Lives of LGBTQ+ Afghans ‘dramatically worse’ under Taliban rule, finds survey

Lives of LGBTQ+ Afghans ‘dramatically worse’ under Taliban rule, finds survey

The lives of LGBTQ+ people in Afghanistan have “dramatically worsened” under Taliban rule, according to a new survey, which highlights cases of violence, gang-rape and death threats since the group seized power last year.

The report, by Human Rights Watch (HRW), recorded nearly 60 cases of targeted violence against LGBTQ+ people since August 2021, many of whom described how Taliban rule has destroyed their lives.

“Things were always rough,” said Heather Barr, associate director of the women’s rights division at HRW. “But people had found ways to survive and build community and support each other, and they had hope that things were gradually improving. On 15 August, all of that ended.”

Homosexuality was banned under Ashraf Ghani, the ousted president of Afghanistan, and punishable with prison. However, the HRW report said that the Taliban “vowed to take a hard line against the rights of LGBT people” and cited sharia law.

“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,” said J Lester Feder, senior fellow for emergency research at OutRight Action International, who contributed to the report. “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. It is difficult to overstate how devastating – and terrifying – the return of Taliban rule has been for LGBT Afghans.”

Zeba Gul*, 16, described to the Guardian how her life had worsened in the last few months. “I like to wear makeup, I like dresses, and I love to dance. But my family didn’t allow all that,” the teenager told the Guardian. “They would lock me up with chains and beat me. They would shave my head, tear my clothes and swear at me, calling me ezaak [a derogatory term for homosexuals].”

Read full report on The Guardian