Words: Alastair James; pictures: Wiki (left) and Pexels
The head of the Canadian charity, Rainbow Railroad, has said that the Taliban in Afghanistan has a "kill list" of LGBTQ people and is using it to hunt people down.
The charity, set up in 2006 to help LGBTQ in danger in their home countries find refuge and safety elsewhere, helped bring 29 LGBTQ Afghans into the UK on Friday (29 October).
Rainbow Railroad’s Executive Director, Kimahli Powell, said the Taliban are likely to have used the chaos around the US and allied troops' withdrawal from the country in August to create these lists based on people trying to evacuate.
"We now know for sure the Taliban has a ‘kill list’"
Speaking to France 24 by phone, Powell says it is a particularly scary time for Afghanistan’s LGBTQ community adding, "We now know for sure the Taliban has a ‘kill list’ circulating, identifying LGBTQI+ persons."
He believes the Taliban have acquired information through data leaks and tried impersonating Rainbow Railroad, the only foreign LGBTQ charity on the ground in the beleaguered Middle Eastern country.
Continuing he told the French broadcaster that "There are private citizens [in Afghanistan] that have been keen to help. But as far as LGBTQ organisations go, it's really just us there."
"I can guarantee you already right now, that the number of requests we will receive this year will spike," Powell also said. Apparently, the group has had 700 requests for help this year from Afghanistan, with at least 200 more "in need of immediate evacuation".
They usually get 4,000 help requests per year from across the world.
Powell described one incident where a man they were trying to help was raided by the Taliban who beat him and burned his passport. Rainbow Railroad is still trying to get him out, Powell said adding the job was now "infinitely harder".
Other recent reports indicate similar behaviour towards other LGBTQ people, with one gay man being tricked into meeting two Taliban members thinking he might be able to escape the country. He was raped and beaten and now lives in silence.
Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in all of Afghanistan and punishable with a maximum penalty of death under Sharia law.
In July, a Taliban judge said gay men would be punished by being crushed to death by a 10ft wall under the regime.