27 Sep

EMERGENCY! SIX GAY UGANDAN PRESIDENTIAL GUARDS IN DANGER AND NEED OUR AID TO FLEE!

This story and plea was passed on to Friends Ugandan Safe Transport by one of the conductors we work with:

We are six men in all and all of us joined the elite special forces group shortly after graduating from university in 2009.

While at university, we belonged to the Q-Hearts an informal group that brings together lesbians, gays, bisexuals, Transgender.

We knew right from the onset of our conscription into the elite force that we were headed for tough times if our sexual orientation was discovered.

However, we had no option but to take up the rigorous training with a view to enjoy the perks that go with being in the elite force. Besides, employment is very scarce in our present times.

During orientation, we got a lecture that was specially aimed at bashing homosexuality as the most evil sin that any officer in the elite force would engage in. I and my five colleagues knew that we were in a very tricky situation and it was almost difficult for us to concentrate fully on the course.

Our training combined both theory and physicals which were very rigorous.

We successfully went through the training and on the day of passing out, one of the keynote speakers reiterated the earlier banishment of homosexuality.

Coincidentally, four of us were deployed at the presidential residence and we knew this was the most opportune moment for us to lighten up our love life. We really enjoyed our life at this station because unlike other army units, the presidential unit is a special force that has all the funds to make life comfortable for the force.

We spent two years from 2010 to 2011 at the presidential residence and we got joined together at an oil drilling site in Midwestern Uganda. Fortunately, we continued enjoying our consensual adult acts as and when chance warranted.

We didn’t spend long at this site and were moved to northern Uganda at the presidential state lodge where life was a little miserable for us. We were spied on by one curious colleague who later on confronted us by calling out our names and labeling us rogues. The fracas attracted other soldiers who wanted to know what was at stake. Our tormentor narrated to our platoon commander what offense he accused us of and on hearing that we were accused of homosexuality our commander lost his cool and ordered our immediate stripping. Our shirts were used to tie us to each other as we moved towards a small pond containing dirty water. We were commanded to dip ourselves in the pond and one soldier was under instructions to thoroughly whip us. The man whipping us also got tired and was nearly shot by our commander who enjoyed the whole thing from a distance but shouted insults at us.

thewhippinglastedlike30minutes

The whipping lasted like 30 minutes and the commander instructed that we be taken to the cells. Our commander was also on his phone and seemed to be communicating with someone apparently from Kampala.

We spent the night on a very ice cold floor without any slightest imagination of warm covering. At around 8 o’clock the following morning, we were summoned to the commander’s office where he told us that he was under a directive from headquarters to deliver us for further management. We surely knew that our lives were in danger considering the nature of crime we were facing and how we had previously been cautioned during training not to engage in homosexuality. However, our tormentors failed to understand that we didn’t choose to be homos but that’s exactly how we were created.

One of us lost his cool and confronted our commander who he accused of xenophobic mentality. This pricked the commander the wrong way and he almost pulled a trigger on the guy.

Another guy junior in rank talked to the commander to send the guys as fast as possible to headquarters as directed to diffuse any further confrontations.

The commander arranged a mini bus that drove us at terrific speed nonstop for four hours to headquarters.

We were ushered into a room where we were first and foremost served nice food typical of this elite force. We were also given packed juices. We were allowed to take a short guarded walk around the office for like five minutes. I think this was all done to ensure that all officers on the panel constituted to look through our cases were seated.

We were ushered into the room and we were shocked and nearly devastated when we sighted the guy who opened the can of worms seated in the far right end of the room scribbling something.

A female commander welcomed us and quickly told us that the reason we were in that room was for us to defend ourselves against accusations of homosexuality. One by one we presented our case but none of us denied our sexual orientation and this led to untold anger among the panel who perceived us as stubborn vagabonds. These were descriptions used on us.

Our confessions and unrelenting resilience hastened our verdict.

We were sent summarily to the cells where the torture continued, but this time not physical but emotional. We were, for instance, subjected to long hours of starvation and when food finally came it was either half cooked or even mixed with strange stuff.

This carried on for four consecutive days until last Friday when we together with the aid of one guy who we trained with mooted a plan to escape from incarceration. It was an uphill task considering the thorough defense at the headquarters. However, our partner in the escape crime spread the plan wider to involve more guys at vantage points where security checks would be difficult to beat. The whole plan was rightly patched together and the escape time was scheduled for 2 pm when guys were returning the huge utensils to the kitchen area, which was half a kilometer but very close to the gate.

