Silenced and Oppressed: The Harsh Reality for the LGBTIQ Community Under Taliban Rule

By December 7, 2023 Newsroom

(due to security and safety reasons)

Afghanistan, with an estimated population of 40 million, has experienced decades of conflicts and political instability situation that has profoundly impacted all aspects of society. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), 2022 report the country is grappling with “cascading crises” and a severely crippled economy that cannot be resolved by humanitarian aid alone. The situation deteriorated further following the Taliban’s takeover in 2021, which exacerbated the already fragile political and economic conditions. About 85% of the population is estimated to be living below the poverty line. Nearly 20 million people facing a critical level of food insecurity, resulting in severe acute malnutrition among children under five. The humanitarian crisis further intensified with increasing poverty, human rights violations and restrictions on women and girls from employment, education, and social life.

The relative progress made in human rights over the past 20 years has been significantly undermined by the Taliban, plunging the country into violence, ignorance, brutality, and poverty. The UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released a report in 2022 that documents the deterioration of basic human rights across the country since the Taliban takeover in August 2021. The violations include extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, and detentions. Moreover, the women and girls’ fundamental rights of access to secondary education, employment and participation in public life has been severely restricted by the Taliban de-facto regime.

The human rights situations for LGBTIQ individuals in Afghanistan remains extremely challenging, characterized by continuous social isolation, discrimination, and denial of basic human rights. This article is based on six anonymous interviews with LGBTIQ members in Afghanistan. All the respondents reported continuous rise in abuses, detention, and exclusion of community members from the society. They are exposed to high risk of killing, arbitrary detention, and lack of respect to their basic human rights. The community has no access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities are significantly restricted for the community members.

Discrimination Against LGBTIQ Community: A significant portion of the interviews highlights the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community, particularly transgender individuals, under the Taliban’s rule. This includes targeted arrests, physical abuse, and social stigmatization.

Detention and Arrest: All the respondents reported multiple instances of arrest and detention by the authorities, often related to their identity or engagement with community members. The respondents particularly reported of frequent detention by the Taliban in Kabul and Balkh provinces.

“Since the change of government, I’ve been arrested three times. My sibling, who is transgender, is also facing numerous challenges. Despite the ongoing threats, we persevere.”

Violence and Abuse: Many respondents recounted experiences of physical violence, abuse, and torture during their detentions. This includes beatings and, in some cases, sexual violence, underscoring the harsh treatment faced by some individuals under the current regime.

“In one year, I was arrested three times. The arrests were due to my transgender identity. Each arrest brought humiliation, beatings and torture.”

Psychological Impact and Fear: All the respondents expressed ongoing fear, living in hiding and psychological distress as a result of their experiences. The constant threat of arrest, violence, and discrimination has led to a state of perpetual anxiety and uncertainty which has resulted in suicidal thoughts and ideation by several community members.

Displacement and Changes in Lifestyle: The respondents mentioned some coping strategies to deal with the current difficult circumstance such as constantly changing their residence locations, alter their physical appearance, or modify their lifestyle drastically to avoid further persecution.

“After the Taliban takeover, I was beaten and detained by Taliban forces. My release was secured through a relative’s promise to the authorities. Since then, fear has prevented me from returning to my previous profession.”

Economic Hardship: Some respondents, particularly those involved in activities such as dancing or selling sex mentioned facing significant economic hardship due to the inability to continue their previous means of livelihood.

“I was captured by the Taliban’s intelligence while seeking clients in Kabul. They detained and beat me, accusing me of violating Sharia Law. My release came after my brother negotiated with the police.”

The data reflect a troubling situation of human rights violations and a grave threat to the life of LGBTIQ people in Afghanistan. The data shows a constant pattern of persecution based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The continuous living in fear not only have direct physical harm but also resulted in significant psychological impact leading to changes in lifestyle, living in hiding and social exclusion. The recurring violence, fear, and displacement underscore the need for urgent attention to the human rights situation in Afghanistan, especially concerning the treatment of the LGBTIQ community and human rights activists. 

Furthermore, a report published by Outright International in 2022 has reported the experience of attacks, sexual violence, direct threats, and discrimination from Taliban members, family members, neighbors, and former partners based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The LGBTIQ individuals face continuous abuses and challenges in leaving the country, including inability to move freely, unavailability of travel documentation, family obligations and economic hardships. In addition, fleeing to nearby countries poses similar threats and difficult situations due to the presence of high levels of discrimination against sexual and gender minority groups in neighboring countries and criminalization of same sex relations. The Taliban have vowed to punish homosexuality according to their interpretation of Islamic law, which could include stoning or crushing by a wall. They have also issued a manual that prohibits same-sex relations and instructs religious leaders to refer cases to the Ministry of Vice and Virtue.

There is an urgent need for international community to recognize the life threatening situation and the dire needs of LGBTIQ community living under the Taliban regime. The LGBTIQ community are in urgent need of humanitarian support in Afghanistan and expediting the evacuation and relocation of community members from Afghanistan. 

The UN and other human rights agencies need to acknowledge the greater needs of LGBTIQ people in the country and design humanitarian assistance programs to ensure fair distribution services and protect the rights of LGBTIQ people.

Back to main article

Share this