A gay man from Afghanistan who was burned by a Taliban member has said he is “shocked” by the lack of support and solidarity shown by the international LGBT+ community.
Sohil – whose surname has been withheld to protect his identity – is a young gay Afghan whose life was thrown into disarray when the Taliban seized power in August.
Afghanistan was never accepting of homosexuality, but he was in contact with a small network of other gay people. Now, they’re all “living in the shadows” – hiding themselves to evade capture and torture by the extremist group.
“Imagine you have all the great hopes for your life, you have everything, and then one day you wake up and everything is gone,” he tells PinkNews. “I lost my university, I lost my life, I lost my community. Even the boys I was in contact with, they are all living in the shadows. They are all hiding themselves.”
His daily life is very different to what it was before the Taliban took over. Sohil says he was just a “normal person” before extremists weaponised his sexuality. He was a medical student who had ambitions to get out of Afghanistan and build a life for himself. Now, he’s been forced to flee his home – he told his family his history of supporting human rights could make him a Taliban target.
“I live like a prisoner. I was living in my own house with my family. After the Taliban attacked me, I couldn’t live in my house because they would recognise my face and they knew who I am. Now I am living in a different home. My family doesn’t know about my sexuality. If I tell them I will lose their support too.”
Sohil is in danger every day he remains in Afghanistan. He was recently left traumatised after a Taliban member burned him with scalding water. The incident occurred when he went to a local government office in an effort to get a passport and a copy of his birth certificate.
“I was wearing just regular jeans and a T-shirt,” Sohil says. “Suddenly someone grabbed my hand. I was wearing a mask because I didn’t want anyone seeing my face. My heart was pounding. I saw there was a guy who had a gun on his shoulder.
“He asked me: ‘What are you doing here?’ I said: ‘I have come for my birth certificate.’ He said: ‘Why are you wearing that T-shirt? You’re wearing western clothes.’ I said: ‘It’s just normal clothes, everyone wears it.’ I knew that it wasn’t about my clothes. I know that he somehow had identified that I am not straight.”
Sohil continues: “He took me in his office and asked me again: ‘Why are you wearing this and why are you here?’ I said again: ‘I’ve just come for my ID card and my birth certificate.’ He said: ‘You’re lying.’ He slapped me on my face and I fell down on the ground. His two soldiers beat me. He asked again: ‘Who are you?’ I didn’t confess that I am one of the LGBT activists. He then beat me again and kicked me in my stomach.”
The attack escalated when the soldier picked up a teapot full of boiling water and went to pour it on Sohil’s face.
“I just turned my face and the tea fell down on my chest and my shoulder,” Sohil says. “Someone grabbed my hand and pushed me out of there somehow, I don’t know how. I was in so much pain and trauma. I couldn’t sleep for one week after that.”
Sohil is terrified for the future and he is desperate to get out of Afghanistan so he can start a new life away from the Taliban. He is shocked and disappointed that the rest of the world has left people like him to languish there, and he is frustrated by the lack of response from the global LGBT+ community.
“We don’t know if we will be alive tomorrow or not,” he says. “I think the whole world doesn’t think about that. I think our own LGBT+ community doesn’t think about that. In two months, no one contacted me… I had a hope that our LGBT+ community will help us but day by day, I am losing my hope. I don’t know what to do. I hoped that our LGBT+ community will help us, but there is no one standing for us. I used to stand for my guys in Afghanistan, now I want them to stand for us.”
He adds: “I am totally shocked, I had hoped the LGBTQ community will help us, they will listen to our voice, but they are totally gone. No one is listening, no one is looking out for us. In this time we need the most help, there is no one. I don’t know why, do people just forget about us?”
The situation for LGBT+ people in Afghanistan right now is “terrifying”, he says.
“They are searching for people like us that stand against the Taliban. All of my community have deleted their social media accounts. People have told me: ‘Please do not contact me, we are not safe. If someone finds out about our gender or sexuality we will be killed.’”