We were aided to get uniforms and were freely cleared on all points until we reached the kitchen.

While at the kitchen, the head was already in the syndicate to have us escape unhindered.

We were now part of the group that was going to load firewood from somewhere we didn’t know. This was a golden opportunity for us to escape. It was planned that we would each excuse ourselves like we were going to shops and disappear. When we reached the small town where the firewood was we excused ourselves to go and buy some things we needed and that’s how we vanished.

We knew as we scampered the risk ahead of us until we got to a small bush where we changed into plain clothes and discarded the army uniforms for fear that the elite force uniform attracts a lot of attention.

One of our own had a brother who was expelled from seminary one year ago and was helped by a local contact whose number had shared.

On pondering the next move, he contacted the contact who was scared too much that he first hung up. He really feared at first thinking he was being made up for his previous role in moving persecuted people to safety.

On the second call we explained ourselves more convincingly by referring him to that particular man he helped move. And also letting him know that that’s how we got his phone contact.

He has hidden us in three difference places but we are not safe at all as we are sure that our escape must have made heads roll. So convincingly a hunt must be on, and we are making a passionate appeal to have our contact facilitated to have us moved at the earliest possible time.

Our case is unique because it borders on national security as well as the perceived magnitude of the offense in the force.

Dear compassionate supporters, come out in droves to help us retain our dear lives. We are threatened and God forbid if we are apprehended we may be finished as in written off the surface of the earth.

We know you have done it for other people, please do it for us as well.

All our safety and trust is at the moment vested in the hands of supporters.

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Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund needs your help to fund these six gay men in extreme danger. It will cost $1,132.20 USD to transport them to safety.

We can’t do it without you for them and for others in hiding.  Please make a donation to support the work of Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund so we can send it to the conductor who can get them out of Uganda.

Please make a donation to Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund.

02 Sep

Esther’s Story: My Only Crime Was Love

I am called Esther Mugasha. 26 yrs old currently living in South Africa as a refugee, I fled from Uganda in June 2014 with a sizeable number of fellow lesbians and gays who believed in the search for freedom and safety.

I was born and raised in and around Lugazi in Mukono with a single mother. Life threw at us all sorts of challenges but through education and hard work I managed to become a chef at a big hotel in Mukono.

But all my life I kept a big secret from almost everybody apart from my girlfriend with whom I was in a relationship. We stayed in this relationship till the Kill gay bill was passed in parliament. For some reasons I can’t really tell, she decided to move to the city as a way of dealing with the breakup. After several months without contact, I decided to reach out to other people who might know her whereabouts only to learn that she took her life. This was so heartbreaking and I thought I was the reason she committed suicide. Somehow without thinking straight I decided to talk to open up to some people on what I was going through. Little did I know that this was the beginning of another horrifying and terror chapter in my life. One of the people I opened up to was my own mother; she immediately went mad and called a clan meeting so that a ritual rape ceremony was organized to heal me of my lesbianism. This wasn’t something I could allow; I couldn’t participate in such a dehumanizing ceremony.

EstherMugasha-quoteforFUSTF

 

When I didn’t turn up for the ritual event, my mother became my No.1 enemy, she even started haunting me. She tried another approach of taking me to the Bishop of Lugazi to pray for me, of which I told her that mom I am fine and I was born like that. That’s when she disowned me.

Through a workmate my mother tried to poison me with rat killer chemicals, I survived after spending months in hospital, even when it became known that somebody wanted to kill me, nobody was interested in pressing charges when I realized that I wouldn’t be believed and I had so many enemies, my employers weren’t willing to keep me in the job because I was a “disgrace” to them. When my landlord ordered me off the rental house I had, I decided to run.

Because I was living a very closed private life, I found it hard to get support, nor did I have any knowledge on how to escape from Uganda before I was arrested. I must say I was lucky because a few clicks online I got in touch with a support Organization and FUSTF paid for my safe escaping from Uganda.

Settling here hasn’t been easy but it’s better than Uganda. Being gay in Uganda has a billion challenges, you don’t know what to expect, you don’t know who is following you, you don’t know why you are being stalked, everyone becomes a suspect that he or she has intentions to kill you. Nobody minds me here, I have gotten opportunities for further studies and working. I have started my life all over again.

