A gay activist shares the challenges he faces as the LGBTQ community grapples with life under Taliban rule.
"Whenever I go out, I fully cover my face and make sure I am not recognisable.”
Samad, not his real name, is 22 years old. He is like many other Afghan men his age: he is a high school graduate and works at a supermarket in the city of Herat. But he is also a gay activist, which renders him incredibly vulnerable under the Taliban’s regime.
For the Afghan LGBTQ community, Samad stresses to Afghan Witness (AW) that life has never been easy. While social media has helped spread awareness around LGBTQ rights, Samad suggests that Afghan society lacked awareness and acceptance of these long before the Taliban returned to power. “My family members will be the first to kill me if they learn about my truth,” he insists.
But if life was hard before, it is significantly harder now. The Taliban takeover on 15th August 2021 means the Afghan LGBTQ community now live under immense fear. Before the Taliban seized Kabul, they could at least build solidarity through social media groups and promote awareness online. Now things are far more tense.
“I have received threatening messages and have also been chased by unknown people. Whenever I go out, I fully cover my face and make sure I am not recognisable. The Taliban abducted and detained one of my friends in Kabul for two nights. He says the Taliban militia raped him.”
Since the Taliban seized power, Afghans identifying as LGBTQ have separated from their partners and families and have been forced into hiding. Samad fears remaining in Afghanistan for much longer, which is why he has applied for asylum in Germany.
Evacuations of the Afghan LGBTQ community since the Taliban’s ascent to power
Since the mass evacuations started in mid-August last year, thousands of Afghans have been evacuated from the country. Only between 14 - 28 August 2021, 113,500 people were airlifted. Samad told AW that few LGBTQs have drawn upon the evacuation efforts and have left the country. He said:
'As far as I know, many of my fellow LGBTQs are either unaware of the evacuations procedures, or they find it difficult to prove to the evacuation teams that they identify themselves as LGBTQs.'
Samad hopes that the international community prioritises evacuations of LGBTQs from Afghanistan as, along with the estrangement from their communities, the Taliban are after them. In the meantime, they are prey to harassment from the wider community. Samad told AW about one of his friends who was tortured and sexually abused by a group of unknown people. He then managed to flee to Iran.
Samad is determined to continue his online advocacy for Afghan LGBTQs rights. He hopes to publicly talk about his sexual orientation after relocating to a safe country. He said he would first reveal his truth to his family. He said:
'Deep down in my heart, I have the wish to be open about my identity and enjoy being myself.'
Interview with Afghan Witness