Foreign secretary Dominic Raab urged to help LGBT+ Afghans living in ‘grave fear’

Internally displaced Afghan people, who fled from the northern province due to battle between Taliban and Afghan security forces, gather to receive free food being distributed by Shiite men at Shahr-e-Naw Park in Kabul on August 13, 2021.

The government has been urged to help evacuate LGBT+ people from Afghanistan and resettle them in the UK.

In a letter to foreign secretary Dominic Raab, Rainbow Migration and Stonewall called on the UK government to help LGBT+ Afghans who are living in “grave fear” under Taliban rule.

In their joint letter, the two non-profits said LGBT+ people in Afghanistan fear they will be “early targets of the new regime” simply because of their sexual or gender identity.

“LGBTQ+ Afghans need our support. But they will not be able to benefit from the government’s evacuation programme unless they receive targeted support,” Rainbow Migration and Stonewall wrote.

The charities called for Raab to show “leadership” by helping to get LGBT+ Afghans out of the country. They asked for an “urgent meeting” with the foreign secretary in a bid to ensure that any evacuation effort is inclusive of LGBT+ asylum seekers.

Rainbow Migration and Stonewall said “robust security efforts” are required 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, the groups praised the UK government for establishing a resettlement programme for Afghans fleeing the Taliban.

However, they both expressed “concern” that the programme “does not come close to meeting the protection need”.

UK government should ‘include’ LGBT+ people in Afghanistan resettlement scheme

“We applaud the government’s commitment to resettling those most vulnerable and we look for your assurances that this will include LGBTQ+ people,” Rainbow Migration and Stonewall wrote.

The groups went on to say it is essential that the UNHCR – the UN’s refugee agency – work with LGBT+ organisations to ensure that any “screening process” for asylum seekers is adequate.

Rainbow Migration and Stonewall said screening efforts should take account of the fact that many LGBT+ asylum seekers fleeing Afghanistan will not be in a position to “readily disclose and evidence 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 (24 August).

The groups sent their letter just days after the government announced that it plans to bring up to 5,000 vulnerable Afghans to the UK in the first year of a new resettlement programme.

Long-term, the programme is expected to see 20,000 Afghans brought to the UK.

However, LGBT+ groups have been raising concerns about the lack of clarity surrounding evacuation efforts for queer people.

Little detail has been given on whether the government is planning to evacuate LGBT+ Afghans as part of its resettlement programme, despite the fact that queer Afghans are among the most vulnerable to execution under Sharia law.

A petition is calling for government action for queer Afghans

At the same time, a petition has been launched on the government’s 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, says LGBT+ people should be recognised as a priority group as part of the government’s resettlement scene alongside women and people from religious minority backgrounds.

“If we truly believe in human rights in the UK, we need to help LGBTQ+ people escape a regime that will in all likelihood kill or seriously harm them,” the petition reads.

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 across the world have been expressing concern for queer Afghans stuck in the country ever sine the Taliban seized control following US withdrawal.

The Taliban promotes strict Sharia law, or Islamic law, which could see LGBT+ people executed because of their sexual or gender identity.

Speaking to German newspaper Bild last month, Gul Rahim – a Taliban judge – said: “There are only two penalties for gays: Either stoning or he has to stand behind a wall that falls on him. The wall must be 2.5 to 3 metres high.”

LGBT+ Afghans have been speaking out anonymously about their fears for the future under Taliban rule. Basir, a bisexual man, told PinkNews that he is “terrified” that he will face death in Afghanistan.

“I am incredibly terrified, scared, stressed out, anxious, depressed and frustrated,” he said. “I need to transform any act or behaviour against their rules, otherwise, death will embrace me.”

Mehrshad, another bisexual Afghan who fled the country prior to the Taliban takeover, said he expects the extremist military group to try and turn the clock back by 1,400 years.

“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,” he said.

“Everything is gone.”