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Dozens of LGBTQ Afghans seek assistance from Immigration Equality

Taliban regained control of country on Aug. 15

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Kabul, Afghanistan, in July 2021 (Photo courtesy of Dr. Ahmad Qais Munhazim)

Immigration Equality last week said 80 LGBTQ Afghans have requested assistance from the group.

Aaron Morris, executive director of the New York-based group, in a press release noted “our attorneys spoke directly with 50 queer people before the U.S. government left the nation” on Aug. 30.

“We did everything in our power to get as many people out as possible,” said Morris.

The Taliban entered Kabul, the Afghan capital, on Aug. 15 and toppled then-President Ashraf Ghani’s government.

The U.S. evacuated more than 123,000 people — including upwards of 6,000 American citizens — from Afghanistan since the Taliban regained control of the country until American military operations ended on Aug. 30.

A Taliban judge in July said the group would once again execute people if it were to return to power in Afghanistan.

Dr. Ahmad Qais Munhazim, an assistant professor of global studies at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia who is originally from Afghanistan, in an op-ed the Washington Blade published last month wrote the Taliban when they controlled the country from 1996-2001 hanged men in soccer fields who had been accused of having same-sex relationships. One LGBTQ Afghan who commented under a Facebook post said the Taliban “will kill us one by one, so I have no choice but to escape.”

More than 60 members of Congress have urged the U.S. to evacuate LGBTQ Afghans from their country.

Canada thus far is the only country that has specifically said it would offer refuge to LGBTQ Afghans. Immigration Equality, the Toronto-based Rainbow Railroad and ILGA Asia are among the groups that continue to try to assist LGBTQ people who remain in Afghanistan.

“Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan two weeks ago, the reality for Afghan LGBTQ people has become a living nightmare,” said Morris. “The punishment for being gay in Afghanistan again includes public stoning, being crushed by a wall, and other violent horrors. All of the LGBTQ Afghans we have spoken to are begging for someone to save their lives. They are terrified, and they are desperate.”

“Immigration Equality won’t stand for the abhorrent treatment of our Afghan LGBTQ brothers, sisters and non-binary siblings,” added Morris.

“Now that airplanes are no longer taking off, there are still scores of people who need urgent evacuations. And there is still time to save lives,” said Morris. “We must all work together to find safe passage for those in our community who need to leave. Evacuating LGBTQ and other vulnerable populations is a long-term undertaking, and we intend to do our part to get them to safety. We implore the people of America not to forget LGBTQ Afghans. Let us welcome them as refugees and expedite their safe arrival in this country.”

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United Nations

UN Security Council urged to focus on LGBTQ, intersex rights

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield chaired Monday meeting

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The United Nations (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

UNITED NATIONS — U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Monday chaired a meeting at the United Nations that focused on the integration of LGBTQ and intersex rights into the U.N. Security Council’s work.

The U.S. Mission to the U.N. co-sponsored the meeting along with Albania, Brazil, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Japan, Malta, Switzerland, the U.K. and the LGBTI Core Group, a group of U.N. countries that have pledged to support LGBTQ and intersex rights.

Thomas-Greenfield announced four “specific steps the U.S. will take to better integrate LGBTQI+ concerns into the U.N. Security Council’s daily work.”

• A regular review of the situation of LGBTQ and intersex people in conflict zones on the Security Council’s agenda that “includes regularly soliciting information from LGBTQI+ human rights defenders.

• Encouraging the U.N. Secretariat and other U.N. officials to “integrate LGBTQI+ concerns and perspectives in their regular reports” to the Security Council.

• A commitment “to raising abuses and violations of the human rights of LGBTQI+ people in our national statements in the Security Council.”

• A promise to propose, “when appropriate, language in Security Council products responding to the situation of LGBTQI+ individuals.”

“We are proud of these commitments,” said Thomas-Greenfield during Monday’s meeting. “They are just the beginning.”

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks outside the U.N. Security Council on March 20, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ and intersex issues, provided a briefing on LGBTQ and intersex rights around the world. 

“My mandate is based on one single fact: Diversity and sexual orientation and gender identity is a universal feature of humanity,” he said. “For too long, it has been made invisible in national level contributions to peace and security, including policies and programs and in the political and programmatic action of the United Nations.” 

María Susana Peralta of Colombia Diversa — an LGBTQ and intersex advocacy group in Colombia that participated in talks between the country’s government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia that led to an LGBTQ-inclusive peace agreement then-President Juan Manuel Santos and then-FARC Commander Rodrigo “Timochenko” Londoño signed in 2016 — and Afghan LGBT Organization Director Artemis Akbary also took part in the meeting.

Peralta said Colombia’s peace agreement “has created a standard by which other countries can use,” but noted the country’s Special Justice for Peace has yet to prosecute anyone who committed human rights abuses based on sexual orientation or gender identity during the war.

