tv Fleeing Afghanistan BBC News July 30, 2022 4:30pm-5:01pm BST
takes a few scattered showers across south east england, but then brightening up slowly behind it and still pretty warm here. top temperatures likely of 26 degrees, a little bit fresher further north and west. cooler with more showers to come for monday. the best of the drier weather in the southeast. now on bbc news... fleeing afghanistan: free to be me. when the taliban regained control of afghanistan, lgbtq+ afghans knew their lives were in grave danger. a small group were evacuated in a top—secret mission & are re—building their lives in the uk. this is their story: i've concluded that it's time to end america's longest war. it's time for american troops to come home. as us, uk and nato forces leave afghanistan,
the taliban tightens its grip and a humanitarian crisis unfolds. everybody was desperately trying to find anyway to get out of afghanistan because it was the only chance to stay alive. so fighting, stressful. there was lots of broken cars all over the airport and there was nothing, just a gate, to go into the plane. people were running _ towards the aircraft, the airport. there were soldiers| keeping people out. the taliban, who were beating up people with sticks, - with wires, whatever they had, and they were shooting - on the ground and in the air. like the end of the world in the hollywood movies. i can't describe what the scene was like. i i have been beaten many times for the way i am. the taliban's interpretation of sharia law means homosexuality is punishable by death. they kill me by stones
or maybe killed by fire. maybe hanging. they executed a trans person in kabul. - were you afraid of being killed? yes, many times. what will happen to me? what will have the future for me? many people who don't make it out are forced into hiding. they wait and hope for survival. a secret operation to get some of the most vulnerable to safety begins. we started getting e—mails out of the blue from desperate lgbtq+ afghan people looking anywhere all around the world for someone who could help them. kind of like getting a message in a bottle.
it was very clear as we were looking at events unfold in august in kabul that we would have to support those who might be at risk and those in need. when the taliban came they said we are going to look— for these lgbt people. they had names and addresses. they are searching our body and passports and visas. are you a spy for- the former government? have you worked with nato? for what reason do you want to leave? i was hiding, desperately looking for some way to get out. they had to leave their families. people who are in hiding and had been hiding for many weeks now. people who were running out of food. and those moments when they were travelling were always nervous ones, were people going to be able to make it to fly or cross the border? i choose the risk because if i stay in my home country
i am faced with my death. just the most desperate thing. completely almost physical sense of the risk. i was taking calls and messages through the night. how am i going to get inside - the airport because of the security, because of the boundary brigade i of the taliban guarding the airport? you have to go in simple i clothing, afghan clothing. try to act as a common guy as much as possible. - and say whatever you need to say. everyone was so stressed. everyone was noticing who was gay in this plane. weeks later in the dead of night a flight lands in the uk. the police officer said welcome in uk. i felt the stress and to my heart went fast, fast. in the uk, get it. i felt calm. it's been a journey, a beautifuljourney to see. when we would knock and introduce
ourselves people were reallyjust excited and sometimes overwhelmed. i said my name and that i was gay. it was kind of liberating. we were hugging each other. i was a little bit crying. they asked, what's your name? she seems so nervous but brave. she said... my name is bella. she repeated it a few times. it was my first time to announce my name completely by my tongue and lips. i told myself that you're going to be safe now. almost a year after the afghan government collapsed, 3000 miles away, a group of refugees are beginning a new life. i've spent the last couple of months getting to know a few of them.
today i am in brighton, known as one of the country's most welcoming lgbt cities. i'm off to meet bella, who is transgender, and for the very first time is free to be her true self. hello, hello. bella is one of around 30 people who identifies lgbt that made it out of the capital kabul last autumn after the taliban took control and flights organised by the uk government and charities. thank you very much, how are you settling? it's amazing, i love brighton. while the majority who arrived last year are living in hotels across the country, bella has moved into a flat that she has decorated with her own paintings. while i am painting i create new worlds. the reason i can survive. being lgbt is criminalised in afghanistan and when the taliban returned, those who had been living a double life underground face being tracked down. and bella had to make a choice.
