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, slicing off communication with household again dwelling and holing up in a Kabul basement together 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 lot of messages. To activists and human rights organizations. To buddies of buddies 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 may behead us or kill us in essentially the most brutal means,” the older brother instructed CNN. “They’re masters in that.”

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

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

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

In a collection of latest 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 known 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 fear 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 baggage 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 observe 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 therapy 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 below a toppled wall. A latest investigation by Amnesty Worldwide discovered Taliban forces in late August executed 13 Hazaras, most of whom have been members of the Afghan Nationwide Safety Forces.

He tried to cover his options in public

Many Hazaras have east and central Asian options — lighter pores and skin coloration and distinctively formed eyes — that set them other than most Afghans. The ethnic group largely practices Shia Islam.

So Ahmed wore conventional garments and a turban. A medical masks lined 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. At some point in August, he was stopped by the Taliban for carrying a baseball cap. They yanked it off his head and demanded to know why he was carrying 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 lined.

Each time they heard noises exterior, Ahmed stated “we’d sit at midnight, completely immobile, afraid to maneuver a muscle.”

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

“There was a time he known 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 will 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 lots of of men and boys dead.

The Taliban threw his father behind 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 demise, Ahmed stated his childhood was removed from idyllic. He remembers fond moments spent driving his bike below a pomegranate tree, but additionally brutal assaults towards Hazaras and his metropolis’s LGBTQ group.

And he stated the chaos that adopted the latest 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 is not 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 folks 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 folks when it was in energy and there have been reviews 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 that advocates for the LGBTQ group within the Center East.

With the assistance of donors, the Aman Mission has been sending cash to LGBTQ folks 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 will be simpler on girls and minorities. However nobody is saying they are going to be simpler on the LGBTQ group,” Failla stated, calling them “essentially 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 have been learn. He wished to be ready in case the Taliban seized his telephone.

He agonized. And he waited.

Then, in the future in late September, he obtained a name from an activist. A flight was out there within the coming days to ferry him and his brother to Pakistan.

Ahmed was ecstatic however fearful. Because the departure day obtained nearer, he turned 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 together with his brother to the airport.

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

In the present day, 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 folks with a compelling emergency to relocate quickly to the US, the place they will petition for a extra everlasting keep.

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

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

And he lastly dares to hope for his future.

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