A bisexual man from Afghanistan whose own father once tried to kill him because of his sexuality has opened up about his fear of being executed under Taliban rule.
Basir – whose surname has been withheld to protect his identity – told PinkNews that he is “stuck” in Afghanistan where he now fears he will be killed if his sexuality is exposed.
As a teenager, Basir thought he was gay, but he later came to understand that he was bisexual. He fled Afghanistan almost two decades ago and sought asylum in another country, but he ultimately returned to his home country in 2003 as his options for further education were limited as a refugee.
It was while living abroad as a refugee that Basir embarked upon his first relationship with another man. Upon his return to Afghanistan, Basir entered into another same-sex relationship.
“Living among the most conservative people of the world as a critical thinker is unimaginably difficult, let alone as a homosexual,” Basir told PinkNews. He still uses the word “homosexual” today when discussing his identity, however, he is clear that he is bisexual – a realisation he has only come to in more recent years.
“I faced challenges of being killed by close friends and relatives. My dad even attempted to kill me once after he noticed my behaviour and outlier/unconventional friendship with another guy.”
Just one of Basir’s friends knows about his sexual orientation. “People doubt me when I defend LGBT rights, but I say: ‘I am not a gay,’” he said.
Basir made the ‘challenging’ decision to ‘self-censor’ and marry
A decade ago, Basir married a woman and started a family with her.
“It was one of the most challenging decisions of my life,” he said. “You have no idea how terrifying it is to cover the truth about yourself and self-censor.”
Basir got married at a time when he was grappling with his identity, but the pain has not gone away in the years since. “Still I wrestle with my emotions, sometimes cry and fist the wall.”
He believes the death sentence will be the Taliban’s “only response” if they find out that a person is LGBT+. He has heard “stories about deaths of gays in Afghanistan”.
“I am incredibly terrified, scared, stressed out, anxious, depressed and frustrated. I need to transform any act or behaviour against their rules, otherwise, death will embrace me.”
Basir has LGBT+ friends in Afghanistan and he has encouraged all of them to flee the country as soon as they can. He has even lent a helping hand with visas and other migration issues.
He and his family plan to leave when they can, but there is no clear path out of Afghanistan.
“I reached out to all neighbouring countries for asylum. No country, literally, issue visa for Afghanistan – it is a deadlock. But now, only India has announced free visa, but how can we flee when there is no flight and all borders are shut? I feel I am stuck here and I will die here.
“However, I have not lost hope.”
Human rights groups have expressed concern for LGBT+ people in Afghanistan
Basir has shared his story following days of unease and outcry after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, plunging women, girls, LGBT+ people and countless others into danger in the process.
The militant group is expected to enforce its extreme interpretation of Sharia law, which could see LGBT+ people stoned to death or crushed by towering walls.
More than 130 global organisations that work to protect LGBT+ rights issued a joint statement on 18 August calling for the protection of women, children, LGBT+ people and all of those who are vulnerable in Afghanistan.
The statement – which was signed by ILGA World among countless others – expressed fear that LGBT+ people will be “further criminalised and persecuted” under Taliban rule.
“The Afghan LGBTIQ people have already been living in fear of violence and killings for a number of years, and we dread that this situation will escalate further,” the groups said.
They continued: “The crisis in Afghanistan is complex and difficult, but we remind the international community that it has a moral obligation – particularly those who have played a role in the development of the issue – to ensure that the political crisis is diffused via a solution that prioritises the self-determination of the Afghan people while protecting vulnerable persons from harm and violence.”
Meanwhile, LGBT+ Afghans have been speaking up – often anonymously – about their lives under Taliban rule, while others have discussed the harsh realities facing those who flee.
Mehrshad*, a bisexual man who fled Afghanistan in 2020, told PinkNews that the Taliban wants to wind back time by 1,400 years.
“No one can negotiate with the Taliban,” he said. They want to turn back 1,400 years ago to when Muhammad was in the deserts of Saudi Arabia. They want to live like that, and there is no good for atheists and LGBT people and those who wanted to enlighten the people for a brighter future. Everything is gone.”
Gay Afghan author Nemat Sadat told PinkNews that the Taliban will “weed out and exterminate” LGBT+ people, adding that there is “no telling” just how bad things are likely to get.
The Taliban will impose a ‘bait, kill and dump’ policy,” Sadat explained. “That is, they will appoint informants to lure gay and bisexual men online and in public spaces and take them to a secluded spot and kill them and dispose of their bodies.
“I know this because that is what undercover Taliban elements within Afghan government during the Karzai and Ghani era did and those who escaped shared their story with me.”
*Names have been changed
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