in afghanistan i had to hide myself in another body and another name. this is my bedroom. she was forced to leave everything she knew. while she looks for work here she receives £80 a week to live off and accommodation. in afghanistan i had more space and the house was bigger. and it was in a huge garden. today she is dressed in the clothes she wants and is wearing make up. who is the most beautiful woman on the earth? but being out in public like this is still very new. do you come down here by yourself? sometimes. i feel like a baby. like you have been reborn? yeah. the taliban believe that god created this body and you have no right to change. it is completely illegal.
when you want to be a female, but your body is male, so it is completely... they will kill you. when did you know you were trans? i was born as... with these emotions. sometimes people are laughing at me when i was a kid. i learned i should hide myself. i can be like my sisters and mother, girls. but they said you are a bad boy, and waiting for men to do bad something with you. bella told me there were times she considered taking her own life and she still suffers with depression. since 14, i started medication. because it was very terrible to hide myself and it made me sad, day by day.
i started to be grey and i started to feel darker, more dark and more dark. while bella is discovering new independence in brighton, i have come to birmingham to catch up with others in the group. nice to see you. ahmed is gay. he has been living in a hotel room for months. i would ask for a tour. but this is the room, how are you settling in? he is educating himself about the many different aspects of life in britain. cheese rolling? yeah, cheese rolling. i saw this on tv, people rolling after cheese. hours before i arrived, ahmed decides he doesn't want to appear in front of the camera because he is afraid of what will happen to his friends back home if he is recognised. he agrees to still talk to me but we hide his face and change his name.
the more i discovered about my identity. it was like i lost myself, ending up like a sickness, a dizziness inside, like a personality issues with the people. i have seen a lot of people be hurt. they have covered themselves because... because they were lgbt? yeah. they had nowhere to go and report it. forgive me, did anything like that happen to you? yeah, actually. yeah, yeah. it's not a good feeling. it's not a good thing to tell about. it's a bad thing. but you were hurt because of being gay? yeah. there are other things ahmed doesn't want to talk about. things he was put through in afghanistan and saw done to others because of their sexual orientation
and gender identity. it is obvious how traumatised he is and much happier talking about the present. your space is quite compact. do you do exercise with stuff down here as well? yeah. he goes to college a few days a week and his accommodation is paid for by the government. he has signed up at the job centre where he is trying to find employment so he can move into a flat. in afghanistan he was a youth worker and loved to cook. now his whole life takes place inside these four walls. i wake up at 6:30am. i just prepare for college, and i go to college. we still live in a hotel, so it's not like a feeling of home. at the moment i still feel safe and feel like we will be safe in the future here. what has struck me is that life here in this place is freedom for so many after everything they've been through back home in afghanistan. but that freedom is being lived out
in a very small hotel room. there is no fridge, no washing machine, no kitchen. and although they are free and not in fear of being killed for who they are, it's very hard for them to build a life and there is a long way to go for them to get the full freedom we have. everyone who speaks to me is taking a huge risk. a few miles away i meet up with ali. he asked me to hide his face and change his name and his words are re—voiced by an actor. his parents threw him out when they discovered he was bisexual and he lived alone and worked in kabul. when the taliban returned last august everything changed overnight. the anxiety was off the roof. i couldn't sleep for. four days and nights. i was awake, thinking they are coming now, they are coming now.
the problem started when they started catching other lgbts. l one person was enough for them to get other people. _ ali learned about a charity called rainbow railroad, working with stonewall in the uk to get lgbt people to safety. after several weeks of secret communication they got him a plane ticket and a student visa. he headed for one of the final few flights still in operation, in constant fear of being caught. they had tracking devices. they could hack your - phone and your whatsapp. they could do a lot of stuff, the taliban, even a simplel song was enough to get you in trouble. - ali grew a beard and dressed in traditional afghan clothing. he learned a cover story and left home with just a backpack and the equivalent of £15 in his pocket. like ahmed he still lives in a hotel but has a job interview this week. even now he is afraid to trust. with life in the uk, i am safe. but i do have concerns _ for my friends and family back home because the taliban are trying to get to our families. -
what they will do is arrest them, torture them and send _ those videos to me. like, you need to come back or your brother, father, - son or sister will suffer because of you. - with that in mind, why did you feel it was important to talk to us and tell us? because nobody is speaking - on our behalf, afghan lgbt people have always existed. i thought maybe we need to speak up, even if it is dangerous, _ because if i don't do it, who is going to do it? i everything was so different from my country. what did you enjoy the most when you were doing that? 0ne organisation vital to the rescue and helping the group with a new life is micro rainbow. the charity runs safe houses for lgbt asylum seekers.
