Jan 26, 2022 - World

Report: LGBTQ+ Afghans' lives "dramatically worsened" under Taliban rule

 Taliban fighters riding horses during a snowfall at the Qargha lake in Kabul on January 3.
Taliban fighters in Kabul, Afghanistan, earlier this month. Photo: Mohd Rasfan/AFP via Getty Images

LGBTQ+ Afghans have been threatened, attacked and "faced an increasingly desperate situation and grave threats to their safety" since the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan last August, per a report published Wednesday.

Details: "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," per a statement from study co-author J. Lester Feder.

  • "For those LGBT people who want to flee the country, there are few good options; most of Afghanistan's neighbors also criminalize same-sex relations. It is difficult to overstate how devastating — and terrifying — the return of Taliban rule has been for LGBT Afghans," added Feder, from advocacy group OutRight Action International, which compiled the report with Human Rights Watch.

State of play: "Despite making repeated pledges to respect human rights, the Taliban have engaged in widespread rights abuses since retaking control of the country, including revenge killings, systematic discrimination against women and girls, severe restrictions on freedom of expression and the media, and land grabbing," the report notes.

  • "The danger now facing LGBT people in Afghanistan — in an environment devoid of legal protections, under authorities that have explicitly pledged not to tolerate LGBT people — is grave."
  • The lives of LGBTQ+ Afghans have "dramatically worsened" since the Taliban regained control of the country.
  • Most of the 60 LGBTQ+ Afghans interviewed for the report believe their only path to safety is to move to a country with greater protections for the rights of LGBTQ+ people.

Yes, but: So far, very few of the hundreds of LGBTQ+ Afghans seeking resettlement are known to have escaped to a safe country, according to the report.

  • Only the United Kingdom has so far publicly announced that it has resettled a small number of LGBTQ+ Afghans (29, according to the BBC).

The big picture: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet warned in September that the Taliban's rule in Afghanistan had entered a "new and perilous phase," with the group breaking public promises on human rights.

Meanwhile, the country has plunged into a humanitarian crisis, with millions of Afghans facing dwindling food and fuel reserves.

  • The Biden administration announced earlier this month more than $308 million in humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan, bringing the total U.S. aid for the country and Afghan refugees to nearly $782 million since October.

What they're saying: A State Department spokesperson said in an emailed statement the U.S. had for years advocated for Afghans, including the LGBTQ+ community, and would continue to do so and support the protection of their rights "through diplomacy, international influence, and humanitarian aid."

  • The department would "continue to receive and process submissions for Afghans who may be eligible for referral to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program," identify ways to support Afghans at risk, including members of the LGBTQ+ community, facilitating safe travel from the country.
  • "There are sensitivities that make the effort to even identify LGBTQI+ individuals extremely difficult and potentially dangerous for the individuals in question," the spokesperson noted.
"The best we can say is that we know by numbers that we will help some, but we are unlikely ever to be sure how many since many people cannot disclose their sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex characteristics due to shame, stigma and fear of backlash."
State Department spokesperson

Read the report in full, via DocumentCloud:

Go deeper: Over 100 former Afghan security members dead or missing under Taliban rule

Editor's note: This story has been updated wit ha statement from the State Department.

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