Fri, 20 May 2022

New York [US], January 27 (ANI): Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Afghanistan have faced grave threats to their safety and lives under the Taliban, said Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a newly released report.

A 43-page report, based on 60 interviews with LGBT Afghans, revealed how Taliban members attacked or threatened them because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Many reported abuse from family members, neighbours, and romantic partners who now support the Taliban or believed they had to act against LGBT people close to them to ensure their own safety, the HRW and OutRight Action International said in its report.

Some fled their homes from attacks by Taliban members or supporters pursuing them. Others watched lives they had carefully built over the years disappear overnight and found themselves at risk of being targeted at any time because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

"We spoke with LGBT Afghans who have survived gang rape, mob attacks, or have been hunted by their own family members who joined the Taliban, and they have no hope that state institutions will protect them," said J. Lester Feder, senior fellow for emergency research at OutRight Action International.

"For those LGBT people who want to flee the country, there are few good options; most of Afghanistan's neighbours also criminalize same-sex relations. It is difficult to overstate how devastating - and terrifying - the return of Taliban rule has been for LGBT Afghans."The HRW said most interviewees were in Afghanistan, while others had fled to nearby countries. In addition to worrying about these countries' laws against same-sex relations, interviewees outside Afghanistan lacked proper immigration status, so were at risk of being summarily deported.

The New York-based group said Afghanistan was a dangerous place for LGBT people well before the Taliban retook full control of the country on August 15, 2021.

LGBT people interviewed had experienced many abuses because of their sexual orientation or gender identity prior to the Taliban's return to power, including sexual violence, child and forced marriage, physical violence from their families and others, expulsion from schools, blackmail, and being outed.

According to the report, the situation dramatically worsened when the Taliban regained control of the country. The Taliban reaffirmed the previous government's criminalization of same-sex relations, and some of its leaders vowed to take a hard line against the rights of LGBT people. A Taliban spokesperson told Reuters in October, "LGBT... That's against our Sharia [Islamic] law."Heather Barr, associate women's rights director at HRW, said the Taliban have explicitly pledged not to respect LGBT Afghans rights.

"It's critically important for concerned governments to urgently put pressure on the Taliban to respect the rights of LGBT people, ensure that assistance they provide Afghanistan reaches LGBT people, and recognize that LGBT Afghans seeking asylum face a special risk of persecution in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries." (ANI)

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