LGBTQ+ Afghans are facing an increasingly grave situation in the region due to being targeted by the Taliban, a new report has confirmed.

Human Rights Watch and OutRight Action International’s 43-page report, titled ‘Even If You Go to the Skies, We’ll Find You’: LGBT People in Afghanistan After the Taliban Takeover’, is based on interviews with 60 LGBTQ+ Afghans in late 2021 – most of which were still in Afghanistan at the time, with others having fled to nearby countries.

Published on 26 January, it revealed that a large proportion of them were attacked or threatened by members of the Taliban because of their sexuality or gender identity.

Many have experienced abuse from others in the community, such as family members, neighbours and lovers who now support the Taliban.

In some cases, LGBTQ+ Afghans have had to flee their homes as a result of being attacked.

J. Lester Feder, senior fellow for emergency research at OutRight Action International, said: “We spoke with LGBT Afghans who have survived gang rape, mob attacks, or have been hunted by their own family members who joined the Taliban, and they have no hope that state institutions will protect them.

“For those LGBT people who want to flee the country, there are few good options; most of Afghanistan’s neighbors also criminalize same-sex relations.

“It is difficult to overstate how devastating – and terrifying – the return of Taliban rule has been for LGBT Afghans.”

Interviewees that had fled the country shared concerns that they would be deported due to lacking appropriate immigration status, adding that they were fearful of LGBTQ+ laws in the region.

Afghanistan has been an increasingly dangerous place to live for the community since the Taliban’s takeover in August 2021.

Despite pledging to protect human rights in the country when it first regained control of it, the Taliban has since engaged in things like revenge killings, discrimination against women and young girls, as well as restricting freedom of expression.

Since the end of Operation Pitting, the UK has helped more than 1,300 people, including British and Afghan nationals, to leave Afghanistan.

On 29 October, the country welcomed the first group of LGBTQ+ Afghans starting a new life in the country after fleeing the Taliban.

At the time, Foreign Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss said: “Britain is a fierce champion of freedom and the right of all people to be themselves and love who they want free from persecution.

“We played a key role getting these people out and will continue to do all we can to help at-risk Afghans leave the country.”

The government expressed its hope that this would be the first of many LGBTQ+ Afghans starting new lives in the UK, with more expected to arrive in the UK in the coming months.

Among the first arrivals were students and activists who have repeatedly stood up for equality for the LGBT+ community in Afghanistan.

They have been supported by Rainbow Railroad, Stonewall, Micro Rainbow and other LGBTQ+ charities in setting up their new lives.