A transitioning democracy still under a US occupation would seem like a refuge for L.G.B.T (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people especially when neighboring countries in the region execute homosexuals as an act of faith.
But beneath the superficiality of Afghanistan’s homoerotic culture and queer vibe, there is a story of untold misery. The Afghan Penal Code makes no reference to homosexuality or homosexual acts. However, Article 130 of the Constitution defers authority to sharia law, which prohibits same-gender sexual activity and criminalizes homosexuals with capital punishment. While no death sentences have been publicly meted out in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, a quiet extermination campaign of L.G.B.T Afghans has been in full effect—and it seems to have, lately, ratcheted up.
For the past four years, I’ve heard testimony from hundreds of L.G.B.T. Afghans, many who have experienced first-hand or know someone close to them who has been mistreated by the police or callous judges. A young Afghan man, who lives in hiding, winces as he tells me he was raped by a district governor in the province of Farah. When this gay victim brought a case to trial, an Afghan judge rebuked him, saying he should have tolerated being sexually violated. Instead of punishing the rapist, the judge prosecuted the gay man for bringing charges against a pious government official.
Numerous sources also tell me that Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS), the primary domestic and foreign intelligence agency responsible for neutralizing terrorist attacks, redirects resources and exterminates homosexuals one-by-one in a “kill and dump” policy meant to eliminate an entire generation of L.G.B.T. people—all for the sake of protecting national security and preserving the tribal order and Islamic status quo. How is a civic-minded L.G.B.T. person more dangerous than a homicidal terrorist?
A gay Afghan man who is seeking asylum in Belgium and wishes to remain anonymous says he escaped a near-death ordeal when an NDS official lured him into a honey trap in Kabul in 2014 soon after he opened a fake Facebook account and started searching online for romance with other men. In an unexpected change of heart, the NDS official decided not to kill him but confessed that he murders L.G.B.T. Afghans for a living.
The homosexual cleansing in Afghanistan is not limited to the country’s judicial system and primary intelligence agency. Countless L.G.B.T. Afghan survivors tell me about being beaten, fined, jailed, and raped by the Afghan Local Police or Afghan National Police or near-death altercations with the Afghan Armed Forces for being an abomination. Until the National Assembly and President Ashraf Ghani work jointly to legalize L.G.B.T. rights and stop the purge, the most marginalized minority group in Afghanistan will continue to suffer with impunity.
The goal of the homosexual cleansing campaign in Afghanistan is to disrupt the underground network of L.G.B.T. people from organizing themselves and emerging as a formidable social force as ethnic Hazaras have become in recent years. The more western societies become gay-friendly and their respective governments legislate L.G.B.T. protection and marriage equality and promote L.G.B.T. equality as an instrument of foreign policy, the more homosexuals in ultra-homophobic countries become exposed and suffer a backlash from their local communities. But doing nothing is a slow and painful death.
Since coming out can cost L.G.B.T. Afghans their life, the least we can do to ease their journey is by pressuring the Afghan government to abide by international human rights norms. Instead of persecuting, punishing, and purging homosexuals for who they are, the time has come for Afghanistan to legalize L.G.B.T. rights and join the modern age.