I am happy and impressed with FUSTF [Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund] and how they operate, so safe and all they need is you to be out of danger. Such high level organization and ability to respond to the crying and dying puts a big smile on my face. Through our networks they have saved lives, helped many like us leave Uganda and start a new life. I have learnt that simple means can really change lives around.

The only crime I committed was to love the one I wanted because we were born this way, many in Uganda judged me and my love was only saved because FUSTF was willing to listen and respond on time.

Thanks once again.
Esther


The work continues! Please make a donation to support the work of Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund to help other people like Esther.  Between the conductors, today there are 44 LGBT people in hiding, waiting for us to raise the funds to pay for their transportation out of Uganda.

Please make a donation to Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund.

30 Jul

“Exclusive Interview with a Refugee: A Personal Story of Persecution and Dramatic Escape” and more

Big thank you to Greg Stemm for writing: Exclusive Interview with a Refugee: A Personal Story of Persecution and Dramatic Escape —  AND — Under the Rainbow: U.S. group helps LGBT Ugandans travel from hatred to hope — which is in part about the work of Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund. It is a wonderful article and it includes a lot of background information about why the work of FUST is so needed. I have them both linked here:

Exclusive Interview with a Refugee: A Personal Story of Persecution and Dramatic Escape

by Greg Stemm – July 14, 2016 – Watermark – Orlando, FL

RefugeeInterveiwAbstr

“Jane” is 34 years old and grew up gay in her native Uganda, enveloped by an atmosphere of hatred towards homosexuality. After years of persecution, she was smuggled out of Africa and resettled in Europe where she is making a new life for herself. Watermark is unable to use her real name or the country to which she has relocated. Revealing too much information could place her and those who helped her at risk.

Working together closely with Olympia Quaker Meeting, Watermark was able to secure an exclusive interview with “Jane.” What follows is her story in her own words:

Read the whole article: http://www.watermarkonline.com/2016/07/14/exclusive-interview-refugee-personal-story-persecution-dramatic-escape/

AND:

Under the Rainbow: U.S. group helps LGBT Ugandans travel from hatred to hope

by Greg Stemm – July 14, 2016 – Watermark – Orlando, FL

[Note, the graphic with that article says, “Under the Rainbow: Florida group helps LGBT Ugandans travel from hatred to hope” which is an error because we are a Washington State group.]

This is a story that will probably mortify most Americans. Uganda is a place where people are outted and then completely shunned by their families. Their names are read aloud in shame on the radio. They are fired from their jobs and evicted from their homes. Without access to living space, food or health care, many simply perish. Those that don’t can be subject to state-supported beatings, maiming or even death. The atmosphere of terror extends to the families of LGBTQ people, who can also face persecution. The stories remind one of the days of Jews in Nazi Germany.

But there is a beacon of hope in a small Quaker congregation that set out to make a difference. These dedicated individuals cautioned Watermark about what we say and how we say it; a misstep could endanger the lives of those they help and those still in Uganda who were their lifeline out.

Read the whole article: http://www.watermarkonline.com/2016/07/14/watermark-online-uganda-rainbow-railroad/


Please support the work of Friends Ugandan Safe Transport!

We have been offered a matching grant for up to $7000 through the summer, so if you donate now with a check or through PayPal your donation will be doubled.

We sure could use the funds. Between the conductors, today there are 37 LGBT people in hiding, waiting for us to raise the funds to pay for their transport out of Uganda.

Please make a donation to Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund.

Thanks!

02 Jul

Article: “Ignorant Kadaga Strikes Again”

One of the conductors that Friends Ugandan Safe Transport supports to transport LGBTQ people out of Uganda with your help shared this article with us with this comment:

“It’s true and visible that leaders in the Ugandan Government are still very homophobic. The world seems to be quickly forgetting the plight of the lgbti in Uganda but there is still so much unforgiving pains and struggles for the ordinary lgbti”
[fruitful_sep]
Ignorant Kadaga Strikes Again
30 June 2016 – Queerlife South Africa

Over in homophobic Uganda, one of the country’s most feared gay haters in government, Rebecca Kadaga, the Speaker of Uganda’s Parliament, this week proved once again exactly how ignorant the poor woman is.

IgnorantKadaga-4blogIn a speech where she urged the country’s youth to become “ground fighters” in the national battle against homosexuality she claimed that “the Canadian court has legalised sex with dogs in addition to homosexuality.”

