12 Feb

A FUST Conductor’s Ordeal: JK – February 2021

I have lived a life, a life I never dreamed of in my childhood, a life so punishing and yet so forgiving. I have lived a life full of strange events, a life without a biological family. I was disowned by my own family at an early age, and lived a life on the streets, a life of drugs and prostitution which dominated most of my early youth. Having a mother who wishes my death and a father who willingly volunteered to kill me given the opportunity, it wasn’t an easy path for a young man, so I am used to living life on the run.

I am called JK, a dedicated conductor with the Friends Ugandan Safe Transport (FUST) program, championed by Olympia Friends Meeting in Olympia Washington. I have been volunteering with the program since 2014. Earlier in 2010, after coming into contact with well-respected human rights defenders, I had made a decision to turn my life around. It wasn’t easy, having struggled with drugs and life on the streets for so many years, but I decided to start living. After four hard years, my life changed and hope returned. But there were still very limited opportunities for life in Uganda for gay men. I wanted to do something that makes me feel worth living – change lives, save lives – and I possessed aa burning desire to create a mark on history in movement organizing among the gay community in Uganda.

Ever since I became a “conductor” (FUST is modeled on the Underground Railroad in the U.S. prior to the Civil War), many good things have happened in my life. I have aided in the transportation of over a thousand “passengers”, who have crossed over to other countries to rebuild their lives.

Working with passengers can sometimes be challenging. I am working with people who have lost hope, who are on the run, who are fleeing death, who have survived lynching and mob justice, who have been disowned by their own families, who have no friends or allies or connections. Some even run mad while in the safe houses. Their mental health is always extremely fragile, and, no, we don’t have a psychiatrist on standby.

In this journey I have witnessed death, ritual rape, passengers taking their lives. Some of the conductors have died in the struggle. Yes, we have lost some battles but victory is on our side and we shall surely win the war. It’s just a matter of time.
The current political turmoil in Uganda has made things much worse. The President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, running to extend his 36-year rule, incited local communities to violence by claiming that the opposition candidate Bobi Wine was funded by an “international homosexual conspiracy. This has drawn so much attention to gay people. In the past year, violence escalated against both the political opposition and the LGBTQi community.

It should be emphasized that we are dealing with a corrupt police system in Uganda, which has mastered the art of extortion, abuse, torture, and blackmail. This makes things more complicated. You can only expect ‘justice” if you can buy it from the very authoritarians who can even decide if you live or die.  Three quarters of Ugandans believe that the entire police system is corrupt, and it’s the very reason they turn to mob justice and lynching, since they know that gay people will be set free, not charged and hence won’t serve any jail term. Local homophobes believe that the LGBTQi community can always do whatever it takes to be released, since the police are always willing to take a bribe.

I have been a victim and I have paid my fair share in my struggle to save lives but that’s another story.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Friends of Olympia and the administrators of and donors to the Friends Uganda Safe Transport fund. You guys are living heroes. Introducing some of us to the life of Quakers has renewed our hopes in life. We have something spiritual which speaks to us, it has reorganized our movement in our community, we can’t trade you for anything. As for our Friends meeting here, I don’t feel comfortable sharing more details, as it can end up being closed by the authorities. Yet it is an open, welcoming, and affirming Friends meeting.

The active political season especially the general elections for president and the members of parliament plus other elective posts, is always hell for the gay community. This season initially left us with many desperate passengers. Thanks to you we have been able to transport many and at this time are only left with 88 passengers who are hiding in poorly lit, small houses we call safe houses, with little access to food. Please HELP!

I will be sharing briefs as often as I am able, an account that will tell the story of this movement.

Please help with a donation to support the work of JK and FUST!

FUST is a project of Olympia Friends Meeting (Quakers) and contributions go through the Olympia Friends Meeting, earmarked for FUST. This means your donation is tax-deductible.

The fastest way to donate is through this PayPal link:

https://www.paypal.com/donate/?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=75NTGCGG66TDQ

or send a check to:
Olympia Friends Meeting
3201 Boston Harbor Road NE
Olympia, WA 98506

Be sure to put “FUST” or “Uganda” in the note on the check

For more information about your donation or about FUST, see:
http://friendsugandansafetransport.org/donate/

Thank you!

08 Dec

Situation Critical for 119 LGBTQ Ugandans In Hiding with FUST – An Update, A Plea, A Story of Survival, and More

Right now, the conductors Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund works with have 119 LGBTQ Ugandans hiding in four secret locations, waiting for the funds needed to move them out of Uganda to safer countries in order to save them from extreme homophobic / transphobic violence and sometimes death.

It costs $75.00 for the conductors FUST supports to move each person, and so we are posting this update as a plea to those of you who can to make a donation and to share this with others.

