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Afghanistan's underground gay community are fearing for their lives after this month's takeover of the country by the Taliban.
Homosexual sex has technically been punishable by death in the country for decades, but the law hasn't been applied since the end of the Taliban's first regime in 2001.
With the group back in charge of the country, though, there are huge concerns among the LGBTQ+ community that they may once again be subject to even greater levels of oppression than before.
Speaking to the Insider, Nemat Sadat, the first public figure in Afghanistan to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, said he was helping gay Afghans apply for asylum and escape the country as he's convinced the Taliban will quickly start targeting them.
He said: "It's not hyperbolic to say that gay people will get weeded out and exterminated by the Taliban, just like the Nazis did.
"People are messaging me saying here's my passport, here's all my information, please get me out of this country, I'm going to die."
Sadat left the country in 2013 to live in the United States after receiving death threats for his role in organizing the LGBTQ+ rights movement in the country.
His comments have been echoed by other prominent members of the Afghan gay community.
Hamid Zaher, 47, was one of the first Afghan men to come out publicly. He said that, even under the US-supported government, it was 'a very bad time' for gay men.
He explained: "Before they could be put in jail, or they could be beaten.
"But now if the Taliban arrests them, they will kill them."
Like Sadat, Zaher has long since left Afghanistan, moving away in 2001 and escaping to Turkey, before claiming asylum in Canada in 2008.
For those still in the country, the prospect of a new Taliban regime is terrifying.
A 37-year-old gay man currently living in Afghanistan, who was kept anonymous in the Insider piece to protect his identity, said the takeover was like a 'bad dream'.
He said he's too scared to see his boyfriend of three years, explaining: "If the Taliban finds out about us, they'll sentence us to death."
A 21-year-old student also said he's scared he won't see his partner again.
He said: "If we get caught, the Taliban will kill us."
The immediate hope is that countries will open their borders for refugees as a result of the takeover and the risk posed to the LGBTQ+ community.
Canadian LGBTQ+ charity Rainbow Railroad sent out a message to international governments urging them to help, writing: "Now is the time for governments to step up and support LGBTQI+ Afghan refugees."
Featured Image Credit: PA
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