Rebecca Kadaga made the comments at a party hosted by local youth leaders to congratulate her on her reelection to Parliament last February.

In her speech she also said that she has proof that foreign NGOs working in Uganda are recruiting children into homosexuality.

To make a donation to support the work of the Ugandan conductors, click on the link on the top right of this page or the Donate link in our menu. Thanks!
17 May

Article and Video: “This Powerful Film Explores The Dangers Of Being Queer In Uganda”

 05/16/2016 article in Huffpost Queer Voices:

“We should ensure peace, social justice and tolerance for all no matter who they are and who they choose to love.”

Watch this video:

“In 2014, a Ugandan tabloid published the names and faces of 200 “top homos” in the country following the criminalization of homosexuality.

“The results were catestrophic for those named and now a new film is telling the story of one queer person’s experience following his outing.”

Read the article:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/uganda-outed-the-painful_us_5733d042e4b08f96c1823b6c

03 May

Snapshots – Seven Updates from Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Passengers

Snapshot: YK - Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

Snapshot: YK – Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

For now just call me YK. I love telling my story in a more simple way. What I know I was born a lesbian, never been attracted to the opposite sex, I love girls and girls. Yes  I was born this way. Besides my sexual orientation there is more to me, I am good sports woman, I love dancing and its through these two hobbies that I earn a living here in Nairobi. Oh why did I leave Uganda??? Honestly I didn’t leave Uganda, I run, I just escaped thanks to the friends in US who run a safe transport underground rail program for gays and lesbians in danger. We came in a group of 52 and by mid of Aug last year I had already gotten a job and a place to stay. Am a hard working one and life is looking good. I forgot to tell you, I can’t return back to Uganda even if the situation changes, those guys just wanted me dead. Am working on my papers and I am hoping to seek refuge in the Netherlands. Cheers YK

 

FUSTstories-Viva

Snapshot: Viva – Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

Greetings from  Poland, this is your home gal Viva, its has been long since we last communicated. Settling here in Poland hasn’t been so easy especially because of the language barrier but am learning Polish slowly and this will open up new opportunities for me. Am getting used to the food and the Polish life style. Never the less am grateful to you guys especially FNUR for having saved my life to help me escape from Uganda. Thanks Viva

 

Snapshot: Jojo - Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

Snapshot: Jojo – Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

 

 

 

Most of my friends call me Jojo and I don’t mind the name. I just wana thank Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund for all the sacrifices they make to save as many as possible the fleeing LGBTq from Uganda. As a beneficiary of the program, I will be forever grateful. Finally am settled here in Kigali Rwanda.

 

 

Snapshot: Flashee - Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

Snapshot: Flashee – Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

 

Hey, I felt  I should write down something to just say thanks to all those donors and friends of the Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund. Your work is priceless and to the thousand plus who have benefited from this arrangement you mean the world to us. Am an orphan who never saw my dad or mom, I was picked from the streets and I grew up from the Orphanage. This was an Orphanage managed and run by hardcore born again Christians, by the age of 18 they started noticing that I wasn’t straight, despite the rainfall like prayers which lasted for more than 9 months, nothing changed, they asked me out and even exposed me, one time I was attacked on the streets in Mbale, that’s when I learnt that my life is in danger. I sought for help and I was helped to escape from Mbale and am settled here in Kigali. Thanks everybody, Flashee

 

Snapshot: Dell - Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

Snapshot: Dell – Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

 

Am called Dell, one of the girls who left Uganda in 2014 after being exposed in the local news papers about our gay lives. After leaving Uganda I stay in Kenya for 6 months then an opportunity came where I could get a job in the UAE. Though they aren’t gay friendly they hardly mind we black Africans. I stay with my girlfriend and we are working hard. In the next 5 years we plan to go and live in Sweden. Thanks Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund.

 

Snapshot: CD - Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

Snapshot: CD – Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

Hello friends,
Greetings from Bujumbura here in Burundi. Times have been a little too hard lately but the situation has cooled down and life is back to normal. I settled here in Burundi after escaping from the dangers of life I encountered daily in Uganda. When one isn’t “straight” in Uganda you face countless challenges everyday. Though one can stand all the pain day in day out but when you are exposed it’s the end, chances are high that one can even be killed. As a lesbian whose family refused to accept me as I was, they wanted to force me into marriage to a man fit to be my grandfather. So when I heard of a program of Friends Uganda Safe Transport Fund, I decided to request for immediate support. I was dully assessed and they verified my claims, and after 3 months of waiting I was contacted that we are good to go. We were kept in hiding for 2 weeks and where one of the passengers took his life because he was over stressed and he thought that the mission had failed. Luckily among all the 46 passengers, us the 45 made it safely without so much struggles. It took me another 6 months before I could finally settle here in Burundi. I love music and am working on a couple of rights and freedom songs with a celebrated producer. Watch this space.
Thanks
CD