Please help! They cannot do it without your financial support!

FUST is a project of Olympia Friends Meeting (Quakers) and contributions go through the Olympia Friends Meeting, earmarked for FUST. This means your donation is tax deductible. The fastest way is through this PayPal link: https://www.paypal.com/donate/?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=75NTGCGG66TDQ

or send a check to:

Olympia Friends Meeting
3201 Boston Harbor Road NE
Olympia, WA 98506

Be sure to put “FUST” or “Uganda” in the note on the check

For more information about your donation or about FUST, see:
http://friendsugandansafetransport.org/donate/

Here is a story of one of the passengers we were able to fund out of Uganda. She survives because of our donors.

Rape doesn’t cure lesbianism  –
Aisha Fatuma Lukoma 20 Years Old

Hello friends,

I wish to tell my story, not because am proud of what happened to me but rather to tell the world about the gruesome things happening to the gay community in Uganda. Maybe my story will speak to someone, somewhere. Maybe my story will cause the world to stand up and tell Uganda that enough is enough. Maybe this story will speak to Friends to understand that at least personally I really appreciate that they saved my life from the edge of death. Maybe this story will stand out, so that Friends know that they have done a lot not only for me but many others.

I was born on the 3 May 2000 in a non-religious family in Nyenga village, about 70 kilometers from Kampala, the capital of Uganda. Neither my father nor mother had any belief in education or western medicine. My father is a native witchdoctor and so polygamous, with eight wives and over 40 children.  Despite the many shortfalls and extreme abuses committed by my biological dad daily, he still commands a lot of respect in and around Nyenga village.

My father always insists that all his children should be married off at or before the age 18. However, when it came to me, things were different. I had not shown any interest in boys nor was I even attracted to boys. Shortly after my 14th birthday, my mother once asked me one evening after coming back from the water well why I only liked girls, I didn’t answer her but my sexuality was slowly growing. By the time I was 16, I knew I was not straight, despite my trying to force myself, and hiding. I realized I can never get attracted to boys or men. For fear of my tough ironman father, one day I had to pretend but this pretense affected so much that I even contemplated suicide. But I had a secret lover, a sweet 19-year-old Pauline who is still stuck and held up in Uganda. Pauline loves me and I keep the love on the daily despite the fact that fate separated us

So having failed my father from marrying me off before I turned 18, this June 2020 things started to change. My entire family wasn’t happy with my life style of a tomboy. My father and mother made some arrangements and they got for me a 65-year-old man from Kiyula Village. He was already old, married with grandchildren who were way older than me and also with children. My family arranged the bride price and dowry with the elderly man, actually I was just like being sold off, just like an item.

When the marriage was being arranged, the man whom I later learned was named Al-Haji Musa Karim Ssemukasa came to pay a visit and also take a look at his bride-to- be. He was disappointed. He told my father that Aisha has an evil spirit of sapphism or female homosexuality, and that my father should arrange a ritual ceremony to cleanse me of this evil spirit. What it actually means is that, a blood relative (most likely a young, healthy, strong man) of the man (Al-Haji) who is going to become my husband is appointed to do a ritual rape ceremony. It is done publicly before my paternal aunties and my elder sisters. The ceremony is always conducted at midnight.

Of course I objected to the entire arrangement, but I had limited choices. My father had earlier on threatened me with death. My movements were restricted, and I was beginning monitored 24/7. At around 11 p.m. on July 24th, 2020, I was pinned to the ground under the strict watchful eyes of four of my own family members, I was undressed and a young man held his genitals and he seemed like he was enjoying the fighting and the struggles I was putting in attempt to run away. Finally I was restrained and then I was gruesomely raped by 25-year-old Nasur. It was the most painful thing to ever happen to me, and  it left me bleeding and disabled, I could hardly walk and the ordeal was just beginning. I can’t remember much as I think I passed out because of the trauma. At around 2 a.m., I remember I was still forced to participate in the rest of the rituals, of bathing herbs, taking and eating moringa leaves and juice. For about a week, I was so helpless, and only receiving basic traditional herbs for treatment. I developed fistula and when this news got to the man who was supposed to marry me, it was a turn off and he came home demanding that the dowry and bride price he had earlier on be refunded. This made my family so desperate. They wanted me to recover so quickly so that they could at least have me taken by Al-Haji Musa. But things were not working out so well.

My mother came up with another plan, to reach out to organizations that work with victims of rape. I don’t know if I will ever forgive my own mother. After days of searching, she was directed to an organization in another town and, on reaching there, she lied to the organizational leaders that I had been raped by strangers. My mother even warned me that if I told the truth, that it was ritual rape, she would herself make sure that I died.

