Internally displaced Afghans gather for food. (WAKIL KOHSAR / AFP via Getty)
The government has been urged to help evacuate LGBT + people from Afghanistan and resettle them in the UK.
In a letter to Foreign Minister Dominic Raab, Rainbow Migration and Stonewall called on the UK government to help LGBT + Afghans who live in “great fear” under the Taliban.
In their joint letter, the two nonprofits said LGBT + people in Afghanistan fear being “the first targets of the new regime” simply because of their gender or gender identity.
“LGBTQ + Afghans need our support. But they will not be able to benefit from the government’s evacuation program unless they receive targeted support, ”Rainbow Migration and Stonewall wrote.
Charities called on Raab to show “leadership” in helping to get LGBT + Afghans out of the country. They called for an “urgent meeting” with the foreign minister to ensure that any evacuation effort includes LGBT + asylum seekers.
Rainbow Migration and Stonewall said “strong security efforts” are needed to evacuate vulnerable people in Afghanistan. They said the UK government should work with other world leaders to open “humanitarian corridors” to aid evacuation efforts.
Elsewhere, groups praised the British government for setting up a resettlement program for Afghans fleeing the Taliban.
However, they both expressed “concern” that the program “is not close to meeting the need for protection”.
UK government should ‘include’ LGBT + people in Afghanistan resettlement program
“We applaud the government’s commitment to resettle the most vulnerable and look forward to your assurance that this will include LGBTQ + people,” Rainbow Migration and Stonewall wrote.
The groups went on to say that it is essential for UNHCR – the UN refugee agency – to work with LGBT + organizations to ensure that any “selection process” for asylum seekers is adequate.
Rainbow Migration and Stonewall said screening efforts should take into account that many LGBT + asylum seekers fleeing Afghanistan will not be able to “easily disclose and prove their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The letter – signed by Rainbow Migration, Stonewall Executive Director Leila Zadeh and Stonewall Chief Nancy Kelley – was sent to Raab on Tuesday, August 24.
The groups sent their letter just days after the government announced plans to bring up to 5,000 vulnerable Afghans to the UK in the first year of a new resettlement program.
In the long term, the program is expected to see 20,000 Afghans brought to the UK.
LGBTQ + Afghans gravely fear being the first targets of the new regime simply because they are LGBTQ +.
RT if you agree pic.twitter.com/XKAI2XfOjR
– Rainbow migration (@rainbowmigrants) August 24, 2021
However, LGBT + groups have raised concerns about the lack of clarity surrounding evacuation efforts for gay people.
Few details were given on whether the government plans to evacuate LGBT + Afghans as part of its resettlement program, despite the fact that gay Afghans are among the most vulnerable to execution under the sharia.
Petition calls on government to act on queer Afghans
At the same time, a petition was launched on the government petitions website calling on state officials to “create a path to safety for all LGBTQ + Afghans for resettlement in the UK.”
The petition, created by David Connor, argues that LGBT + people should be recognized as a priority group under the government’s resettlement scene alongside women and people from religious minorities.
“If we truly believe in human rights in the UK, we must help LGBTQ + people escape a regime which in all likelihood will kill or seriously injure them,” the petition states.
If the petition gets 10,000 signatures, the government will respond. If it receives 100,000 signatures, the government will consider debating it in parliament.
LGBT + rights groups around the world have expressed concern for queer Afghans stranded in the country since the Taliban took control after the US withdrawal.
The Taliban promote strict Sharia law, or Islamic law, that could lead to the execution of LGBT + people because of their sexual or gender identity.
Speaking to a German newspaper Bild Last month, Gul Rahim – a Taliban judge – said: “There are only two penalties for homosexuals: either stoning or he has to stand behind a wall that falls on him. The wall should be 2.5 to 3 meters high.
LGBT + Afghans have anonymously expressed their fears for the future under the Taliban. Basir, a bisexual man, said RoseNews that he is “terrified” of having to die in Afghanistan.
“I am incredibly terrified, scared, stressed, anxious, depressed and frustrated,” he said. “I must transform any act or behavior against their rules, otherwise death will kiss me.”
Mehrshad, another bisexual Afghan who fled the country before the Taliban takeover, said he expects the extremist military group to try to turn back 1,400 years.
“They want to live like this, and there is nothing good for atheists and LGBT people and for those who wanted to enlighten people for a better future,” he said.
“It’s all gone. “