Desperate call for LGBTQI Afghans to be evacuated

Anti-war protest in Canada by members of the Afghanistan diaspora (Photo: Meandering Images / Shutterstock)

Vulnerable LGBTQI Afghans are unlikely to be saved by Western governments (Photo: Meandering Images / Shutterstock)

Calls by activists for the UK to help LGBTQI Afghans flee persecution by the Taliban in Afghanistan as a “priority group” are unlikely to be successful.

In a letter to UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab earlier this week, advocacy groups Stonewall and Rainbow Railroad said they’d been contacted by LGBTQI+ people in Afghanistan in need of protection and safe passage to the UK.

“All of these individuals share a grave fear of being early targets of the new regime simply because they are LGBTQI+,” said the groups, urging Raab to provide them with “targeted support”.

The Taliban, which recently took power after American troops left Afghanistan, espouses a strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law, which includes execution as a penalty for homosexuality.

“Like all those seeking to flee, it is clear that robust security efforts are needed for vulnerable people to be able to leave the country to seek safety,” the groups said.

“For this reason, we are calling on this government to work in concert with other aligned governments to open humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of LGBTQ+ people, similar to corridors used by the UK Government in other emergency contexts such as Uganda or the former Yugoslavia.”

As time ran out to evacuate people from Kabul in the wake of deadly bomb blasts outside the airport, the groups issued a follow-up letter warning that LGBTQI+ Afghans “are at extreme risk of torture and death at the hands of the Taliban and already living in fear for their lives.”

Rainbow Railroad and Stonewall revealed that they’d provided the UK government with a list of LGBTQI+ Afghans who are within easy distance of Kabul airport.

“We are concerned by a lack of places available on planes. We urge you to [secure] private charter planes that will allow identified LGBTQI+ Afghans brave enough to make themselves known to make their way to safety to the UK,” said the groups.

“We are ready to assist in any way that we can. But we need urgent clarity about what the LGBTQI+ Afghans on our list should do today to make their way out of Kabul.”

The LGBT Foundation noted that the crisis was being exacerbated by “the UK Government’s overall hostility to supporting LGBTQ+ individuals who seek asylum and refuge.”

The foundation stated that even as the circumstances on the ground in Afghanistan continue to deteriorate, “the Home Office is continuing its deportation proceedings, including in the cases of those who fled Afghanistan seeking protection based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

British journalist Patrick Strudwick believes it is already too late and that LGBTIQ+ Afghans will not be rescued by the British or American governments.

“They will not be evacuated out of Kabul airport nor bundled across the border in a heroic final attempt to protect these sitting targets. Instead, they will be left to the Taliban to be stoned to death or buried alive,” he wrote for inews.

“LGBT Afghans are the third-class passengers on the Titanic. The lifeboats ran out,” Strudwick said.

The head of the British armed forces, General Sir Nick Carter announced on Saturday that the UK’s civilian evacuation operation from Afghanistan would end this weekend.


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