As I write this story, I have been told not to mention some personal names nor organizational names, so I might not share some specific details.

The organization with their shelter got for me some treatment and I received a procedure and they paid all the bills. After one month, I was going to be discharged but I faked another sickness, so that I don’t leave the hospital as I needed buy time to figure out how to flee. Somehow a strong outspoken women and leader at the organization which works with raped women and children noticed something wasn’t all right. She begged to have a word with me in private. She asked my mother and other relatives of mine who here around to step aside, I talked privately with her and I told her that I don’t want to go back home, that I was ritually raped, and the rape ceremony was organized by my family, and that my father would marry me off, immediately upon my leaving the hospital. My prolonged chat with this strong leader made my family members very uneasy, and before we knew it, they had fled the hospital premises. This made the strong woman realize that I was speaking the truth. With her little resources, she handled me over to another organization which specifically works with LGBTQi community.

Word got around that my family was looking for me and I knew that I was going to be killed if they ever found me. So I asked this other organization if there is any way I could leave Uganda. I wanted to leave the country because I knew I am not safe, just like that and I was also afraid that the strong woman who helped me was going to go after my family and I know how they love revenge.

Luckily, help came in from very unlikely sources, sources which I didn’t know existed. I was told, together with other people, that Friends (Quakers) in Olympia, Washington USA have organized some safe transport for us, I was so scared, as I didn’t know how this was going to work. Everything fell into place, and after two days and one night I was far, far away from my home village in another country.

I have been here for more than a month, and life is so different here, so different. I don’t have to live to anybody’s expectations, I don’t have to fake anything. Yes, though I still recovering I have gotten a full time job as a janitor. Everybody knows am a lesbian with a story and they just don’t care, it’s my life and it’s mine to make the best out of it. For the first time in my life, it’s more of like hakuna matata “no problem”.  

I wish to thank the Friends, you saved my life. And for the thousands still stranded in Uganda or who don’t know where to get help, stay strong, stay calm under fire and don’t lose hope, that hope of being free and the freedom which awaits you, Hope is all you have now.

Ritual Rape doesn’t heal lesbianism.

Share my story
Aisha

Police brutality: Activists demand ICASA boycott of Uganda
by Colin Stewart on November 23, 2020 – posted here includes:

Reports also indicate that President Museveni is alleged to have ‘blamed” the protests saying, “they were being funded and supported by homosexuals who do not want a stable Uganda.” This anti-gay rhetoric is not new to the President as he has been on record as saying similar, if not, instigating comments against LGBT persons.

From testimonies, including photos and videos circulating online, it’s clear that the current administration is bent on crushing opposition voices and presence while trampling human rights, including those which Uganda is a signatory to, on regional and global platforms.

20 Nov

“This is living” – Eunice Nyamatala, 28 Years Old – And A Plea from FUST

I am called Eunice Nyamatala, 28 years old. In March 2019, I fled my home district Kasese Western Uganda, when I survived mob justice. Lydia Mutesi (RIP), my fiancé and I were attacked and lynched in our rental unit by an irritated mob. Lydia didn’t survive. She died of her injuries. Painfully, I had to abandon her lifeless body at a clinic in Fort Portal district. Fearing for my own life since the clinic had started questioning my relationship with Lydia and asking about my sexual orientation, it was my time to flee again.  

It wasn’t my time to die. I connected with a human rights organization (which later put me in contact with an LGBTQi organization), and I was offered a job by this organization as a case worker, working on gender-based violence cases involving LGBTQi people. 

Life was moving on very well. Since I was in-closet, I did all I could to appear straight so as not to arouse any suspicion. However, late last year things started to change. A government spokesperson and a minister hinted that the Ugandan government is reconsidering passing another anti-homosexuality bill. Having survived a mob justice, I was so traumatized and, though I tried to calm down, I wasn’t myself. My fears came to light in August 2020 when there was a nationwide hunt for the LGBTQi, in different parts of Uganda. The local Ugandans are claiming that the Ugandan government has failed in eliminating homosexuality. Actually, this is not true because the Ugandan government has special security operatives who are charged with man-hunting LGBTQi persons all over the country. However, it has to be done so secretly so that people in the West don’t know what is going on.  

Back to my story: on the 10th of August my name was mentioned on Bwera FM Radio in my home district Kasese, that a lesbian who fled Kasese in 2019 has been sighted in Eastern Uganda. This set me packing and I sought for a safe house to hide. I had to abandon my work, which was taking care of me.  Fortunately, a group of Quaker friends organized under the Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund have never given up on us or the entire Ugandan LGBTQi community. During times of crisis, they are always there to help us. We are lucky at least somebody somewhere out there cares.