Akbary noted the persecution of LGBTQ and intersex people in Afghanistan has increased since the Taliban regained control of the country in 2021. Akbary also said LGBTQ and intersex Afghans cannot flee to Iran and other neighboring countries because of criminalization laws.

“The whole world is watching as the rights of LGBTQ people are systematically violated in Afghanistan,” said Akbary. “LGBTQ people on the ground in Afghanistan need and deserve protection.”

Representatives of U.N. delegations from France, Brazil, Albania, Japan, Ecuador, Switzerland, the U.K., Malta, Colombia, South Africa, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands and the European Union spoke in favor of the integration of LGBTQ and intersex rights into the Security Council’s work.

“A person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression or sex characteristics often increases the risk of of becoming the target in conflict and crisis situations,” said Luis Guilherme Parga Cintra of Brazil.

British Ambassador to the U.N. General Assembly Richard Crocker made a similar point.

“We know the conflicts have disproportionate impact on marginalized communities: Women and girls, persons with disabilities, members of ethnic and religious minority groups,” he said. “It is only right the Security Council is discussing this issue today.”

Ambassador Karlito Nunes, who is Timor-Leste’s permanent U.N. representative, read a statement in support of the Security Council discussions about LGBTQ and intersex issues. Representatives from China, Russia and Ghana who spoke said the Security Council is not the appropriate place to discuss them.

“Sexual orientation is an individual choice of every individual,” said the Russian representative.

The meeting took place less than 13 months after Russia launched its war against Ukraine. 

A Russian airstrike on March 1, 2022, killed Elvira Schemur, a 21-year-old law school student who volunteered for Kharkiv Pride and Kyiv Pride, while she was volunteering inside the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv’s regional administration building. Activists with whom the Washington Blade has spoken said LGBTQ and intersex people who lived in Russia-controlled areas of the country did not go outside and tried to hide their sexual orientation or gender identity because they were afraid of Russian soldiers.

A Pride commemoration in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Sept. 25, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Sphere Women’s Association)

The Security Council’s first-ever LGBTQ-specific meeting, which focused on the Islamic State’s persecution of LGBTQ Syrians and Iraqis, took place in 2015. Then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power, who is now director of the U.S. Agency for International Development, and then-International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission Executive Director Jessica Stern, who is now the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ and intersex rights, are among those who participated.

Stern, along with U.S. Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), attended the meeting alongside OutRight International Executive Director Maria Sjödin, among others.

Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad, center, speaks outside the U.N. Security Council on March 20, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Security Council in June 2016 formally condemned the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. The U.N. Human Rights Council a few months later appointed Vitit Muntarbhorn as the first independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ and intersex issues. (Madrigal-Borloz succeeded Muntarbhorn in 2018.)

Then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Knight Craft and then-U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell in 2019 during a U.N. General Assembly meeting hosted an event that focused on efforts to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations around the world. 

President Joe Biden in 2021 signed a memo that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad as part of the Biden-Harris administration’s overall foreign policy. Then-State Department spokesperson Ned Price later told the Washington Blade the decriminalization of consensual same-sex sexual relations is one of the White House’s five priorities as it relates to the promotion of LGBTQ and intersex rights overseas.

The U.S., the U.K., France, China and Russia are the Security Council’s five permanent members. Albania, Brazil, Ecuador, Gabon, Ghana, Japan, Malta, Mozambique, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates are the 10 non-permanent members.

Ghana and the United Arab Emirates are two of the dozens of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized. 

“Today’s meeting was an important first step toward further concrete actions the Security Council, and all parts of the U.N., can take to integrate LGBTQI+ human rights, experiences, and perspectives into their day-to-day work,” Thomas-Greenfield told the Blade in a statement after Monday’s meeting. “We’re proud of the four commitments we made today, and we will keep working to make sure this topic remains on the Council’s agenda.”

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Pope Francis: Gender ideology is ‘one of the most dangerous colonizations’ in the world

Argentina newspaper published interview with pontiff on March 10

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Pope Francis (Photo by palinchak via Bigstock)

Pope Francis earlier this month said gender ideology is “one of the most dangerous ideological colonizations” in the world today.

“Gender ideology, today, is one of the most dangerous ideological colonizations,” Francis told La Nación, an Argentine newspaper, in an interview that was published on March 10. “Why is it dangerous? Because it blurs differences and the value of men and women.”

“All humanity is the tension of differences,” added the pontiff. “It is to grow through the tension of differences. The question of gender is diluting the differences and making the world the same, all dull, all alike, and that is contrary to the human vocation.”

The Vatican’s tone towards LGBTQ and intersex issues has softened since since Francis assumed the papacy in 2013.

Francis publicly backs civil unions for same-sex couples, and has described laws that criminalize homosexuality are “unjust.” Church teachings on homosexuality and gender identity have nevertheless not changed since Francis became pope.

