Gus Kenworthy
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How You Can Help LGBTQ+ Afghans in Crisis

Kabul airport

As Afghanistan descends into chaos with the pullout of U.S. troops and the resurgence of the Taliban, many people are rightly worried about the fate of LGBTQ+ Afghans. But we can also take action. Numerous organizations are helping LGBTQ+ folks who remain in the country and those seeking to flee, and they can use your monetary support. Here are some, with links to contact them.

Rainbow Railroad helps LGBTQ+ people flee state-sponsored violence. Since its founding in 2006, it has helped more than 1,600 of them find safety through emergency relocation and other forms of assistance. The organization released this statement on the crisis:

In the past few days, the security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated rapidly. The swiftness of the collapse of the Ashraf Ghani government and immediate attempts of thousands of Afghans to flee has led to a potential migration and humanitarian crisis. There is great worry that the return of the Taliban will mean the return of grave human rights abuses, including the loss of basic human rights for women and girls, more gender-based violence and the extreme persecution of LGBTQI+ people. 

Afghanistan already is not a safe place to be LGBTQI+ people. According to the U.S. State Department, public attitudes across the diversity of Afghan society towards LGBTQI+ people are extremely negative, which leads members of the LGBTQ+ community to keep their gender identity and sexual orientation a secret in fear of harassment, intimidation, persecution, and death. Now, with the return of the Taliban, there is understandable fear that the situation will worsen.

Rainbow Railroad is concerned that the return to power of the Taliban will lead to instances of extreme violence directed at members of the LGBTQI+ community in Afghanistan. And although it remains to be seen how the Taliban will respond to international pressure to uphold human rights, early signs are not encouraging. Just last month, a Taliban judge threatened that gay men will be crushed to death by toppling walls onto them should the group regain control of Afghanistan.

We are also concerned that this impending crisis will lead to a spike in request for help. So far in 2021, we have received 50 requests for help originating in Afghanistan, and we anticipate an   uptick in requests due to the deteriorating security situation that threatens the safety of LGBTQI+ people. Moreover, there [are] very limited human rights defenders and civil society engagement to support LGBTQI+ perons at risk. However, we are currently relying on our deep international network and contacts within the country in order to reach people at risk. 

Now is the time for governments to step up and support LGBTQI+ Afhgan refugees. On Friday, August 13, the Canadian government announced that Canada will resettle 20,000 vulnerable Afghans threatened by the Taliban and forced to flee Afghanistan. The government also committed to introducing a special program to focus on vulnerable groups, specifically naming LGBTQI+ individuals. Rainbow Railroad is looking forward to engaging with the Canadian government to identify and refer LGBTQI+ Afghans in need of emergency assistance. We strongly encourage other governments to do the same. 

At the same time however, we must not lose sight of the fact that we need more proactive policies to help LGBTQI+ persons in crisis situations. Whether it is state sponsored crackdowns on LGBTQI+ persons in Ghana or Uganda, the continuous migrant crisis in Venezuela, or refugees in Kenya and Turkey still awaiting resettlement, we need to immediately resume the resettlement of LGBTQI+ refugees — Rainbow Railroad is fielding 3,000-4,000 requests for help from around the world annually. Many need immediate support. 

Rainbow Railroad will continue to update the situation via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. And here are other organizations working internationally.

OutRight Action International documents violations of the rights of LGBTQ+ people and advocates for recognition and promotion of their rights. It works with the United Nations, regional human rights monitoring bodies, and civil society partners. It holds consultative status at the United Nations as a recognized nongovernmental organization.

Immigration Equality advocates for the rights of LGBTQ+ immigrants; this includes providing legal representation to asylum seekers. Lambda Legal also represents those fleeing persecution in their home countries.

ILGA World is a federation of 1,731 LGBTQ+ organizations from 168 countries. It supports LGBTQ+ people through advocacy and research projects, and gives grassroots movements a voice in international bodies.

Human Rights Campaign Global works for LGBTQ+ rights internationally via public education campaigns as well as supporting a network of more than 180 LGBTQ+ organizations and leaders in 90 countries around the world.

The Council for Global Equality is a coalition of prominent U.S.-based human rights and LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations that together encourage a clear U.S. voice for the human rights of LGBTQ+ people worldwide.

Miry’s List Emergency Action Fund (not exclusively LGBTQ+) is raising funds to support families resettling as refugees in the United States from Afghanistan.

Amnesty International, also not exclusively LGBTQ+, fights abuses of human rights worldwide through advocacy, lobbying, protests, and more.

Human Rights Watch investigates and reports on abuses around the world, including those involving LGBTQ+ people, and pushes governments, businesses, and others to change their policies.

Activists warn that it’s extremely dangerous for LGBTQ+ people in Afghanistan to be recognized as such now, so they’re being careful to make sure any aid doesn’t draw attention to them. For even more ways to help the Afghan people in general, consult this article from Newsweek.

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