After the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan last year, twenty-year-old gay man Ramiz took a big risk.
He left his home to collect his paycheck from his workplace.
Already terrified of reprisal for his profession, Ramiz had no choice but to pass through Taliban checkpoints to get there.
At one checkpoint, he was confronted by an armed officer who shouted at him, “You are an izak,” a gay slur.
Then the officers attacked him. One hit Ramiz in the throat to silence him. The man then punched him in the stomach and kicked him in the back.
The Taliban officers then loaded Ramiz into a car and took him to another location.
Once there, four men whipped Ramiz and then gang raped him over the course of eight hours.
They told him, “From now on anytime we want to be able to find you, we will. And we will do whatever we want with you.”
Two men later came to his office and demanded Ramiz’s records.
He was in hiding, but the men later interrogated his family for days and beat his siblings.
‘Increasingly desperate situation’ at hands of Taliban
The two accounts are among 60 accounts of violence in a new report from Human Rights Watch and OutRight Action International.
The report Even If You Go To The Skies, We’ll Find You highlights the “increasingly desperate situation” face by LGBTIQ+ people in Afghanistan who fear for their lives.
It features interviews with 60 LGBT+ Afghans conducted from October to December last year.
Many describe their constant fear of being outed to the Taliban by family, neighbours, or ex-partners.
However even if they can hide themselves, the LGBT+ Afghans can’t work as a result and risk starving to death.
Marwa, a lesbian and women’s rights activist, fled her home city alone mid-2021 after family joined the Taliban and raided her home.
But by herself in another city she still wasn’t safe.
Staying with a gay male friend was also too dangerous. So the pair got married.
“I was alone. If I continued to stay alone or stay with my friend (my husband now) Taliban might arrest us,” she said.
“That is why I asked him to prepare a marriage document.”
Transgender Afghans outed by ID documents
A trans woman, Riza, was confronted at her home by twenty neighbours, who beat her viciously and tore off her clothes.
The neighbours called the Taliban, and officers arrived and tied Riza up with rope and put her into a police car.
A friend found her dumped in the street over a week later, covered in bruises and cuts and with an apparent broken nose.
Riza told the friend Taliban officers held her naked at the police station and beat her every day.
Her captors told Riza her treatment is “a sign to the public and to your trans community.” A Taliban commander also warned her that if he ever saw her in the city again, he would kill her.
Another transgender woman tried to request her identity documents to leave the country late last year.
But the government official demanded she have sex with him in exchange for processing her paperwork.
“Maybe you can come over and dance for us and have a lot of fun, then maybe we can do your work,” she said the official told her.
A 20-year-old trans man, Samyar, said he had been “hiding in his room for 30 days” since the Taliban seized control of his city.
Samyar was desperate to flee the country but he had no passport. To get one, he’d need to travel to Kabul and pass through Taliban checkpoints.
“Even trans people who pass as cisgender could be outed by their ID cards,” the report warns.
“[The cards] list the gender they were assigned at birth.”
‘No hope that state institutions will protect them’
OutRight Action International researcher J Lester Feder said it was “difficult to overstate how devastating – and terrifying” the Taliban’s return has been for LGBT+ Afghans.
“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.
“They have no hope that state institutions will protect them.
“For those LGBT people who want to flee the country, there are few good options.
“Most of Afghanistan’s neighbours also criminalise same-sex relations.”
Human Right Watch’s Heather Barr said the Taliban have “explicitly pledged not to respect LGBT Afghans’ rights.”
Shortly before seizing power, a Taliban judge told German media, “For homosexuals, there can only be two punishments: either stoning, or he must stand behind a wall that will fall down on him.”
Barr said it was “extremely disappointing” to see foreign governments’ lack of action in assisting Afghan refugees.
“There seems to be a kind of feeling that it’s over and it’s time to move on,” she said.
“That’s not how asylum decisions are supposed to be made.”
Barr said foreign governments were responsible not just for the resettlement of LGBTIQ+ refugees, but also to pressure the Taliban on human rights for all Afghans.
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