Later in September 2020 with several others, we were helped to flee Uganda. I don’t think I can ever go back to Uganda. I think I am out of danger. I have gotten a job working with an international tourism company. Actually, they don’t even care about my orientation or lifestyle.

Friends, the job you do is very important and I wish to take this opportunity to thank you. You saved my life. ….. now this is living.



On November 19th, Ugandan President Museveni, currently campaigning for President, openly attacked the gay community. On the radio, he called upon “peace-loving Ugandans” to take matters into their own hands by arresting, reporting, and stalking any suspected gay people.

This is a recent news report: https://nilepost.co.ug/2020/11/20/museveni-attacks-homosexuals-foreign-groups-says-they-are-sponsoring-opposition-protests/

People are fleeing for their lives. Right now the conductors Friends Ugandan Safe Transport supports have 64 people in hiding, seeking to leave the country. The majority of them are transgender. We need funds ($75 per person) to accomplish this. We have very courageous conductors prepared to undertake this work at great personal risk.

Please help! They cannot do it without your financial support!

Contributions go through the Olympia Friends Meeting, earmarked for FUST. The fastest way is through this PayPal link: https://www.paypal.com/donate/?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=75NTGCGG66TDQ

or send a check to:

Olympia Friends Meeting
3201 Boston Harbor Road NE
Olympia, WA 98506

Be sure to put “FUST” or “Uganda” in the note on the check

For more information about your donation or about FUST, see:
http://friendsugandansafetransport.org/donate/

Please share this information. Thank you!

15 Sep

Good (and bad) news from Uganda – an update – September 15, 2020

Good (and bad) news from Uganda. After months of backlog, everyone that Friends Ugandan Safe Transport had waiting is now out and safe! We can hardly believe it, and we have some debts, and we are sure there will be more, but at least we can have an interim celebration.

Except….

The conductor who worked on these rescues, after the last 20 got out, quite literally collapsed. He is in the hospital, diagnosed with BOTH bacterial meningitis and pneumonia!

Fortunately, both are treatable. We spoke with him, and after a rough week he is in surprisingly good spirits.

So FUST has medical bills! The only other thing we use FUST money for besides the direct transport costs is medical care for our conductors. For without them and their extraordinarily courageous work, there is no FUST. We have lost conductors previously, and do not want to lose one more.

Please consider giving generously. Funds can either go directly to the Olympia Friends Meeting earmarked FUST, or through the FUST PayPal account (which also goes through the Meeting.
See: http://friendsugandansafetransport.org/donate/

For the record, 2281 people are now out of harm’s way, transported out by brave transporters who are supported by funds donated to FUST.

12 Aug

Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Important Update 08-11-2020

by David Albert Aug 11, 2020

Dear Friends –

Eight members of Bulungi Tree Shade Friends Meeting were arrested by police in Kamuli, Uganda on “suspicion of homosexuality”. They were held for four days, during which time they were starved and tortured, and entirely traumatized.

A Bulungi Friends Meeting member and friend traveled to Kamuli, and, at great personal risk, remained in contact with the eight the entire time, while negotiating with a corrupt and criminal police force.

As horrible as the experience was, having them held for four days, rather than being bound over to the court, was a good thing, as they then would have been tortured for more information. (The torture they received was purely sadistic, and for no other purpose.)

After several days of intense negotiations, all eight were ransomed, and have been moved to another town. Antibiotics and painkillers have been purchased for them (and food provided.) They are still extremely traumatized.

Friends Ugandan Safe Transport would like to move them out of the country as quickly as possible, and a conductor is ready to do so. At their interim destination, there is housing, food, medical care, and counseling waiting for them.

The transport will cost $600. If folks would like to throw in a few bucks to help pay for the loan made to ransom these folks, that would be great too.

Contributions go through the Olympia Friends Meeting, earmarked for FUST.

Fastest way is through the PayPal link: https://www.paypal.com/donate/?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=75NTGCGG66TDQ

or send a check to:

Olympia Friends Meeting
3201 Boston Harbor Road NE
Olympia, WA 98506

Put “FUST” or “Uganda” in the note on the check

Please share this information.

Thank you!

Here is the story of a recent FUST passenger:

“Yes I can breathe”

by James Banawona – Age 27

I was born and raised in a very hostile family. My polygamous family never had any respect for women. My father’s primitive way of doing things has had very unforgiving results, which has left scars on many of his children. I never knew or saw any sign of love in our home. When I was 16, my mother noticed some gay behaviors in me. This didn’t go well with her. At our big home stead in Buwenge about 36 kilometers from Jinja, I was flogged by the entire family, I passed out and I only realized that I was at Jinja Main hospital after 4 days. I almost died, and to date I am disabled as my backbone moved out of position and one of my legs became shorter. I ended up spending almost 18 months in the hospital. As soon as I was able to support myself I escaped from the hospital, at the age of 17 and started a life on the streets of Jinja.

