Wednesday, December 1

First Group of LGBT + Afghans to Flee the Taliban Arrives in UK | Afghanistan

A group of LGBT + Afghans has arrived in Britain, the first since the return of the Taliban to power in August sparked panic among gay and transgender Afghans, who feared persecution and even death under Islamist rule.

The evacuation of the 29 Afghans is expected to be the first of many in the coming months, Britain’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday, hours after a Taliban spokesman said LGBT + rights would not be respected. .

Thousands of Afghans, including LGBT + people, women and officials linked to the previous administration, rushed to flee the country after the Taliban’s swift return to power on August 15, but many were unable to board foreign evacuation flights.

“We play a key role in getting these people out and we will continue to do everything we can to help Afghans at risk leave the country,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement, adding that Britain will continue to defend “the right of all”. that people be themselves and love whoever they want ”.

Among the group are students and activists who have repeatedly championed equality for the LGBT community in Afghanistan, the Foreign, Common and Development Office (FCDO) said.

Members of the group will remain in “bridge accommodation,” said a Foreign Ministry spokesman, who declined to give details about their legal status or how they were able to leave Afghanistan, citing the need to safeguard the route.

During the 1996-2001 Taliban rule, there were reports of gay men being stoned to death in official executions.

Safe houses are being established for the Afghans, who arrived on Friday, said Sebastian Rocca, executive director of Micro Rainbow, a charity that supports LGBT + refugees. “Of course, they are in a new country, in a place they have never seen before. Some of them don’t speak the language and don’t know the system, ”said Rocca.

The FCDO said that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people were being rescued from Afghanistan because they are at risk of discrimination and assault as a result of the Taliban takeover following NATO’s departure from the central Asian country.

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

Authorities said the Foreign Secretary, along with Stonewall, Britain’s largest LGBT + rights group, and the Canadian organization Rainbow Railroad, had intervened to ensure that this first group got safe passage to the UK this week. .

More vulnerable LGBT Afghans are expected to arrive in the UK in the coming months.

Nancy Kelley, Stonewall’s executive director, said her organization had been campaigning to bring vulnerable Afghans to the UK for the “past few months” and vowed to continue pushing for international support to help those still in the U.K.-ruled country. Taliban.

“The situation is likely to remain extremely dangerous for some time to come,” he said.

The British government said the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme would remain open to provide protection to people at risk.

The plan, the FCDO said, will prioritize those who have assisted the UK’s efforts in Afghanistan and upheld values ​​such as democracy, women’s rights, freedom of expression and the rule of law.

It will also focus on the evacuation of vulnerable people, including women, girls and members of minority groups at risk.

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