Gay Afghans fear extermination – how dare the government be the judge of refugees’ sexuality?’
In 1956, after Soviet tanks had rolled into Budapest, the UK resettled around 11,000 Hungarian refugees in a matter of months. In 1972, after Idi Amin gave them 90 days to leave, the UK resettled nearly 30,000 Ugandan Asian refugees. Between 1979 and 1983, the UK resettled around 16,000 Vietnamese refugees. Between 2015 and 2020, the UK resettled 20,000 Syrian refugees. All of these resettlement schemes were part of major international refugee resettlement programmes.
There are already as many as 20.7 million refugees around the world, and that is before any possible exodus from Afghanistan. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 1.47 million of those refugees require resettlement this year. Last year, fewer than 35,000 refugees were resettled, a fraction of a percent. The High Court recently commented that such figures “show the stark contrast between humanitarian need, and the availability of resettlement as a solution”.
Around 10% of refugees live in camps and some have spent years or even decades doing so. Turkey hosts 3.7 million refugees, Colombia 1.7 million, Pakistan 1.4 million and Germany 1.2 million.
The United Kingdom hosts 132,000 refugees.
So the government’s proposed resettlement of 5,000 Afghan refugees over the next year and a further 15,000 over an undefined future period is not particularly generous. That is not to say it is not welcome and necessary: there is an urgent need to resettle Afghan and other refugees from around the world.
However, for a country so boastful of its tolerance, we are only helping a handful and we are failing LGBT+ refugees by refusing to believe their identity
The fall of Kabul; the resurrection of the Taliban – it was a harrowing scene for most. But for LGBT+ Afghans, it’s a nightmare come true.
Nemat Sadat, an author – believed to be one of the first Afghans to publicly come out as gay – has warned it is not hyperbolic to compare the Taliban’s plans to the actions of the Nazis.
“They’ll weed them out and exterminate them from Afghan society,” he said. “The Taliban will impose a ‘bait, kill and dump’ policy. That is, they will appoint informants to lure gay and bisexual men online and in public spaces and take them to a secluded spot and kill them and dispose of their bodies.”
Rainbow Railroad, a charity that helps LGBT+ asylum seekers, revealed that it has been in contact with more than 200 LGBT+ Afghans who are trying to escape.
The UK government is being urged to make LGBT+ Afghans a priority group for evacuation.
In a letter sent to Dominic Raab, Stonewall and Rainbow Migration said: “LGBTQ+ Afghans need our support. But they will not be able to benefit from the Government’s evacuation programme unless they receive targeted support …
Like all of those seeking to flee, it is clear that robust security efforts are needed for vulnerable people to be able to leave the country to seek safety.”
But how will the government respond – when their track record on LGBT+ asylum is abysmal, to say the least.
According to Gov.UK statistics, there were 1,212 asylum applications lodged in the UK in 2019, where sexual orientation formed part of the basis for the claim. This only represents three percent of all asylum applications.
However, only 464 of those applications were actually granted.
Zac Daily, 32, says he was unsuccessful at applying for asylum in the UK for three and a half years as the government “didn’t believe” he was gay.
It’s unfathomable: being so excruciatingly vulnerable about the sexuality you have been forced to repress – just to be told it’s not believable.
“It was very hard to convince the government I was gay because I was not out at the time,” Daily said.
“How was I supposed to prove I’m gay? What did they want me to do? They said I should go back home and live a gay life in secret, and I’ll be fine”.
Now I know this is a nuanced debate. The government has extensive reports on how they shouldn’t stereotype LGBT+ asylum seekers, and how they should deal with the matter sensitively – but we cannot let a situation like this happen again.
From a Whisper to a Roar – Love & Protest Stories of LGBT+ Women since 1967
From a Whisper to a Roar created by Project Coordinator Evelyn Pittman and Sound Artist Lori E Allen is a project which aims to collect reminiscences from lesbian, bisexual and transwomen over a period of roughly fifty years – from the time of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967, when the focus was on men and the legal fight.
At this time there was silence around women’s issues and women’s voices were rarely heard. Over the intervening years women gradually came out of the shadows.
Women’s voices grew louder and they have become activists on many levels. Thus the project is called ‘From a Whisper to a Roar’. They hope that this project will, in a small way, add to the volume.
You can listen to the oral histories and podcasts from the project here.
Carl Bean, singer of gay pride anthem, dies aged 77
Gospel singer, minister and LGBT+ rights advocate Carl Bean has died. He was 77 years old. Bean’s life and work had a far-reaching effect on the future of the LGBT+ community.
Bean first rose to fame in the early 1960s as a soul singer in New York and Los Angeles, founding the group Carl Bean and Universal Love. His profile continued to rise into the 1970s, and he hit a new level of fame in 1975 with the Motown disco hit “I Was Born This Way”, a disco track with the message of gay pride: “I’m happy, I’m carefree and I’m gay / I was born this way”. As the title might suggest, Bean lived his life as a proud gay man throughout his career.
As a gay man, Bean was rejected by his family and his church. He, therefore, founded the Unity Fellowship Church Movement, a congregation aimed at LGBT+ African-Americans in 1982. Bean intended the church, which now has 17 individual locations worldwide, to “proclaim the ‘sacredness of all life’ thus focusing on empowering those who have been oppressed and made to feel shame.” Bean would also go on to found his own AIDS charity in 1985, the Minority Aids Project.