‘A virtual death sentence’: Gay Afghans brace for uncertain future under Taliban

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8/28/21

N, a 20-year-old student living in Afghanistan, is in hiding as she hopes for news that she and her family can leave the country. As a lesbian, she believes she will be targeted by the Taliban government. “They will kill us without sympathy,” she said, requesting that her full name and exact location not be published to protect her safety. Faraz, who asked to be identified by only one name, is a 25-year-old gay man who said he fears for himself and his three sons. He fears he and his family will be kidnapped and killed if they remain in Afghanistan. “The Taliban is in search of the gay people. They are going from street to street,” he said, pleading for the U.S. State Department to evacuate him and his family. U.S officials expect 50,000 to 65,000 Afghans will seek evacuation in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, the country’s capital. Among those seeking to flee are LGBTQ Afghans like N and Faraz. Advocates fear the situation for gay Afghans will become even more perilous under the Taliban, who may choose to apply the death penalty for same-sex conduct, which they reportedly did during their first stint in power from 1996-2001. The State Department has pledged to evacuate vulnerable people from the country, but it is unclear whom they consider vulnerable and how many LGBTQ Afghans will be given the opportunity to leave. “We are working to get as many people who want to leave Afghanistan and who are vulnerable to Taliban reprisals because they helped the United States and our allies and partners, or who are otherwise at risk because of who they are, or what they do, or what they believe, out of the country as quickly and as safely as possible,” a State Department spokesperson told NBC News in an email. On Tuesday, Rep. Chris Pappas, D-N.H., called on the State Department to be explicit about the inclusion of LGBTQ Afghans in its “Priority 2” designation, which includes individuals who worked for the U.S. government and whose affiliation with the U.S. puts them at risk. “In the spirit of upholding our values and leading by example, we urge you to expand the Department of State’s P-2 designation granting USRAP access for Afghan nationals to explicitly include LGBTQ+ Afghans,“ Pappas’ letter, referring to the United States Refugee Admissions Program, states. “While we appreciate that the situation in Afghanistan is fluid, you have the power to protect the lives of countless LGBTQ+ Afghans from the horrors they face living under a regime that threatens their very existence.” Earlier this month, over a dozen senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken asking for clarification on the department’s commitment to “protect vulnerable LGBTQI+ refugees and asylum seekers,” citing a February presidential memo affirming the administration’s commitment to advancing LGBTQ rights in U.S. foreign policy.

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