Interview: Helping LGBT People Flee Afghanistan

The human rights and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan threatens everyone there, but lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, and other sexual and gender minorities, face an acute threat of violence and even death from the Taliban authorities. These people find hope in Rainbow Railroad, a nongovernmental organization that helps LGBT people flee across borders to safety.

Rainbow Railroad provided invaluable support and advice to Human Rights Watch and OutRight Action International for our new report, “Even If You Go to the Skies, We’ll Find You”: LGBT People in Afghanistan After the Taliban Takeover.  Heather Barr, associate women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch, interviewed Kimahli Powell, Rainbow Railroad’s executive director, about how governments can better protect LGBT people during armed conflict and crisis situations.

What does Rainbow Railroad do?

Rainbow Railroad has a mandate to help LGBTQI+ persons facing persecution find pathways to safety. We’ve been doing this work since 2006. We’re based in Canada and the United States, and we have been successful in helping nearly 2,000 people.

How did you find yourself in this line of work?

I’ve been invested in social justice for most of my career. But my own background gives me an affinity for Rainbow Railroad. Although I’m a cisgendered gay male who was born in Canada, my parents were from Jamaica, a country that criminalizes same-sex intimacy. I both understand the privilege that comes with being born in Canada, as well as the risks that are associated with being in a country that criminalizes same-sex relationships. So that, and a real desire to tackle the challenges that we face globally, is why I really invested in Rainbow Railroad. Continue Reading



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