a small village in Afghanistan, said that her uncle and male cousins ​​were encouraged to kill her after they joined the Taliban.

“If you don’t do this, we will,” she recalls a relative telling her parents, according to the report. “We have authority.”

Heather Barr, a co-author of the report and deputy director of the women’s rights division at Human Rights Watch, attributed the assault to family members because of their own fear of the wrath of Taliban.

“There’s a kind of feeling that you get credit from the Taliban for attracting people, that one way to keep yourself safe is to get rid of everyone else,” Barr said. “Some people are clearly feeling that the way to keep themselves from being questioned is to turn others over in an environment that has no protections from the rule of law.”

The report also points out specifically how gender-mismatched individuals have faced danger under Taliban rule. Several of the report’s interviewees told researchers they were beaten in the street for wearing gender-conforming clothing or looking “too Western”.

An Afghan transgender woman said: “Every moment we receive threats and calls. “Even the kids on the street say, ‘Are you still here? Why hasn’t the Taliban arrested you yet? ‘”

Nemat Sadat, a former political science professor at the American University of Afghanistan, echoed the view that, among LGBTQ Afghans, transgender and gender-nonconforming Afghans are more vulnerable.

Sadat, who told NBC News: “A gay or bisexual transgender person, who can grow a beard, who can look like the Taliban, who can wear their clothes, who can dress like them they… they won’t even be questioned,” said Sadat, who told NBC News he has spoken to more than 200 Afghans who have been targeted or tortured by the Taliban since August.

“A lot of Afghans want to get out, and we should try to help all of them, but we have to make it a priority,” added Sadat, suggesting that transgender and non-binary Afghans should accept it. previous help.

To support LGBTQ Afghans, the report’s authors call on other countries – particularly the United States – to expedite evacuation and resettlement applications, support targeted humanitarian assistance programs specifically to LGBTQ Afghans and apply diplomatic leverage.

During the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in August, supporters and legislators urges the State Department to specifically include LGBTQ Afghanistan in its commitment to evacuate vulnerable people from the country. That request, however, went unanswered.

However, a State Department spokesperson told NBC News in an email that the Biden administration will continue to help LGBTQ Afghans through “diplomacy, international influence, and humanitarian aid.” that the evacuation of LGBTQ people in Afghanistan is “extremely difficult” and “potentially dangerous.”

“The best we can say is that we know from the numbers that we’ll help some people, but we’re not sure how many because many are unable to reveal their sexual orientation, identity, or sexual orientation.” their gender or gender identity due to shame, stigma and fear of backlash,” the spokesperson said.

Only Canada, the United Kingdom, and Ireland have publicly stated that they will commit to resettlement of LGBTQ people in Afghanistan.

“I’m disappointed in general at the international community’s growing detachment from all human rights issues in Afghanistan, but I think this issue has been particularly overlooked from the start,” Barr said, referring to Afghanistan. address the plight of LGBTQ Afghans.

“I mean, it’s been neglected for as long as I’ve been working in Afghanistan, but it’s more important than ever for people to actually get involved and raise this issue,” said Barr, who has worked on the issue. Human rights related to Afghanistan added the project for 15 years.

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Jake Nichol

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