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Report: LGBT Afghans Face Surge in Threats, Rape, Assault Under Taliban

FILE - A Taliban fighter stands at a checkpoint in Herat, Afghanistan, Nov. 28, 2021.

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has seen a surge in attacks, sexual assaults and threats against the long-pressed lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people because of their sexual orientation or gender.

The abuses are documented in a new report released Wednesday by Human Rights Watch and OutRight Action International.

The research, titled, “Even If You Go to the Skies, We’ll Find You: LGBT People in Afghanistan After the Taliban Takeover,” urged the Islamist Taliban to stop their abuse of LGBT people and protect them from vigilantes.

The report is calling on the international community to pressure the Taliban — which swept back into power last August — to stop the abuses and grant asylum to any LGBT Afghan facing persecution.

Some LGBT people are being targeted through their mobile phones, on social media or by former partners who have shared their details with the Taliban in hopes of protecting themselves.

The research details cases of rape, mob attacks and violence.

Researchers at Human Rights Watch and OutRight Action International interviewed 60 LGBT Afghans from October to December 2021, and interviewees came from at least 11 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

“Many of those interviewed reported being attacked, sexually assaulted, or directly threatened by members of the Taliban because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Riza, a trans woman, said a group of angry neighbors knocked at her door and attacked her, saying they were going to call the Taliban police to “clean you from this place.”

Eventually, the Taliban police caught Riza. “They beat her, shaved her head, jailed her for more than a week and dressed her in men’s cloths before dumping her back on the street,” the report said.

FILE - Taliban fighters sit in front of a mural depicting a woman behind barbed wire, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 21, 2021.
FILE - Taliban fighters sit in front of a mural depicting a woman behind barbed wire, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 21, 2021.

'I had to escape'

Qurban, a trans man, told the researchers he was living with his family when the Taliban came. “My father said, ‘You have to wear girls’ clothes now and marry a man.’ So, I had to escape.”

\In another case, a man named Ramiz was kidnapped by Taliban members at a security checkpoint and raped for hours. The rapists later told Ramiz, “From now on, anytime we want to be able to find you, we will, and we will do whatever we want with you.”

The report noted that Afghanistan was a dangerous place for LGBT people well before the Taliban seized power from the Western-backed government of President Ashraf Ghani.

In 2018, the Ghani government passed a law that outlawed homosexuality, forcing many LGBT persons to conceal key aspects of their identity from society and from family, friends and colleagues.

“However, when the Taliban, which had been in power from 1996 to late 2001, regained control of the country in August 2021, the situation dramatically worsened,” the report said.

Taliban officials have not yet commented on the report, but a spokesman for the Islamist group told the Reuters news agency in October, “LGBT … that’s against our Sharia [Islamic] law.”

The Taliban are under fire for allegedly not living up to their pledges to respect human rights. They are accused of engaging in widespread rights abuses, including revenge killings, systematic discrimination against women and girls, and severe restrictions on freedom of expression and the media

The Islamist group denies the criticism but maintains that restrictions on women are in line with Sharia.

The international community has not yet recognized the Taliban government and is waiting to see if they govern Afghanistan through a broad-based government and respect human rights, especially those of women.