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Currently, LGBTQ Afghans must hide from their own families, from Daesh and Taliban insurgents who consider homosexuality a crime punishable by death, and from the Afghan government, which quietly wages an LGBTQ cleansing throughout Afghanistan. Afghan law is based on the principles codified by Sharia, declaring homosexuality illegal and an offense punishable only by death. Afghans like Shaheen are trapped in a perpetual fear of death with international news organizations and governments complicit in suppressing the LGBTQ community because they treat homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in Afghanistan as a non-issue. But this is a grave human rights matter, as anti-LGBTQ discrimination is institutionalized through the legal system in Afghanistan and across all Muslim-majority countries in the region. The entrenched homophobia in Islamic culture influences all spheres of society and could even jeopardize national security, as the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando last year proved. Omar Mateen, who hailed from Afghan ethnic origin and whose father openly supported the Taliban, may have repressed his sexual orientation and, if true, could be considered a window into how bad life is for LGBTQ persons in Muslim-majority countries. In Afghanistan, with foreign embassies limiting the scope of diplomatic presence and foreign aid in Afghanistan and neighboring Iran and Pakistan sealing their borders, Shaheen had nowhere to go for help. Throughout Afghanistan, there is not a single place an LGBTQ person can seek refuge. There are no LGBTQ-friendly homeless shelters. When LGBTQ Afghans are persecuted, family and friends refuse to help them out of homophobia or fear. Going to the Afghan police to complain about a hate crime would be a complete waste of time because homosexuality is criminalized in Afghanistan. Ogaye Hassanzada, 25, a trans Afghan woman and her partner, Ramin Hassanzada, 23, a gay Afghan man, live in Ankara, Turkey and have offered to host Shaheen and help him with his asylum case. Ogaye says, “I have five close gay and trans friends in Kabul, who have been imprisoned because of who they are.” Ogaye and her partner left Afghanistan last year after losing their jobs and being persecuted by their families. Both hope to start a new life as legal immigrants in the United States, but they worry that the current government will slam the door on LGBTQ refugees who are from Muslim countries. As an Afghan-American gay émigré and LGBTQ rights campaigner in Muslim communities worldwide, I feel like I am carrying the weight of the gay world on my back. It’s an uphill battle to inspire change, but I will never give up. Criminalized in Muslim-majority countries where sharia is the law of the land and minorities within minorities in the West, LGBTQ individuals of Muslim descent are trapped in limbo and mostly ignored by the rest of the world. Tens of thousands of LGBTQ refugees enter Europe every year, many from Muslim-majority countries. European governments that should know better continue to deny LGBTQ asylum cases from Afghanistan. In a recent Guardian article, the United Kingdom’s Home Office deported LGBTQ Afghans back to Afghanistan and suggested that THE OFFICIAL GUIDE TO CAPITAL PRIDE 2017

they move to Kabul and pretend to be straight. Shaheen lived in Kabul and despite being closeted and secretly pursuing a same-sex affair, he was outed and nearly killed. Asking LGBTQ people to conform to a militantly patriarchal culture and risk death at any time goes against the credo of universal human rights. Having fled war in Afghanistan as a child and studying the situation from afar, I know how totalitarianism can splinter the social fabric of a nation. It unnerves me to see Muslim and ex-Muslim immigrants and refugees have nowhere to go, even as my adopted land of the Untied States threatens the very liberties upon which it was founded. I trust that we can push back against the current administration’s xenophobia and still promote an LGBTQ-affirming agenda. My life-long dream is to help emancipate the tens of millions of LGBTQ people who continue to struggle for their right to live free and equal in more than 70 countries around the world. While Shaheen is still forced to stay in a country whose citizens want him dead. I have raised enough money on his behalf to help him slip out of the country without his family or the Afghan government capturing him. Shaheen’s male relatives wanted nothing more than to murder him in cold blood to restore their family’s honor and set an example so no other LGBTQ Afghan will ever try to be free and live a meaningful life. I am determined to help Shaheen become a beacon for gay rights in Afghanistan. I have known Shaheen for over a year. He is a gracious, kind, and hard-working young man, who has big dreams for himself—he still wants to pursue that dual master’s degree in economics and engineering—and who forgives his family despite all that has happened. The people of this world who love freedom, liberty, and equality stand in solidarity with Shaheen, me, and the members of the suppressed LGBTQ community in Afghanistan. My greatest wish is for Shaheen to start a new life in the United States and to share his story with the world, so that his bravery and will to survive becomes a source of inspiration for all LGBTQ people in Afghanistan and everywhere in the world. I have no doubt about the march toward freedom and equality for all. The aspirations of the LGBTQ community in Afghanistan now rests on Shaheen. If Shaheen turns this tragedy into triumph, then there will be a shimmer of hope that one day all LGBTQ Afghans can end the oppression and tyranny in their homeland and chart their own destiny. If you would like to help with Shaheen’s relocation and recovery costs, please make a donation at www.gofundme/ rescueshaheen. Nemat Sadat is the first public figure from Afghanistan to come out of the closet and campaign for LGBTQ Rights in Afghanistan and Muslim communities worldwide. He is editing his first novel and writing his first memoir. He lives in Washington D.C. You can follow him on Twitter @nematsadat. Page 99

The Official Guide to Capital Pride 2017  

The full and complete guide to all events, entertainment( including our four headliners) maps of parade and festival areas, listing of all...

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