In 2011, I connected with an LGBTQ organization (which I won’t mention here) and they helped me complete high school and college and I was admitted at Kyambogo University for a Bachelors in Telecom Engineering. It’s a whole long story but I at least managed to complete my degree but of course not on time as the organization was also struggling financially.

Because of my sexual orientation, it was impossible to get a job in my field. I became depressed and that’s how I lost it. I became a drug addict as I had lost hope in life. I can’t even count the times I contemplated committing suicide.

Later in 2018, I started reconnecting with some people who had helped me in the past. I was introduced to a church-like setting, but unlike traditional churches, this was more of friends, friends coming together, without judging each other. Since late last year, the meetings became more persecuted and haunted so everything went underground. It’s through these meetings that I was able to be identified for safe transport.

Amidst the Covid 19 crisis, I was finally able to flee from Uganda thanks to the support of Quaker friends and the dedication plus courage of XX (the conductor), who did all it took so that we would leave the country and nobody was hurt.

I am happy that I can breathe now, I recently landed a juicy job in a telecom company!

Yes, I can breathe now

Thanks for loving me with true love in Light.

07 Apr

News: Uganda Raids LGBTQ Homeless Shelter, Arrests and Jails 23 People for Unwarranted COVID-19 Offenses After Considering Charging Them Under Anti-Homosexuality Laws

APRIL 6, 2020 – BY ANDY TOWLE – Towleroad

“Uganda security forces raided a shelter for homeless LGBTQ youth last week and arrested 23 people, including a nurse and the shelter’s executive director, charging them with unwarranted COVID-19 offenses after considering charging them under anti-homosexuality laws.

“Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) reports: “The Police first considered charging them with having carnal knowledge against the order of nature under section 145 of the Penal Code, but this was later changed to doing ‘a negligent act likely to spread infection of disease’ contrary to Section 171 of the Penal Code Act, and ‘disobedience of lawful orders’ under section 117 of the Penal Code Act. This was in the context of the Presidential Directives on COVID-19 which incidentally require people to stay indoors, the exact thing that the people at the shelter were doing.”

“Two people were beaten upon arrest. Three have been released on bond, “one of whom was the nurse and the other two for medical reasons.” and the other 20 have been sent to prison until April 29 when they are scheduled to appear in court.”

Read the rest of the article here:

30 Mar

LGBTQ Quakers in Uganda, and Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Stories from Solomon Ntanga and Nasali Sheila

Friends from Bulungi Tree Shade Friends Meeting in Jinja, Uganda, are under siege. They are the only welcoming and affirming unprogrammed Friends Meeting in east and central Africa. Their co-clerk is transgender.

38 of their members have had to flee for their lives, and two have been killed, including the clerk of a new worship group that was being formed. One of the founders was beaten and left for dead – he had been finding safe houses for LGBTQ folks. We managed to transport him to Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi, where he underwent 11 hours of brain surgery (he was suffering from intracranial hemorrhaging), then went back for another operation on his spine. The clerk was rescuing a transgender man on a motorcycle when she suffered a motorcycle accident, with much internal bleeding. Also to Aga Khan. LGBTQ folks don’t dare use a hospital in Uganda.

Below are two stories from last week. Friends Ugandan Safe Transport is a project of Olympia Friends Meeting. It is organized like the Underground Railroad. To date, 2,122 people have been helped to flee, including six children and eight allies. We need your help!

“The Sound of a Police Truck Speaks Terror” – by Solomon Ntanga

The sound of a police patrol truck speaks terror and fear to me. To me the sighting of a police officer, uniform, and even the word “police” itself are signs of danger. Twelve years later, I am still traumatized, and, yes, I still suffer nightmares.

On the cold evening of Thursday the 21st August 2008, I was picked up from my boyfriend’s house by a group of six policemen. Did I say boyfriend? Actually NOT!!! He was an undercover homophobic police officer, who has a life time commitment to wipe homosexuality out of Uganda He picked me up from a local secret point where we always hung out. He used to make a scene buying us food and drinks, and he quickly won our trust. We didn’t suspect that the personal questions he was asking were meant to gather more facts about the gay community in our area. Because I was somehow desperate and I needed a place to stay, I managed to befriend him and I really opened up to him, quickly sharing my story with him. He was really “generous”; yes, generous with hidden motive and a dark secret, and yes he hates gay people, helps to get them arrested, secretly arranges mob justice and lynching, he frames them so it looks like they have been stealing, and, then, even before the police arrive, they are stoned to death or burnt to ashes. Richard is a self-proclaimed pro when it comes to hunting down gay people. He is proud that he has blood on his hands, and he has mastered the art of preying on gay people who are homeless, on-drugs, desperate, and broke. He has the resources to operate all over Uganda and he knows exactly what to do. He is well-connected to the right people in the government and he comes from the ruling tribe in western Uganda. He doesn’t believe in the rule of law, in his own statement “the parliament and all the so called laws won’t stop the spreading of homosexuality in Uganda, there is need for more brave strong men like me to hunt them down and wipe them out before they spread the “disease” to others.”