 

Snapshot: OK - Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

Snapshot: OK – Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

Hi, I send you greetings from Kigali Rwanda, am called Oliver Kawempala. Am a medical student here. I left Uganda in 2014 with the funding from FNUR. Thanks so much for having saved my life. I hate speaking about what happened to me while in Uganda because as a lesbian I went through a lot. My heart is healing piece by piece.

 


Right now there are 75 passengers in hiding in the care of the FUST conductors, waiting for funds to get them out of Uganda. They are 14 gay men, 27 lesbian women, 27 transgender persons (17 F2M and 10 M2F), and 7 bisexual people (2 men and 4 women) – between 19 and 31 years old.

Please make a donation to Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund so we can support more people like YK, Viva, Jojo, Flashee, Dell, and CD out of Uganda.

04 Apr

A ray of light from in the dark black skyline…

Note: This was sent to me from HM, a Ugandan conductor, on January 3rd and due to computer and other technical issues it was not posted then. My apologies.
— Gabi Clayton, FUST co-manager.

Chapter 2, Section 9 of the [US] Bill of Rights is clear. “Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.” This is an echo of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ratified in 1868. But the South African constitution goes a step farther. “Everyone is equal before the law” is defined in subsection 3as follows…

“The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, color, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth”

It took a man in the late Nelson Mandela to raise up clear and proud to be counted to build a constitution which doesn’t only look at gays as LGBT but as humans like any other who are supposed to be protected by law.

This is 2016, happy new year everybody but when I ask myself what are we celebrating as LGBT? Yes there are achievements I can see, I can see some steps, I can see a ray of light in the dark black skyline. Will it take another Mandela to have an Africa which looks at the gays as fellow humans? NO!! It takes you and me. 2015 had many challenges but for the strong and courageous like FUSTF formerly FNUR they never say never, they are the ray of light. They have given us so much hope and too thousands they know their work is priceless. Despite the criticism and setbacks yet with limited resources, they have accomplished what a million strong men just dream of. Thanks FUSTF.

I can proudly say that over 1000 individuals who identify as LGBT have been helped to get to another destination where they feel safe and wants to start a new life. Uganda might not be directly involved in state sponsored homophobia but still its not safe for the “uncelebrated” openly gay people. Thousands still continue to suffer in the darkness and silence. Small charities may not be having the financial base do this alone but FUSTF has not given up on them as it keeps on doing whatever it takes to help those in need to cross to safety. We shall be forever grateful.

It always given this big wide smile when I travel to different countries and I come across some of the passengers who have gotten freedom through the hands of FUSTF. I can see hope, I can lives being rebuilt and I see a future for many.

To the supporters of FUSTF thanks for that unconditional love you have shown to the Ugandan LGBT.

Yes I know the burden still ahead us is big and challenging but I have never been so hopeful than I am now that with FUSTF more is possible and yes we are proud of this program.

To the many LGBT who wish to leave and start a new life in another country, I know help is on the way, I know FUSTF is human in its operations and they really care about you.

Thanks and happy new year. HM

Download this as a PDF document here.

Between our Ugandan conductors there are 77 LGBTQ people in hiding waiting for funds to cover the cost of transporting them out of the country. Please help with a donation if you can.

Thank you!

16 Feb

Article: “What This Lesbian Learned From Being Outed in Ugandan Tabloids”

By Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera and Brian Klosterboer – The Advocate

15 Feb

Article: Pastors, politics and anti-gay rhetoric: Uganda’s election cometh

By Amy Fallon – Special Broadcasting Service – SBS [AU] – 15 Feb 2016

“Anti-gay rhetoric in Uganda has intensified in the lead-up to this week’s elections, with pledges to “rehabilitate homosexuals” and the threat of violence worrying LGBT community leaders.”

Read the article:
http://www.sbs.com.au/topics/sexuality/article/2016/02/15/pastors-politics-and-anti-gay-rhetoric-ugandas-election-cometh

11 Feb

Snapshots – Updates from Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Passengers