This brave charity is helping desperate LGBT+ Afghans escape the brutal Taliban

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08/19/2021

The Rainbow Railroad is a global NGO providing aid and asylum to LGBT+ people around the world. Since its founding it’s helped more than 1,600 LGBT+ people find safety, including many victims of Chechnya’s “gay purge“. It now offers a lifeline to LGBT+ Afghans – already a persecuted minority – who find themselves uniquely vulnerable as the Taliban fighters move in. “I think what we’re going to see now, what we’re already seeing now, is a bit of a mass exodus,” said Kimahli Powell, the executive director of Rainbow Railroad, speaking to TIME. “And so in the wake of things moving very quickly, I think we’re going to see LGBTQ persons be potential targets, which means more outreach to us. We are currently relying on our deep international network and our contacts within the country to try to reach more people.” While the Taliban may attempt to present a more friendly face to the world by declaring an “amnesty” and urging women to join its government, it offers no such assurances to the LGBT+ community, who fear a return to brutal Sharia law death penalties. This fear was confirmed last month when a Taliban judge told the German tabloid Bild that gay men would be executed by being crushed to death under a wall. Rainbow Railroad has already received 50 requests for help in Afghanistan this year and anticipates a spike in the coming days and weeks, with many people “searching for solutions at a moment’s notice”.

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