sebastian and maud teach them about living in the uk, how to find a job and a place to live. they also arrange regular counselling sessions. we have lgbtq organisations who can support you. bella, ahmed and ali might be out of afghanistan but now they face new difficulties. leaving their culture, families and friends behind, and often their children and partners, was a huge thing. also not knowing what would have happened to their loved ones once they left the country. for so many you were the first person they saw when they got to the uk. what was it like on the first day when you met everyone? it was overwhelming. and i can imagine for them as well. literally the first thing i would say to them is, you know, welcome, and you are safe now, and you're free. maud is from zimbabwe, which has fewer protections for lgbt people. as a lesbian she claimed asylum.
how has your week been? she spends her time helping the group with a new culture and lifestyle. you have been looking at grindr. bella is thinking about dating. i had bad experiences. talking about sexual health, we have to talk about safety, you are safe here, no one will arrest you will kill you are safe here, no one will arrest or kill you because of who you are but you still have to be careful when you meet people. they say you want to visit their home. ithink, please, take coffee or a drink. no, we just want to hook up. people have no patience. you want to start a different social life so you are not just at home alone. that's when you are going on grindr to talk to people.
last august, the taliban seized control of afghanistan's capital in just ten days, taking governments around the world by surprise. there are no lgbtq+ organisations in afghanistan. we had to tell these people that they were going to have to keep hiding in this incredibly dangerous situation. politicians described the withdrawal as a disaster but failed to prioritise some of the most vulnerable until it too late. despite that, the uk was the first country to offer a special relocation programme specifically for lgbt people. but as help on the ground dried up it was a race against time. this is about human beings. this is about lives that have been shattered, people being separated from their loved ones. we are having to take decisions about who can travel and who can't. around 20,000 people have been resettled in the uk. more than 80 are lgbt, along with some of their families.
it's thought many thousands more still be in afghanistan or trying to escape. but flights and escape routes are limited or nonexistent. they were telling us that everything was going to be fine. _ they didn't tell us they would - literally abandon us to the taliban. the previous government was not la good one but it was better offl than the taliban because it wasn't actively hunting us. _ if we get caught, it'sj just death, that is it. there is no chance of them being allowed to live. - we were already living i in an underground world. and now we have to go even deeper than that. j ali's sentiments are echoed by the others. ahmed struggles with his mental health and spends a lot of time going out, drinking and trying to meet new people to forget the things he has seen and who he has left behind. i'm trying to understand that it was not my choice to be
different and be born in a different culture and society, that is different than me. do you still feel depressed some days? yes, yes still. i am taking some anxiety and depression medicinejust now and trying to cope with it and to face it. sometimes i feel that people really misunderstand who is a refugee. they often think people are coming to get benefits, to get housing. but people who are refugees compared to other immigrants are a very small number. they are highly skilled people. they can contribute to the country. if we welcome them we can help to integrate and build a community together. bella, hello. it's notjust integrating through work. in brighton, bella and i are off on a night out. is there any underground nightlife scenes for lgbt people in afghanistan? no.
in afghanistan it was different to the uk. they have to hide themselves. going out like this is a big dealfor bella. she finds it difficult making friends but tonight she's going to meet others in the community for the first time. let's check out one of brighton's most famous drag nights. to making friends and the future. drinking alcohol and dancing are worlds away from what bella is used to but she wants to try new things. these are three drag performance to live here. how did you find each other? we found each other�*s music on instagram. we found each other like that. back home you are used to hiding it a lot more. is it a bit overwhelming a little bit, being here, and us being loud and proud? life in afghanistan is very
terrible, hard and tough. often i walk down the street. in a face of drag to go to a gig. hello, hello. literally on a night out wearing nipple tassles and it's all right. i wouldn't do it anywhere else other than brighton. brighton is my home. welcome home. i've met some new friends, my gorgeous bella, darling. welcome. i'm out and trans. forjust over a year. you would be like, what's going on with my body. . your homeowners and emotions were changed a lot. _ the group's different experiences give them a strong bond they extend to bella. we have got it down to a tee that we do have chosen family and sometimes they are better than our actual families. meeting new people isn'tjust a challenge for bella. being lgbt and out in public can be overwhelming.
