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International groups urge Afghan LGBTQ people to be evacuated

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Afghan LGBTQ people

International groups urge Afghan LGBTQ people to be evacuated

With the departure of the US military forces and the collapse of the Afghan government, the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan is sending the Afghan LGBTQ people into hiding.

Because of this, several LGBTQ organizations have called on Western governments to help in evacuating them from that country.

Presently, homosexuality is a criminal act in Afghanistan but the Taliban had applied the death penalty for same-sex conduct when they were in power from 1996 to 2001.

Withdrawal should include Afghan LGBTQ people

While the US State Department has promised to evacuate those vulnerable, they have not clarified who they consider as vulnerable– and how many LGBTQ Afghans would be allowed to leave.

In an email, a State Department spokesperson told NBC News included are those that helped the US, their allies and partners, or “who are otherwise at risk because of who they are, or what they do, or what they believe.”

Because of this, Rep. Chris Pappas (D-NH) has urged the State Department in a letter to be explicit about including LGBTQ Afghans in their Refugee Admissions Program.

Likewise, a group of senators have sent a letter to State Secretary Antony Blinken requesting clarification for their commitment to “protect vulnerable LGBTQI+ refugees and asylum seekers.”

In particular, they referenced a presidential memo of President Joe Biden last February that stated the administration’s commitment to advancing LGBTQ rights in US foreign policy.

LGBTQ, other groups urge governments to help

Kevin Jennings, CEO of LGBTQ legal advocacy group Lambda Legal, warned that, “The return of the Taliban is a virtual death sentence for LGBTQ Afghans” and that the Biden administration should step up to protect them.

Kimahli Powell, executive director of the Toronto-based Rainbow Railroad, said, “There is real fear that a resurgent Taliban government will target the LGBTQI community, and I think that fear is founded.”

The Organization for Migration, Refuge and Asylum tweeted: “As Afghanistan falls to the Taliban, members of the LGBTIQ community are among those at greatest risk of suffering under Taliban rule.”

“The international community must act quickly and decisively to aid all those fleeing persecution,” they said.

CEO Nancy Kelley of the British LGBTQ rights group Stonewall said: “LGBTQ+ Afghans have endured routine discrimination, abuse and persecution, including by the state.”

“With the Taliban in power we expect this situation to deteriorate further, including the potential for a return to active enforcement of the laws that prohibit same sex relationships,” Kelley said.

What to expect in the future Afghanistan

Charbel Maydaa, founder and general director of the Lebanon-based advocacy group MOSAIC as well as first alternate co-chair of ILGA Asia, told the Washington Blade the Taliban will use Sharia law to target LGBTQ people.

However, Maydaa said the Taliban wants “to look good in front of the international community.”

He added that ILGA Asia is looking for shelters for LGBTQ Afghans before they can leave the country even as they’re trying to advocate for some governments to literally rescue them.

Fortunately, the Canadian government has stepped up and said they will grant 20,000 Afghans– including members of the LGBTQ community– asylum in the country.

The population of Afghanistan is estimated to be 38 million while a conservative estimate of five percent puts the LGBTQ Afghan people at 1.9 million.

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