Whipped, gang-raped: LGBTIQ+ people under 'grave threat' in Afghanistan, report reveals

A new report has uncovered stories of violence, threats and vigilantism against LGBTIQ+ people in Afghanistan under Taliban rule.

Taliban fighters patrol protest by the Afghan women's rights activists on Friday.

Taliban fighters patrol a protest by Afghan women's rights activists on Friday. Source: AFP,Getty

This article contains references to rape and sexual assault.

When queer Afghan man Walid Muhammadi walked down a street in Kabul, he was physically assaulted by a Taliban member for no reason. 

"Don't you know how to walk like a man?" said a Taliban official that reprimanded him. 

Mr Muhammadi said that was the moment he knew he had no choice but to leave Kabul - the capital city of Afghanistan that fell to the militant group in August 2021 - and his home.  

He was one of the thousands of Afghans stuck at Kabul Airport trying to flee the country after the Taliban resumed power, when a bomb exploded and was forced to take shelter in a parking garage with his friends. 

He said he knew as a queer person in a Taliban-run country, they would "cause trouble for him". 

"You could already see how much Kabul had changed. You could see Taliban officers all over, building new checkpoints. You could literally sense the terror in the city."

"I was really depressed. I thought I'm trapped. I can't leave this country," he said.
Mr Muhammadi has since taken refuge in Europe. But other LGBTIQ+ people in Afghanistan weren't so lucky.

A new report released on Wednesday by Human Rights Watch and OutRight Action International highlights the "grave threats" experienced by LGBTIQ+ people in Afghanistan who are afraid for their safety.

provides a rare insight into the lives of 60 LGBTIQ+ people, most of whom still live in Afghanistan, describing the threats and attacks they experienced since the Taliban takeover.

One case study describes Ramiz, a 20-year-old gay man, who took a risk by leaving his home to collect his paycheck at work, just weeks after the Taliban resumed power.

He said he was assaulted by a Taliban officer at a checkpoint, loaded in a car and taken to another location. 

He said he was then whipped and gang-raped by four men for over eight hours. 

“From now on anytime we want to be able to find you, we will. And we will do whatever we want with you,” were the Taliban officer's parting words with Ramiz. 

Another case study detailed the experience of a trans woman who requested her identity documents to leave the country in late 2021. The government official demanded she have sex with him in exchange for processing documents. 

Mr Muhammadi's friend, a trans man, began to wear the burqa in an attempt to conceal his identity and tattoos from the Taliban. 

His other friend almost starved to death after running out of food while hiding in an abandoned factory. 

"We are not aliens, we do exist in the same society. We are part of that culture and you cannot ignore us. We have always been here," Mr Muhammadi, who was an independent consultant of the report, said. 

"We also exist and our rights should be protected and we should not be killed just for being a human being."

Ahmad Wali Haqmal, the Taliban's Ministry of Finance spokesperson, said in October the Taliban will pledge to respect human rights that are in line with Sharia law.

This does not include the rights of LGBTIQ+ people, he confirmed.

"LGBT ... that's against our Sharia law," Mr Haqmal said. 

“The Taliban have explicitly pledged not to respect LGBT Afghans' rights,” said Heather Barr, associate women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch. 

Ms Barr said in a press conference ahead of the launch of the report that it was "extremely disappointing" to see the lack of action taken by foreign governments in assisting Afghanistan's most vulnerable. 

"There seems to be a kind of feeling that it's over and it's time to move on. That's not how asylum decisions are supposed to be made," she said. 

Ms Barr said foreign governments were responsible not just for the resettlement of LGBTIQ+ Afghans, but also to pressure the Taliban in ensuring Afghanistan is a safe, liveable country for all.

Mr Muhammadi agreed, saying there are likely thousands of LGBTIQ+ Afghans stuck in the country who, realistically, cannot leave their families. 

"I feel like what we're seeing is just a huge level of disengagement."

Australia's responsibility

Her comments come as a new Senate report released last Friday revealed in the evacuation of people in Afghanistan up to and during the evacuation period as the Taliban rose to power. 

Soon after the report was released, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke announced the federal government will allocate into Australia over the next four years. 

According to Mr Hawke, the humanitarian program will prioritise women and girls, ethnic minorities, LGBTIQ+ and other identified minority groups. 

But the government's announcement left critics dismayed at the federal government's lack of urgency to increase the existing cap of 13,750 humanitarian visas the country has pledged to provide.

“Australia has a moral responsibility to do far more than this given our culpability in the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan,” Greens immigration and citizenship spokesperson Senator Nick McKim said.

The Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council (AGMC) has previously called on the government to do more for LGBTIQ+ people in Afghanistan.

"LGBTIQ+ forcibly displaced peoples’ experiences must be recognised in Australia's humanitarian program and resettlement services," AGMC president Giancarlo de Vera said. 

Acting chair of the Forcibly Displaced People Network Renee Dixson said: "We anticipate that LGBTIQ+ people will be disproportionately targeted with people being subjected to ... sexual violence, forced marriages, honour killings and other forms of conversion practices."

"Australia needs to ensure quick pathways to safety to all Afghan people at risk of violence”.

“There has been an unprecedented level of visa applications from Afghanistan for our Humanitarian and Migration visa programs," Mr Hawke said in a statement on Friday.

"In recognition of this demand, and in support of this specific visa commitment, dedicated teams within the Department of Home Affairs have been established to undertake priority processing.

“Australia is continuing to work with the UN and key allies to address the growing humanitarian situation in the region. We again call on the Taliban to honour its undertakings to allow Australians and Afghan visa holders to depart Afghanistan safely if they wish to do so."

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit . In an emergency, call 000.

6 min read
Published 26 January 2022 at 6:43pm
By Rayane Tamer
Source: SBS