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'We want life like other people': The Taliban is hunting down queer folks in Afghanistan

As the Taliban regime comes into place across Afghanistan, members of the LGBTQ+ community, in particular, are scared for their lives.

'We want life like other people': The Taliban is hunting down queer folks in Afghanistan
Image Source: 82nd Airborne Division Searches For Weapons And Al Qaeda In Afghanistan. YAYEH KEHL, AFGHANISTAN - NOVEMBER 14. (Photo by Amel Emric-Pool/Getty Images)

Trigger Warning: Violence and Discrimination Against the LGBTQ+ Community, Descriptions of Sexual Assault

Following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the country's most marginalized, including women and members of the LGBTQ+ community, have become most at risk of experiencing violence. While the Middle Eastern state has a long history of discrimination against queer folks, Taliban rule is expected to make circumstances worse. At present, it is unclear how the Taliban will enforce its strict religious laws against queer Afghans. Nonetheless, LGBTQ+ activists claim that the situation grows bleaker every day. Therefore, hundreds of LGBTQ+ people in Afghanistan have urged advocates outside the country to help them escape the Taliban regime, CNN reports.


"The situation gets worse every day," said Rabia Balkhi*, a lesbian currently residing in Afghanistan. "The fear of arrest is part of life now and I have such stress that I can't even sleep." The Taliban is yet to release an official statement about its policies with regard to the LGBTQ+ community. In a request for comment, a Taliban spokesman informed CNN that they had no definitive plans for their LGBTQ+ population yet. He stated, "When there is anything I will keep you updated." However, reports have already emerged of queer folks experiencing violent attacks and sexual assault. According to Balkhi, one gay man in her neighborhood had been sexually assaulted after he was discovered by a member of the Taliban.


In light of these incidents, LGBTQ+ people have resorted to hiding in single rooms and basements for several weeks straight. Many simply stare at the wall or endlessly scroll on their phones for a hint of a way out. Some are alone, running out of food, while others are being hidden by friends who keep watch and bring them supplies. Regardless of their experiences, all members of Afghanistan's LGBTQ+ community have one thing in common: they feel abandoned by the international community. As flights out of Afghanistan have now come to a halt, queer folks have no way to exit the country before the Taliban's brutal laws come into place.


Even prior to the militant group's takeover, life in Afghanistan was difficult for members of the LGBTQ+ community. A 2020 US State Department report on Afghanistan claimed LGBTQ+ people faced "discrimination, assault, and rape" as well as harassment and arrest by authorities. The report affirmed, "Homosexuality was widely seen as taboo and indecent." Under the Taliban regime, homosexuality may be punishable by death. Balkhi, therefore, is worried the Taliban may even stone her to death for being a lesbian. This is particularly frightening as members of the Taliban have details on families across the country. She said, "The Taliban have exact information about every family here."


Given the circumstances, Balkhi and other LGBTQ+ activists have called on the international community to help queer folks evacuate the country as soon as possible. Two LGBTQ activists outside of Afghanistan told CNN they had separate lists each with hundreds of names of people who want to flee. However, as time goes on, the lists get shorter. US-based LGBTQ+ Afghan author Nemat Sadat shared, "I'm not sure if they're dead or they escaped out of the country and unable to receive my calls. A lot of LGBTQ+ Afghans are losing hope and telling me they are begging for food or starving." Hilal, an LGBTQ+ activist in Afghanistan affirmed, "I want life and democracy. We are human, we want life like other people, but other people can live and we cannot. It is not our fault that we're LGBTQ+. God built us like this."

*Names in this article have been changed for safety reasons.


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