What the Taliban Means for Queer Afghans
Afghan LGBT

What the Taliban Means for Queer Afghans

20 Apr 2022

Foreign Policy Magazine:

Last year, Afghanistan was a near impossible place to be a queer person. During the two decades that the United States occupied the country, homosexuality remained criminalized by vague legal language that endangered all queer people, forcing them to essentially live underground.

Artemis Akbary, a queer activist and co-founder of the country’s first organization to support LGBQT+ Afghans, said the support Western countries pledged to queer Afghans both before and after the U.S. withdrawal never materialized.

“Unfortunately, in the past two decades, there wasn’t any organization that worked for the LGBT community in Afghanistan,” he said, referring to the period of time that the United States occupied the country. Akbary’s group has so far sent money to 100 queer Afghans in need of food and a way to escape.

Although it’s always been difficult to be queer in Afghanistan, survival was at least possible

Aliya, 24, is a gay man who lives in western Afghanistan. He said before the return of the Taliban, it was often the public that posed the most risk. And while the police would sometimes assault LGBTQ+ individuals, the government wasn’t actively prosecuting their queerness as a crime. Queer Afghans at the time were able to socialize in certain safe spaces and use the internet to learn about their identities or advocate for their rights.

Now, even that small sliver of freedom is gone.

According to the half dozen queer Afghans interviewed for this story, the Taliban appear to be actively searching for them, adding a level of terror to their already dangerous existence.

Amir, 21, used to run an Instagram page supporting LGBTQ+ rights in Afghanistan. But he hasn’t posted since August 2021, fearing the Taliban might use his social media to trace him. “It was very effective in helping me understand that I was not alone,” he said in a phone interview about the importance of social media to him.

Akbary confirmed that the Taliban are working to entrap queer Afghans.

“In the first week of the takeover, the Taliban befriended a gay man on Facebook and told him that they can get him out of Afghanistan. When he met them, they raped him,” Akbary said.

Report by , a reporter for the Fuller Project from Toronto, and , a reporter for Fuller Project based in Berlin.

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