‘It’s all gone’ for LGBT Afghans, says bi man who escaped Taliban
A Taliban fighter walks past a beauty salon with images of disfigured women. (Wakil Kohsar / Getty)
The situation is dire for LGBT + people in Afghanistan now that the Taliban has returned to power, says a bisexual man who recently fled the country.
Afghanistan was not a hospitable place for LGBT + people before the Taliban takeover that shocked the world, but human rights activists expect things to get worse. The militant group is likely to apply an extreme interpretation of Sharia law that could see swathes of women and LGBT + people executed.
Mehrshad * is a bisexual man who decided to flee Afghanistan when he learned that US forces were negotiating with the Taliban (* his name has been changed to protect his identity). He currently resides in a European country as an undocumented migrant.
“I realized that there was no hope for the future in Afghanistan for me,” he said. RoseNews. “I insisted on my mother that I leave. My mom said, “No, wait until some legal way comes up, like a scholarship, maybe an invitation from any country.”
“I couldn’t handle the situation in Afghanistan because it was very difficult for me. I was very tired of hiding my identity, my sexuality, my ideology. I couldn’t talk to anyone. During the last three years in Afghanistan, I was at home all the time, reading books, watching movies, staying at home. I didn’t dare go out. I would barely go out for an hour or two with my very close friends and family, not with classmates or other guys, because I was scared.
His asylum journey was eventful. He eventually had to pay a smuggler to take him to a European country from Iran. An asylum application was opened, but it was then closed by mistake, he says. He still does not know what his current legal situation is.
Mehrshad spent time on the streets before meeting a man and moving in with him. He acknowledges that the situation in Afghanistan for LGBT + people is grim, but he believes it is just as bad for those who have fled the country. Complicated processes and hostile systems have meant that some Afghans have found themselves stuck in a legal vacuum, as has Mehrshad.
While Mehrshad no longer lives on the streets, he is still afraid for his future. He is considering trying to leave the country he is currently based in for another European country in the hopes that the asylum process will not be as turbulent elsewhere.
‘Everyone is hiding’ in Afghanistan, says bisexual who fled
While living in Afghanistan, Mehrshad kept his sexuality to himself. He worries about LGBT + people stranded in the country now.
“There is no underground community for LGBT people, there is no higher ground – nothing. Nobody says their sexuality. Everyone is hiding. Nobody knows my sexuality [in Afghanistan], not my friends – except my cousin, no one else knows.
Like the rest of the world, he has watched with horror in recent days the Taliban taking control of Afghanistan.
“It’s like watching the The walking deadMehrshad says of the Taliban. “It’s like that, as if the zombies are invading the country. They’ve already taken over the country, and there is no safe place.
He is deeply concerned for LGBT + people in his home country, but he is also terrified for his atheist friends who he says will be persecuted by the Taliban. While still living in Afghanistan, Mehrshad used to meet a group of fellow atheists once a week where they discussed the books they read and different ideologies. Because many of them were visible and expressed their atheism, Mehrshad feared they were at the top of the Taliban persecution list.
“We were a small community that got together on Thursdays to read books and talk about different ideologies in different countries like Marxism, Capitalism, Socialism and all that, and now I’m very worried about these guys because they wanted to try and leave the country and now all lanes are closed, ”he said.
“I’m very worried about atheists because they came out, but LGBT people [community], they did not expose themselves. Only maybe one or two got exposed. I have friends who deleted their Facebook accounts, they deleted all of their posts, to try and hide but I don’t think that’s the way to hide. There is no community to support atheists in Afghanistan.
“The Taliban say, ‘We’re here for Sharia law, we just want Islamic law,’ and Islamic law is very clear about atheists, about LGBT people. It is really clear that an atheist is an infidel and that an infidel should be stoned or hanged. LGBT people are the same.
“No one can negotiate with the Taliban. They want to go back 1,400 years ago to when Muhammad was in the deserts of Saudi Arabia. They want to live like this, and there is nothing good for atheists and LGBT people and those who wanted to enlighten people for a better future. Everything is gone.
Mehrshad’s comments come just days after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan as the US military left. Human rights groups have expressed fear for the country’s women and girls, as well as the already besieged LGBT + community, which will likely face violence and persecution under their extremist rule.
Talk to RoseNewsAuthor Nemat Sadat said the Taliban would “wipe out and exterminate” the LGBT + community.
“The Taliban will impose a ‘bait, kill and throw’ policy,” Sadat said. “That is, they will appoint informants to lure gay and bisexual men online and into public spaces and take them to a secluded place, kill them and get rid of their bodies.”
“I know this because that’s what infiltrated Taliban elements in the Afghan government did during the Karzai and Ghani era and those who escaped shared their stories with me.”