featured image

Waves of hatred, persecution, and violence against the LGBTQI+ community in Afghanistan

In the grip of Taliban ideology, Afghanistan is eroding its rich traditional culture by again becoming a host to Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism. Today, women and members of the LGBTQI+ community are deprived of their fundamental human rights and even discussing any aspect of the LGBTQI+ community or advocating for their rights is considered a crime, let alone any hope of a formal recognition of their sexual orientations or ensuring their human rights are protected. The LGBTQI+ community in Afghanistan is alive but unable to live. 

Since the Taliban’s return to power, we have witnessed an increase in hatred, attacks, and violence directed against women and LGBTQI+ individuals, as well as widespread suppression of their human rights. With each passing day, the Taliban engage in more inhumane practices, including detaining women on the streets because of their clothing choices. Unfortunately, the widespread violation of human rights against women and the LGBTQI+ community in Afghanistan is all but ignored by the international community, as evident from the almost complete silence by the United Nations, which seems to be dismissing the need to document the violence and systematic oppression against women and the LGBTQI+ community that is occurring throughout Afghanistan. 

The Taliban regime is determined to stigmatize and condemn diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. Similar to other Islamist extremists, the Taliban regularly portray LGBTQI+ individuals as “sick, immoral, corrupt, animal-like, diseased, and irreligious.” Thedehumanization of the community is used to justify their removal from society and encourages ordinary members of society to engage in violence against this gender minority. To find members of the LGBTQI+ community, the Taliban scour online platforms and social media to find, identify, and arrest these individuals, reportedly aided in their efforts by other Islamist extremists. Those who are detained endure violence, torture, and even worse at the hands of the Taliban.  

 The Taliban have issued numerous verdicts designed to punish LGBTQI+ individuals. In one recent case, the Taliban’s supreme court announced on January 7 that four individuals in Kandahar had been publicly flogged on charges of “sodomy.” According to the court’s statement, each individual was sentenced to 18 months of “enforceable imprisonment” as well as 39 lashes. The court stated that the sentences were carried out in the courtyard of the Kandahar trial court, in the presence of officials, spectators, and ordinary citizens. 

Earlier, the deputy chief justice of the Taliban had announced that Taliban courts across Afghanistan had sentenced a total of 37 individuals to “stoning” and four individuals to “execution by wall collapse.” Such punishments are often imposed on those convicted of same-sex relationships. Thus, the Taliban label the sexual relationship between two men as “sodomy” and consider it a crime worthy of execution. 

The unceasing structural violence being perpetrated in Afghanistan has put so much pressure on those unable to leave the country that some have died by suicide. Meanwhile, s other members of the LGBTQI+ community have fled the country, often by illegal and dangerous routes.  Many of these individuals have sought refuge in neighboring countries such as Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey. Even there, they are not safe as they face the risk of expulsion back to Afghanistan. In addition, they are vulnerable to sexual exploitation, torture, and killings in countried dominated by similar repressive political conditions and widespread  anti-LGBTQI+ sentiments. An example of this tragic reality was the killing of a transgender refugee named Obaid in Peshawar, Pakistan. He had undergone gender confirmation surgery in Pakistan and was murdered in a rickshaw on December 26, 2023, by unidentified assailants. He was not even the first LGBTQI+ refugee murdered in Pakistan. And now, many community members in Pakistan are also at risk of being deported to Afghanistan. 

In conclusion, Afghanistan’s LGBTQI+ community faces unprecedented threats to its very existence at the hands of the Taliban. The United Nations and international human rights organizations cannot allow the Taliban to destroy this community.  

Ali Tawakoli is an LGBTQI+ rights activist who founded the Afghanistan Rainbow Organization.