My ordeal started immediately I entered Richard’s car to head to his apartment, he handcuffed me and pushed a dirty cloth in my mouth to shut me up. He insisted I tell him about everything, including names, addresses, phone numbers of each and every gay person in our community. He made it clear he would later kill me, so I was ready to face my Creator. He beat me so hard without getting any more information. Later in the night, I really can’t tell but I must have gone into a coma. I don’t really remember much and don’t know if hours or days had passed, I was then picked up by yet another hostile group of policemen who really enjoyed inflicting pain. I still find it hard to forgive them, even though I strongly believe in forgiveness and peace.

In police custody, I suffered a broken leg and I lost an eye. They worked on my file so that I could be taken to court but the police officer in charge of the police station mentioned that in the state I was, I was going to attract both local and international media so taking me to court in that state, wasn’t a good idea. For two days they openly discussed either to take me to a hospital or do away with me. My life was being discussed as if was a chicken in regard for dinner. Some questioned who would pay my hospital bills. Richard insisted killing me now with all the information I had would be a big loss. He suggested that I get treatment and maybe I would cooperate and give them more information. That’s how I was dumped at a government hospital but since nobody was paying my medical bills, the hospital suspended all treatment and I was asked to leave That’s how I survived. Ye, I am still full of terror, disfigured, and lame, but I am happy to be alive.

It has taken me almost 12 years to flee from Uganda, thanks to friends of the Friends Uganda Safe Transport Fund.

Having escaped from Uganda, I am now 28, living here taking it day by day, I now have hopes that maybe one day I will be somebody. Those guys wanted to kill me but I know am out of reach for them to make decisions on how to kill me. It’s not easy living in hiding for 12 years.

God bless you all!
Solomon Ntanga

“I wish times could just change” – by Nasali Sheila, March 15, 2020

My friends call me Nasa, but my full name is Nasali Sheila 20 years. I was born to peasant farmers who strongly believed that I should be married off, or to be more accurate “sold off”. At the age of 14, I was married off to a wealthy man Haji Mohammad Bin Ali, who was 67. I became his fourth wife. He happily paid my family three cows, five goats, several chickens, several kilos of sugar, rice, salt, oil lamps, clothes, and other goods to my “family”. I was sold off like an item.

On my wedding night, he raped me, and by the time I gave birth when I was 16 I had developed fistula. I hated men and has taken me a lifetime to heal. And I hate my family; they just never cared.

From my early childhood, I developed an attraction towards girls. By the time I was finally sold off, I knew I was not straight, and by the time I gave birth, I knew I was a lesbian.

When I gave birth to my daughter Shamira, I started plotting on how to disappear without a trace. That chance came when the man who bought m., had to go to Mecca on hajj.

I just disappeared with Shamira, living a life on the run for years. Just last week, however, the local FM radio stations opened a fresh war on the people in my town, calling on the locals to destroy homosexuality in their communities since the government is like failing to do it. They called on churches and mosques to hand over gay people. This caused a lot of panic among us and thank Allah, we knew who to run to in this town. Till lately I have been living with my girl friends and when words went around that we were going to be attacked, we immediately called the local “conductor” because he had earlier assessed us in the process of helping us to flee from Uganda – to leave and go live in another country where we could be safe and free from the daily danger in which we live. We called the conductor, but currently he doesn’t have the resources to help us leave nor can he feed us as he looks around for the financial resources to help us flee. We decided that if death is going to meet us, it should find us at the local shelter, not in the township.

It is now coming to one full week, we are started, I have a crying child, no food, no safe water, no light. The conductor manages to get us one meal every two days. We are now sick and diseased, am so worried my baby might die before help finds us.

We are now 85 waiting. We lost one of our trans friends. day we become more desperate and hope is quickly fading, we are so worried what if the conductor abandons us and this leads to mass killings?

We are appealing to whoever can to help us flee We also wish to live but in my country life is cheap and one can easily be killed. I wish times could just change.

Help, Help. Nobody has ever gone broke by helping, we need your help to flee.

Nasa


If you are able to financially support the work of Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund, please go to our DONATE page. Thank you!

Olympia Monthly Meeting is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization.  Cash and non-cash contributions are tax deductible to the full extent of applicable law.  Our Employer Identification Number (EIN) is 94-3145171.

