Deported gay Afghans told to ‘pretend to be straight’

Deported gay Afghans told to ‘pretend to be straight’

New Home Office rules would send gay asylum seekers back to Afghanistan, where homosexuality is illegal

A city in Afghanistan.
The guidelines appear have put the Home Office at odds with the UN, Stonewall, and its own Afghanistan unit. Photograph: Christophe Cerisier/Getty Images

Gay Afghans can be deported to their home country, where homosexuality is illegal and “wholly taboo” and they must pretend to be straight, under new British government guidelines for handling asylum applications.

The new guidance for a country where not a single citizen lives an openly gay life has been denounced by human rights groups as a violation of international law, and criticised by the Home Office’s own Afghanistan unit.

“The Home Office’s approach seems to be to tell asylum seekers, ‘Pretend you’re straight, move to Kabul and best of luck,’” said Heather Barr, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Living a life where you are forced to lie every day about a key part of your identity, and live in constant fear of being found out and harassed, prosecuted or attacked, is exactly the kind of persecution asylum laws are supposed to prevent.”

The document, dated last month, clearly lays out the multiple risks to LGBT Afghans from their own families, from Afghan laws, and from Taliban insurgents who consider homosexuality a crime punishable by death.

It also suggests that lesbians and gay men “with what may be seen as feminine traits” would be at serious risk if forced to return. But the guidance goes on to argue that as the Afghan government has not recently prosecuted anyone for homosexuality, and the Taliban do not currently threaten the capital, a closeted gay Afghan could live safely in Kabul.

“While space for being openly gay is limited, subject to individual factors, a practising gay man who, on return to Kabul, would not attract or seek to cause public outrage, would not face a real risk of persecution,” the document says. “In the absence of other risk factors, it may be a safe and viable option for a gay man to relocate to Kabul, though individual factors will have to be taken into account.”

This apparently puts the Home Office at odds with United Nations guidelines on refugees, which specify that LGBT people should not be required to change or conceal their identity to avoid persecution, said Paul Twocock, director of campaigns, policy and research at Stonewall.

“These Home Office guidance notes on Afghanistan seem to directly contradict this. They openly acknowledge that LGBT people are at risk, but also state that they can escape persecution if they are careful not to attract attention by hiding who they are,” Twocock said.

“This is unacceptable and leaves LGBT people in danger. We strongly urge the government to change its approach.”

The Home Office’s own Afghanistan unit expressed deep concerns with the guidance. An attachment to the main document bluntly states “homosexuality remains wholly taboo” in the country and underlines that gay Afghans have to conceal their identity.

The lack of prosecutions for homosexuality since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001 does not reflect an increased openness, the note continues, just greater respect for the rule of law.

“There is very little space in Afghan society, in any location, to be an individual that openly identifies as LGBT. Social attitudes and the legal position of homosexuality means that the only option for a homosexual individual, in all but the very rarest of cases, would be to conceal their sexual orientation to avoid punishment.”

It also objects to references in the report to the common practice of sexually exploiting young boys. “We are deeply concerned at the suggestion that the prevalence, especially in the Pashtun community, of the practice of bacha bazi [pederasty] implies an acceptance of certain homosexual conduct,” warns the document, signed by the head of the unit.

“Its occurrence reflects Afghanistan’s inability to deal with child sexual abuse and paedophilia. It should not be associated with consensual homosexuality and attitudes towards this.”

The Home Office declined to comment directly on the new guidelines, saying only that each claim is considered on its individual merits, and in accordance with the UK’s international obligations. “Where someone is found to be at risk of persecution or serious harm in their country of origin because of their sexuality or gender identity, refuge will be granted,” a spokesperson said.

1 thought on “Deported gay Afghans told to ‘pretend to be straight’

  1. You remember the claim by heterosexuals/straights attacking homosexuals/gay people because they did feel threatened by the gay person?

    Would it be accepted by the UK Home Office when those claiming the Gay Defense claim to pretend to be gay when approached by a gay individual, at for instance a gay bar?
    Personal I think that the Home Office would refer to such demand to be ridiculous and even stupid!

    Well, all in all I state that the demand(!) by the Home Office for gay people to pretend to be straight in a society that is killing gay people for being gay is ridiculous and stupid, and even the most racists and inhuman policy ever!
    The Home Office official who came up with this policy should be subjected to the most severe action possible, that official should be given the label gay and being deported to for instance Iran were gay people are officially(!) are killed for being gay!

    Or even better, create a statement (a Royal decree perhaps!) that labels that official being gay and then deport that person off to ISIS/DAESH-country, and have him thrown off the highest building around there, and not blindfold his eyes, so that this individual cans ee the last thing ever seen in his life: the journey down!

    The Home Office may be supporting the anti-immigration policies of the right-wing terrorists in and among the UK, for election purposes and popular demand, the Home Office should be remember that political refugees have the right to seek asylum because of their position!

    In other words, economic immigration is something that must be opposed as much as possible, wereby people coming to the western world for economic reasons are sent back to their own countries, but people who are in danger of being killed for being gay must have the right to seek asylum because of their sexual orientation!

    Sending gay people back to a a situation were they are expected to be killed because of their sexual orientation is being complicit to their death, murder, and as long as the UK is implementing the policy of sending back gay people to places were gay people are prosecuted and killed for their sexual orientation the Home Office and the UK as a whole is complicit to murder!

    The UK has blood on its hands, and every citizen supporting sending back gay people to anti-gay places is having blood on his/her hands, and is guilty of murder of these people!


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