the first time you went out and met someone in a public place, how did that feel after being underground and frightened for such a long time? honestly i was kind of terrified. i still have those - insecurities, even now. but when i met him it was a very pleasant experience. _ i felt safe. you look at this city here. do you feel free now? i believe if i am walking down the street no one| will tell me who i am. i don't think the trauma will ever go, it will stay there. _ what i believe i can do isjust make something of my life here. - i am still grateful to the british i government and the home office, to everybody who got me out. but there is another million people left behind. - do you worry for your family who is there as well? i feel like i will have a better life and they will suffer. - they have made life hell for mej but there is still some guilt that i will live a very comfortable life
here and those people - are going to starve. our biggest concern is there are no safe routes, no prospect really of those people in any numbers being able to exit afghanistan. it's desperately important that internationally governments come together to create safe routes out. and while he is grateful for the new life he has, ali knows that some people will criticise the support they receive and living in a government paid for hotel. for us it is notjust a housing issue. i it is a life issue. we might be staying in a hotel room and we might take some housing, . but all the people who stayed back would have been killed. _ not just a few hundreds or a few dozens or a few thousands. - all of these people will be killed. for ali, today is a day of celebration. he has been offered a job. i don't know how to describe it but i feel like a small child - in a new environment. if i am in a new school. i want to get the grades
so i can get a good job, _ build relationships and friendships and look on the bright side of all of that. - and ahmed has similar aspirations. nowadays i am focused on finding job opportunities to help young people, in different ways, like drug use and bad experience, and good ways for the future. where is home for you now? home is somewhere where you feel safe and free. i can call the uk as home because i feel safe. back in brighton, it's the morning after the night before and bella is feeling more confident. bella wants to be successful in her life. find a partner, jobs, make friends and be happy. freeing afghanistan was the biggest
challenge of bella's life, but her struggles are not over now she is in the uk. i've spent the last couple of months getting to know her and can see how isolated she is. are there some days when you don't speak to another person? many, many days, yeah. because there is no person to speak with. not anyone to have a conversation. you feel lonely? yeah, so lonely. but for bella and the others, life is just beginning. my life, we will see. in many ways, brighton is my home. the uk is my home. i hope to stay here all my life.
coast. as can see from bournemouth that has been quite muggy out there. further north and west the cloud has been picking up the some patchy light rain today. this was cumbria just a few hours ago. if we take a look at the satellites we can see how extensive the cloud is and how fragmented that a bit of a nuisance that rain is as it pushes its way steadily eastwards. never really getting into the south—east corner and a bright afternoon in scotland. but here noticeably fresher, we are looking at 14 to 20 degrees. highest values in the sunshine, peeking up at 25 celsius. as we go through the evening and overnight there are more cloud and outbreaks of rain to come. pushing on across wales in the south—west eventually moving its way through the midlands in the early hours of sunday morning. it is going to stay on the muggy side, temperatures into the mid to high teens for many across england and wales. but that whether it will gradually its way south and east. it might bring a little bit of welcome
rain across the south—east corner. don't get too excited, not everyone will see. but there is the risk of a few scattered showers using a wagering sunday. a fair amount of cloud across england and wales with the best of the sunshine further north and west, temperatures ranging from 14 to 26. that bodes well for the euro is final that is going to be taking place at wembley. if we do see a little bit of rain it will ease away and it's going to be warm and predominantly dry. as we move out of sunday and into monday morning, more weatherfront out of sunday and into monday morning, more weather front starting to push on from the atlantic but once again it doesn't look likely that we are going to see that much in the way of useful rain in areas that are desperately starting to need it. so, southern and eastern areas on monday starting off dry with some sunshine. there will be a good deal of sunshine across eastern scotland as well. cloud again from the western gradually starting push on. the winds will increase, still warm ahead of it with 26 degrees the hive. the rain looks likely... it