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27 Jan

“I can now breathe” by Isaiah Kintu

Isaiah Kintu

I was born on the 25th March 1999 in the wrong body. I was named Isabella Nakintu. At the age of nine, everything indicated that I am a boy in a girl’s body. But since the culture demanded that I should be a girl, I had very limited support from my family. It became an intense personal problem. Later, I considered suicide as a solution but, as a Christian, the thought of taking my own life was overwhelming. Any attempts against the will of my parents were met with extreme violence, cultural rituals, flogging, and rejection.

At the age of 15, I made a difficult decision to go my own way; and street life gave me more comfort. This hard-knock life greeted me with crime, drugs, and prostitution and, by 2017; I had contracted HIV. I remember being arrested by the police in 2018 and the police had to undress me to ascertain my sex. Some were calling me a girl and others a boy.  One police officer raped me in the night in the name of giving protective custody. Without any relatives interested in my plight, it took months before I was given a police bond, which I jumped. In the police statement I had made, I had clearly indicated that I am transgender, which was an automatic case of self-incrimination. I became a fugitive from our gruesome laws.

A fellow street mate hinted to me that there is a welcoming church which can help me hide away from the police and my family (by 2019, my family wished my death and attempts were being made to kill me by rat poison because of my gender and sexual orientation). After months of searching, I was finally connected to a Friends’ group. My friend said it was a church, but it was actually a Quaker Friends Meeting. They pray differently and at first I thought they were strange. But that didn’t really matter – they welcomed me as I am. They accepted me and never judged me or even asked me questions. This is the place where I belonged, this was the very first time I wasn’t trying to be something different. It was me and I felt the comfort of changing my name from Isabella Nakintu to Isaiah Kintu.

Isaiah Kintu

The events of late 2019 again changed things around. A Minister in Uganda announced the re-tabling of the “Kill the Gays” law. This meant that we had to go into more confined hiding in safe houses. The media are strictly controlled in Uganda and are ordered not to mention or report any state-sponsored homophobia, though somehow once in a while such news makes it to the international media.  However, when a government minister makes a statement and introduces a law to kill gay people, the local people in rural villages and elsewhere understand this to mean they can take up arms, stones, machetes, sticks, etc. to beat and kill any suspected LGBTQI in mob justice (lynching).

After hiding in safe houses for weeks and losing one of our friends in a mob justice attack, more than 60 of us were safely helped to flee from Uganda to a safe harbor. Though I am happy for now, my expected final destination will be …. where I can get a job and start working, go back to school, and rebuild my life.

I wish to thank all the Quakers in the U.S. who are organized under the Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund, who funded my escape and those of my friends. You are miracle workers, and you saved our lives. Now we can breathe. Thanks AGAIN & AGAIN!


If you are able to financially support the work of Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund so that we can help us fund more people like Isaiah who need to get out of Uganda because of their gender identity or sexual orientation, please go to our DONATE page. Thank you!

05 Jan

Friends Ugandan Safe Transport update letter, January 01, 2020

January 1, 2020

Dear Friends –

Thank you so much for your assistance with Friends Ugandan Safe Transport (FUST) in this hour of great need. To bring you up to date, in October 2019 a bill was introduced into the Uganda Parliament calling for criminal penalties against LGBTQ people, including the death penalty. While the bill itself is not likely to be acted upon anytime soon, it reopened an active phase for expressions of homophobia and hatred throughout Uganda. In eastern Uganda alone, we know of five murders (with our contacts having witnessed two of them.) Eight radio stations and a tv station are airing anti-gay propaganda around the clock, and homophobic sermons are being preached from the pulpit, including by at least one Catholic bishop. People are being beaten in the streets or at markets, forced to leave school and families and are living in a constant climate of fear. We would note that little of this is allowed out by the press/media, which is pretty much confined to the capital Kampala.

Through your help and courageous action on the part of our “conductors,” 113 gay, lesbian, and transgender people, (including 38 members of Bulungi Tree Shade Friends Meeting – a welcoming and affirming Quaker Meeting in eastern Uganda; ‘bulungi’ means “welcome’) – have left Uganda, including 67 on Christmas Day itself. They are now all at their interim destinations, where they are well-housed, fed (many of them had been virtually starving), receiving medical care, and provided with services that will help them reach their final destinations around the world. Please note that funds from FUST are not used for this purpose, but only to facilitate the transport of those leaving Uganda, and for medical expenses of conductors and other directly involved in these efforts. Among the 113 were four gay members of the Ugandan Presidential Guard!

