Afghanistan LGBT community living under threat of death
Homosexuality is a taboo subject in Afghanistan, rarely discussed in the media and widely condemned as immoral and un-Islamic. As a result there are no statistics indicating the size of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the country.
The BBC spoke to four Afghans with different sexual orientations. All told stories of a life in hiding, but all were determined to stand by their identity. All names in the article have been changed for safety reasons.
Zainab is 19 years old and lives at home. But her parents and siblings have no idea what she feels.
“I was 15 or 16 when I realised that I had a dislike towards men,” she says.
“I was working in a beauty salon. There were lots of girls around me and it was then I realised I fancied girls more than boys.”
Zainab says it took her years to find the courage to come out to her first partner.
When Zainab confessed to a friend of many years that she was in love with her, the reaction was one of shock.
“I told her that ‘the feelings a boy normally has towards a girl, I have those feelings for you’. For a while the friend withdrew, but later the two became a couple.
Zainab says they managed to meet up once or twice a week, but the relationship remained hidden.
“There are lots of lesbian women but they can’t talk about it openly,” Zainab says. “In Afghanistan, being lesbian is seen as un-Islamic. If people found out, the result would be death. My family must never know.”
The fear of rejection and reprisals, even death is shared by all the Afghans who spoke to the BBC for this report.
They also share the problem of family pressure to get married to a partner from the opposite sex and conform to the norms of traditional Afghan society.
‘We could be hanged’
Dawood realised he was gay at the age of 18. Nevertheless he got engaged to a woman.
“It was arranged without my consent,” he says. “I wanted to cancel it because I had no feelings towards the opposite sex.”
The engagement was reversed and Dawood says he is in a happy relationship with a man now.
“It is very deep. When we meet up we feel like we are in a different world.”
But Dawood too is forced to live a double life.
“In Afghanistan homosexuality is seen as shocking, as a negative phenomenon. If we are discovered, perhaps we could even get hanged,” he says.