Human Rights Watch Tuesday released a report showing that LGBTQ+ people in Afghanistan have experienced increasing violence and threats to their safety since the Taliban took complete control of the country on August 15, 2021.
From October to December 2021, Human Rights Watch interviewed 60 LGBTQ+ Afghans about their lives under Taliban rule. Most of those who were interviewed reported being “attacked, sexually assaulted, or directly threatened by members of the Taliban because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.” Some have even relocated to nearby countries with greater protections for the rights of LGBTQ+ people.
Although the ousted President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, in 2018 criminalized same-sex sexual relations, the Human Rights Watch report said that the Taliban vowed to take a hard line against the rights of LGBTQ+ people and even cited sharia law. “For homosexuals, there can only be two punishments: either stoning, or he must stand behind a wall that will fall down on him,” according to a Taliban judge.
Organizations assisting LGBTQ+ Afghans say they have been contacted by hundreds of individuals seeking to flee Afghanistan. However, even if barriers to resettlement did not exist, LGBTQ+ people in Afghanistan face unique issues when attempting to relocate. This includes gender-nonconforming individuals being potentially spotted by Taliban officials when passing through routine checkpoints on public roads or going to the country’s passport office, as well as lesbian or bisexual women not being able to escape on their own, as Taliban law prohibits women from traveling without male relatives.
Human Rights Watch ended its report by urging the United Nations bodies and concerned governments to use whatever diplomatic leverage they have with the Taliban to stop the targeting of LGBTQ+ people.