Francis told La Nación that he talks about gender ideology “because some people are a bit naive and believe that it is the way to progress.” The Catholic News Agency further notes Francis also said these people “do not distinguish what is respect for sexual diversity or diverse sexual preferences from what is already an anthropology of gender, which is extremely dangerous because it eliminates differences, and that erases humanity, the richness of humanity, both personal, cultural, and social, the diversities and the tensions between differences.”

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UN Security Council meeting to focus on LGBTQ, intersex rights

Activists from Colombia, Afghanistan expected to speak at March 20 gathering

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(Public domain photo)

A meeting that will focus on the integration of LGBTQ and intersex rights into the U.N. Security Council’s work will take place at the United Nations on March 20.

The U.S. Mission to the U.N. is co-sponsoring the meeting along with Albania, Brazil, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Japan, Malta, Switzerland, the U.K. and the LGBTI Core Group, a group of U.N. countries that have pledged to support LGBTQ and intersex rights.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield will convene the meeting.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ and intersex issues, is expected to provide a briefing on LGBTQ and intersex rights around the world. María Susana Peralta of Colombia Diversa — an LGBTQ and intersex advocacy group in Colombia that participated in talks between the country’s government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia that led to an LGBTQ-inclusive peace agreement then-President Juan Manuel Santos and then-FARC Commander Rodrigo “Timochenko” Londoño signed in 2016 — and Afghan LGBT Organization Director Artemis Akbary are also expected to take part.

“At this meeting, we are asking countries to make specific commitments to address LGBTI human rights concerns in the Security Council,” a senior administration official on Thursday told reporters during a conference call. “So, for example, we ourselves will commit to ask questions of U.N. officials regarding human rights violations of LGBTQI persons. We will also commit to raise in our national statements at the Security Council any reports or abuses or other concerns unique to the LGBTI community, and when appropriate, we’ll propose language in Security Council resolutions where there are egregious violations.”

“Our view is that we need to build on best practices,” said another senior administration official. “And we need to embrace a midset in the Security Council where, as the Council addresses the crisis of the day, members consistently ask relevant questions such as: What can the Security Council do to increase protection for LGBTQI+ persons in this conflict? Or how can we expand the women, peace and security agenda to include intersectional identities? Or have we included the perspectives of LGBTQI+ persons in a peacekeeping mission or in a peacebuilding process?”

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ and intersex issues, speaks at a reception at the Icelandic Embassy in D.C. on Aug. 25, 2022. Madrigal-Borloz will participate in a U.N. Security Council meeting on LGBTQ and intersex issues that will take place at the U.N. on March 20, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Security Council’s first-ever LGBTQ-specific meeting, which focused on the Islanmic State’s persecution of LGBTQ Syrians and Iraqis, took place in 2015. Then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power, who is now director of the U.S. Agency for International Development, and then-International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission Executive Director Jessica Stern, who is now the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ and intersex rights, are among those who participated.

The Security Council in June 2016 formally condemned the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. The U.N. Human Rights Council a few months later appointed Vitit Muntarbhorn as the first independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ and intersex issues. (Madrigal-Borloz succeeded Muntarbhorn in 2018.)

Then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Knight Craft and then-U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell in 2019 hosted an event on the sidelines of a U.N. General Assembly meeting that focused on efforts to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations around the world. 

President Joe Biden in 2021 signed a memo that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad as part of the Biden-Harris administration’s overall foreign policy. Outgoing State Department spokesperson Ned Price later told the Washington Blade the decriminalization of consensual same-sex sexual relations is one of the White House’s five priorities as it relates to the promotion of LGBTQ and intersex rights overseas.

Russia one of five permanent Security Council members

The U.S., the U.K., France, China and Russia are the Security Council’s five permanent members. Albania, Brazil, Ecuador, Gabon, Ghana, Japan, Malta, Mozambique, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates are the 10 non-permanent members.

The United Arab Emirates and Ghana is among the dozens of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

Gabon and Mozambique over the last decade have formally decriminalized homosexuality. in 2020. 

A Ghanaian lawmaker in 2021 introduced a bill that seeks to criminalize LGBTQ and intersex identity and allyship in the country. Russian President Vladimir Putin late last year signed another so-called propaganda law that specifically targets LGBTQ and intersex people.

Russia on Feb. 24, 2022, launched its war against Ukraine.

One of the two senior administration officials who spoke with reporters on Thursday said they do not know if Russia will participate in the meeting. The other official added it is “impossible to have a conversation about the vulnerabilities of LGBTQI people without looking at what’s been happening in Ukraine.”

“I’m sure that’s going to be a question that people are asking,” they said. “I can imagine that it might be referenced in some of the statements by other missions.”

Editor’s note: International News Editor Michael K. Lavers will be at the U.N. on March 20 to cover the meeting.

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