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, chopping off communication with household again house 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 number of messages. To activists and human rights organizations. To pals of pals who knew anybody who may 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 probably the most brutal approach,” the older brother instructed 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 title.

Days within the basement changed into weeks stuffed with dread and isolation. At instances Ahmed felt so hopeless he contemplated suicide.

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

In a sequence 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 house 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 may 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 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 amazing majority of them converts from Islam. Afghan Christians largely follow 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 underneath 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 colour 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 at first, 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 mentioned.

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 mentioned “we’d sit at nighttime, completely immobile, afraid to maneuver a muscle.”

Michael Failla, a Seattle-based human rights activist who has been serving to the brothers, mentioned he received panicked calls from Ahmed at midnight.

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

“He was threatening to leap off a constructing as a result of he thought it could be a much less painful method 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 mentioned 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 mentioned. That was the final time he noticed him. Ahmed was 9.

Even earlier than their father’s demise, Ahmed mentioned his childhood was removed from idyllic. He recollects fond moments spent using his bike underneath a pomegranate tree, but in addition brutal assaults towards Hazaras and his metropolis’s LGBTQ neighborhood.

And he mentioned the chaos that adopted the latest Taliban takeover has introduced again painful reminiscences.

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 don’t have any different siblings, have all the time confronted the world collectively.

Activists raced to get them overseas

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 mentioned LGBTQ individuals confronted “discrimination, assault and rape,” in addition to harassment and arrest by authorities.

Because the nation fell to the Taliban, human rights teams have been scrambling to get LGBTQ Afghans overseas.

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

With the assistance of donors, the Aman Challenge has been sending cash to LGBTQ individuals in Afghanistan and advising them to stay in hiding till they can 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 ladies and minorities. However nobody is saying they are going to be simpler on the LGBTQ neighborhood,” Failla mentioned, calling them “probably the most susceptible minority within the nation.”

The day that modified every part

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 cellphone.

He agonized. And he waited.

Then, at some point in late September, he received 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 received 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 much from over

Right now, 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 mentioned. “They have been in excessive hazard (in Kabul). It is virtually like a genocide that they (Taliban) have accomplished with the Hazaras.”

In the meantime, Ahmed is making an attempt 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 usually behind them.

And he lastly dares to hope for his future.

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