Kabul was known as one of the few “liberal” cities of Afghanistan. The word liberal is in quotes, and inflected, because it is liberal in relation to the rest of the country. Now that the Taliban has taken power, most people who speak differently and openly are forced to adhere to Sharia law, completely change their behavior, hide their identity, or be killed.
The The US State Department said in 2020 that even before the Taliban took power in August, LGBTQ people in Afghanistan faced “discrimination, assault and rape” and “homosexuality was widely viewed as taboo and indecent.” Laws against lesbians, gays and transgender people have made their existence illegal and liable to two years in prison. These laws were not always enforced, but they left LGBTQ people at risk of extortion and abuse by authorities because reported by the UK government.
Even with discrimination and abuse, LGBTQ people still had a small place in society. Nemat Sadat, an Afghan LGBTQ author living in the United States, said that gays, lesbians and transgender people have helped the country’s cultural life develop since the last Taliban rule 20 years ago. But, most of these people have built their lives quietly.
Now, with the Taliban regime, their small space in society is gone, there is no more room to live quietly as an openly LGBTQ person. According to the interpretation of Sharia law by the Taliban, homosexuality is punishable by death.
In a interview with Reuters, Waheedullah Hashimi, one of the key decision makers of the Taliban said: “there will be no democratic system at all because it has no base in our country”, and continued by saying: “what type of political system should we apply in Afghanistan? is clear. It’s Sharia law and that’s it.
A source spoke to a 20-year-old university student who is a lesbian in Afghanistan. Her family accepted her as a lesbian, but now the new Taliban leadership has put the lives of her whole family in danger. There is a new wave of violence against all lesbian, gay and transgender people. This includes anyone believed to be lesbian, gay, or trans, and those who support them.
This young lesbian has gone underground. She is one of hundreds of LGBTQ people in Afghanistan who advocate with advocates and organizations outside of Afghanistan to help them escape the tyranny of the Taliban.
Nemat Sadat tells stories of hidden lesbians, gays and transsexuals. He told the story of a gay man who watched from his ceiling hiding as Taliban fighters beat the friend who refused to reveal his location.
LGBTQ people in Afghanistan fear being arrested, beaten and killed. The Taliban have made it clear that they are enforcing their strict religious laws against LGBTQ citizens of Afghanistan. In an interview with the German newspaper Bild, a Taliban judge said there were only two punishments for homosexuality: “stoning or being crushed under a wall”.
LGBTQ people in Afghanistan report that their friends, partners and members of their community are attacked and raped. They also said that Islamic fundamentalists and riot groups are encouraged by the new tyranny and are looking for LGBTQ people.
Another source said a gay man was targeted for his sexuality and then raped by his male attackers. It is a terrible paradox. He was raped by his male attackers, who criminalized him for having same-sex relationships.
LGBTQ people are in hiding, desperately trying to get out of the country, and trying to erase all evidence of their queer identity.
They feel abandoned by the international LGBTQ community. The Taliban prove that Western nations have normalized their relations with their government. The Taliban and their supporters see it as proof of their victory. This leaves LGBTQ people defeated and fearful of torture and death.
The US government and other Western countries have evacuated scores of people from Afghanistan, including journalists, women’s rights activists and people working with foreigners. But, LGBTQ activists said nothing had been done for them. A source said of his situation: “We will definitely be killed. We demand to be evacuated immediately from Afghanistan. To date, no safe route has been found.
Even covert measures to help LGBTQ people are difficult and almost impossible. The Rainbow Railroad is a non-governmental organization that helps LGBTQ people around the world escape persecution. Executive Director Kimahli Powell said the evacuation of LGBTQ people from Afghanistan is particularly difficult as they are often alone, in hiding and unable to contact each other. If the routes to get them out are almost impossible, it always means that these routes are somewhat possible. As difficult as it may be, we have to find ways to save these people and get them out.
The Taliban regime has established itself, knowing with certainty that the world will stand aside, while condemning and protesting, but not intervening. It empowers jihadists around the world, especially in the Middle East. The Taliban have many allies and admirers, including the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Hamas.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh traveled from the Palestinian territories to meet with Taliban leaders in Qatar. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad has a history of ties to the Taliban, even with radicals who join with each other. Very public congratulatory statements were made between the leaders of the Taliban, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, all with full Iranian support.
The brazen increase in strength of these groups extends beyond Afghanistan and extends to lands dominated by other similar groups. This causes an escalation of threats against anyone who opposes Sharia or lives differently from what Sharia allows. LGBTQ people in these lands are in danger.
If we do not help LGBTQ people in Afghanistan, the lives of LGBTQ people subjected to other similar tyrannies face increased uncertainty and danger.
Since posting this video, I have been receiving direct messages from LGBTQ people hiding in Afghanistan and those seeking to be evacuated. They all share heartbreaking experiences of being attacked, raped and threatened by the Taliban, Islamic State and intimidation groups.
Yuval David is an innovative actor, host and filmmaker with a creative mantra to entertain, uplift and inspire. He’s a compelling performer and compelling storyteller who uses his platform to share stories that affect social change, especially on behalf of well-respected US and international organizations that reach out to marginalized and underrepresented people, inspired by his LGBTQ + and Jewish identity, and his Israeli-American roots.
He can be reached via social networks