HYDERABAD: The first time I spoke to Nemat Sadat was in August 2019, in a pre-pandemic world, where we sat across each other and discussed the future of the queer community in Afghanistan. He seemed hopeful after receiving positive reactions for his book, The Carpet Weaver, which talks about the forbidden same-sex love story of two men. “One day I want to live in my country and not be stoned for loving a man,” the gay rights activist had said.
As visuals of Kabul falling to the mercy of the Taliban filled television sets, a death sentence was signed for the LGBTQ+ community in the war-torn nation. “Taliban will eliminate the gays, just like the Nazis did,” says Nemat, as he deals with the task of trying to evacuate 350 queer persons from Afghanistan. In the last week of August, 175 people of the queer community tried to flee, but none could make it. Soon after, the ISIS blast happened, which made it tougher for Nemat to ensure the safety of his family and friends. Declared a ‘national threat’ by the Afghan government for being gay, Nemat was forced to flee his country and seek asylum.
Speaking on the relationship between him and Afghanistan, he says, “It’s bringing old wounds to the surface. My relationship with the country is very complex; I was made to feel that I didn’t belong there long before the Taliban came to power again. But, things have worsened again and it has devastated me, like most Afghans around the world.”
“I have been campaigning for queer rights in Afghanistan for more than a decade now and believe me, things were still better earlier. The community was criminalised, had been killed, and made a bait, but we created a space for ourselves despite all this. All this effort will be futile now, as the Taliban’s hardline interpretation of Sharia justifies the killing of gay men by either stoning or toppling them off of 10-15-foot walls,” he shares.
Last weekend, two queer persons were killed after the Taliban barged into their homes, covered their head and face with plastic bags, and dragged them away for execution. The landlord was given an ultimatum: “You house this filth and you will suffer the same fate as them.” This is just one of the many cases, Nemat reveals, where the Taliban have been conducting house raids, snatching phones, and checking messages, chats, and social media to hunt down members of the LGBTQ+ community.
On the day that the Taliban took over, Ahmadullah, a young gay Afghan, risked meeting his boyfriend. Later that day, his boyfriend was beheaded, Nemat narrates. Worried for his life, Ahmadullah crossed over the barbed fence and approached a US Marine. He was beaten and warned by them to never come back or else he would be shot — a gamble he would willingly take again.