Gay Afghan hiding from the Taliban: These WhatsApp messages show his terror


The 32-year-old man went into hiding after the Taliban seized management of Afghanistan in August, reducing off communication with household again dwelling and holing up in a Kabul basement along with his youthful brother. They spent their days studying and praying and venturing exterior just for meals.

With telephones their sole connection to the surface world, he and his brother despatched messages. A number of messages. To activists and human rights organizations. To mates of mates who knew anybody who might assist.

Their largest worry: assembly a lethal destiny by the hands of the Taliban, as their father did years in the past.

“They are going to behead us or kill us in probably the most brutal method,” the older brother informed CNN. “They’re masters in that.”

CNN verified the person’s identification via human rights activists and has been messaging with him by way of WhatsApp since August. To guard his security, CNN is figuring out him solely as Ahmed — not his actual identify.

Days within the basement become weeks crammed with dread and isolation. At instances Ahmed felt so hopeless he contemplated suicide.

Then, late final month, got here phrase of a attainable escape route.

In a sequence of current WhatsApp messages, Ahmed chronicled his life within the shadows in Kabul, his deep-rooted worry of the Taliban and his scramble to flee a rustic he is referred to as dwelling all his life.

He first fled to Kabul for his security

It was early August. The newly emboldened Taliban was seizing management of cities throughout Afghanistan, and Ahmed might really feel the phobia within the air.

He started to fret that somebody within the northwestern metropolis of Mazar-i-Sharif, the place he and his brother lived, would out him to the Taliban.

So on August 12, the siblings packed their luggage in a rush and took a bus to Kabul.

The brothers are among the many nation’s estimated 10,000 to 12,000 Christians, an awesome majority of them converts from Islam. Afghan Christians largely apply their religion in secret, as a result of leaving Islam is considered punishable by death under the Taliban’s interpretation of Sharia law.

Ahmed felt he’d be safer as a homosexual man within the sprawling Afghan capital. However three days after their arrival, Kabul fell to the Taliban.

Ahmed was effectively conscious of the Taliban’s remedy of minorities in Afghanistan.

In public statements in July, one Taliban judge said there have been solely two punishments for homosexuality — stoning or being crushed beneath a toppled wall. A current investigation by Amnesty Worldwide discovered Taliban forces in late August executed 13 Hazaras, most of whom had been members of the Afghan Nationwide Safety Forces.

He tried to cover his options in public

Many Hazaras have East Asian options — lighter pores and skin coloration and distinctively formed eyes — that set them aside from most Afghans. The ethnic group largely practices Shia Islam.

So Ahmed wore conventional garments and a turban. A medical masks coated his sparse facial hair. Sun shades obscured his eyes — and any eye contact with Taliban troopers.

However to start with, he wasn’t all the time cautious. Sooner or later in August, he was stopped by the Taliban for sporting a baseball cap. They yanked it off his head and demanded to know why he was sporting a “hip hop” hat, he stated.

The brothers tried to keep away from public locations. They hid in a tiny room off a again alley in a densely populated a part of Kabul, the place they slept on the ground with the home windows coated.

Each time they heard noises exterior, Ahmed stated “we might sit in the dead of night, completely immobile, afraid to maneuver a muscle.”

Michael Failla, a Seattle-based human rights activist who has been serving to the brothers, stated he acquired panicked calls from Ahmed in the dark.

“There was a time he referred to as me sobbing and stated he’d heard the Taliban was going door to door within the neighborhood,” Failla stated.

“He was threatening to leap off a constructing as a result of he thought it might be a much less painful solution to die than getting caught and beheaded by the Taliban as a homosexual man.”

He and his brother’s worry of the Taliban is private

The brothers’ worry of the Taliban is rooted of their household historical past.

Ahmed stated Taliban fighters killed their father throughout a notorious August 1998 massacre in Mazar-i-Sharif that left tons of of men and boys dead.

The Taliban threw his father at the back of a pickup truck and drove off, he stated. That was the final time he noticed him. Ahmed was 9.

Even earlier than their father’s loss of life, Ahmed stated his childhood was removed from idyllic. He remembers fond moments spent driving his bike beneath a pomegranate tree, but additionally brutal assaults in opposition to Hazaras and his metropolis’s LGBTQ neighborhood.

And he stated the chaos that adopted the current Taliban takeover has introduced again painful recollections.

Ahmed’s youthful brother is 26 and never homosexual. However as a Hazara and a Christian, he has additionally been in danger in Afghanistan.

Eight years in the past they misplaced their mom to a mind tumor. Since then the orphans, who haven’t any different siblings, have all the time confronted the world collectively.

Activists raced to get them in a foreign country

It isn’t clear what number of LGBTQ individuals are in Afghanistan as a result of most of them dwell within the shadows, activists say.

Final 12 months, a State Department report on Afghanistan stated LGBTQ individuals confronted “discrimination, assault and rape,” in addition to harassment and arrest by authorities.

For the reason that nation fell to the Taliban, human rights teams have been scrambling to get LGBTQ Afghans in a foreign country.

“The Taliban is well-known to have executed many LGBTQ individuals when it was in energy and there have been stories of homosexual males being murdered because it took over in August this 12 months,” stated Aws Jubair, director of the Aman Project, a Turkey-based group which advocates for the LGBTQ neighborhood within the Center East.

With the assistance of donors, the Aman Undertaking has been sending cash to LGBTQ individuals in Afghanistan and advising them to stay in hiding till they’re able to obtain asylum in different nations.

Failla, the Seattle activist, has additionally been serving to LGBTQ Afghans like Ahmed flee persecution.

“The Taliban are saying they’re going to be simpler on girls and minorities. However nobody is saying they are going to be simpler on the LGBTQ neighborhood,” Failla stated, calling them “probably the most weak minority within the nation.”

The day that modified every thing

Ahmed downloaded an app that deleted his messages as soon as they had been learn. He needed to be ready in case the Taliban seized his cellphone.

He agonized. And he waited.

Then, someday in late September, he acquired a name from an activist. A flight was obtainable within the coming days to ferry him and his brother to Pakistan.

Ahmed was ecstatic however fearful. Because the departure day acquired nearer, he grew to become fixated on how he’d get previous the Taliban checkpoints.

On the day of the flight, he donned his conventional gown. He’d already grown out his beard to disguise his face. Ahmed took a deep breath and headed along with his brother to the airport.

Now he is safer. However his journey is way from over

At the moment, in Islamabad, Ahmed is cautiously optimistic. He spends most days studying and taking walks in his new neighborhood.

Failla sends Ahmed and his brother cash and is pushing to get them granted humanitarian parole. It permits individuals with a compelling emergency to relocate quickly to the US, the place they’ll petition for a extra everlasting keep.

“We’re relieved to have them there quickly,” Failla stated. “They had been in excessive hazard (in Kabul). It is nearly like a genocide that they (Taliban) have carried out with the Hazaras.”

In the meantime, Ahmed is attempting to get used to his new environment. Though Pakistan just isn’t a mannequin for LGBTQ rights, he says he and his brother really feel a lot safer there. Their ordeal is generally behind them.

And he lastly dares to hope for his future. | Homosexual Afghan hiding from the Taliban: These WhatsApp messages present his terror

Aila Slisco

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