But it has been hard! And will continue to be so. Four “safe houses” had been set up in eastern Uganda. As there was not enough food, one transgender woman named Thelma ventured out of one of the houses to buy some bread at a market about a mile away, where she was beaten to death. (She had also been one of the conveners of the Buikwa Friends Worship Group.) Another individual, having just witnessed a lynching of a lesbian woman, was transporting a transgender person to safety when she was involved in a very serious motorcycle accident. She was transported by ambulance to Agha Khan Hospital (from experience they don’t trust Ugandan hospitals) in Nairobi, Kenya, where she underwent seven hours of surgery for internal injuries. She is now back in Uganda and recovering well.

Sadly, the same cannot be said of Robert Mboise (one of the co-founders of Bulungi Tree Shade Friends Meeting) who had been helping individuals reach the safe houses. Robert was attacked, beaten, and left for dead. He was found the next day and eventually sent via ambulance to Agha Khan, where he underwent 10 hours of surgery to relieve intracranial hemorrhaging. The operation was a success, but just the beginning, as he has a major spinal cord injury and is likely to require additional emergency surgery. Robert is one of the most extraordinary people you might ever meet, and we are committed to doing whatever is necessary to assist in his recovery.

Meanwhile, our conductors have a confirmed list of 85 people awaiting transport. The safehouses are currently closed as there is no money for food or fuel, and with floods sweeping Uganda there are now cholera outbreaks that can easily be spread among people living in close quarters. So we are working on more fundraising efforts to get these people out, and we expect there will be more.

You have collectively already done so much! Since we started in 2014 when the first anti-gay legislation was introduced, with your financial support some 2,057 people in justified fear for their lives (with 12 murders along the way) left Uganda and are rebuilding their lives around the world.

We are blessed that we are able to do this work, and so grateful for your ongoing assistance in doing it.

Thank you for giving us this opportunity to serve.

Gabi Clayton and Kathleen O’Shaunessy – Co-Managers
Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund – Olympia Friends Meeting

Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund is a project of Olympia Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, a 501(c)(3) religious organization (tax identification number: #94=3145171). Donations to Olympia Friends Meeting are tax-deductible to the extent allowed under the Internal Revenue Code. No goods or services have been rendered.

Download this letter in PDF format here.

If you are able to financially support the work of Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund, please go to our DONATE page. Thank you!

12 Dec

Update on Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund

This is the letter we have been sending out this week to many of our supporters:

December 7, 2019

Dear Friends and Supporters,

It has been over two years since we last updated you on Friends’ Ugandan Safe Transport (FUST).  This is because two of our conductors felt they needed to back away from active participation in the project due to stress and personal safety concerns — which is certainly understandable given their longevity and dedication to the project. FUST continued with only one conductor during that time and we didn’t feel an urgent need for active fundraising again until now. The Ugandan government is reviving the Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2013 which was repealed in 2014.

The proposed legislation calls for the death penalty for LGBTQ citizens.  As a result, many LGBTQ Ugandans are in desperate need to get out of the country, so we are gearing up our fundraising efforts again.  Currently, we are in direct contact with the two Ugandan transport allies, both of whom we know personally and have worked with before. 

CURRENT STATUS AND REQUEST:

Within the last four months, five members of the LGBTQ community have been murdered.  One of our friendly allies was severely beaten three weeks ago and is in the hospital in Nairobi awaiting surgery.  We are in urgent need of funds to pay for his surgery and medical expenses as well as to transport passengers to safety that are being held in hiding. There are currently 67 passengers in hiding awaiting transport.  Our primary conductor has successfully transported 42 people to the border in the past three days. This is a very risky, remarkable accomplishment.

Our Ugandan friends report that fear and panic within the LGBTQ community is extremely high.  We are again asking for your support in this time of urgent need.  Thanks to you, our donors, we have raised $190,000 and safely transported 1990 passengers since FUST began in 2014. 

As most of you know, FUST is a project initiated by Olympia Friends’ Meeting (Quakers) in April 2014.  It has the support of more than 25 Friends’ Monthly and Yearly Meetings, several other faith communities and many individual donors.  It is a project conducted by and controlled by Ugandans for Ugandans.  Our role is to provide the financial support which allows conductors to do their work.  No funds are used for staffing or administration except for postage and mailing supplies.  To date, 14 countries have accepted LGBTQ Ugandan refuges.  We hope to expand this number. 

If you have question or would like to know more, please visit our website which provides background information, FAQs, updates and links to other relevant sites  We also invite you to visit our blog at http://friendsugandasafetransport.org/blog/ and read the personal, heartfelt stories of some of the refuges you helped be transported to safety.  You may also wish to view a February 2016 local television program, “Bold, Friendly Action to Help LGBTQ Ugandans Flee to Safety,” done by Olympia Fellowship for Reconciliation (FOR).  You can watch it on the homepage of our website: http://friendsugandansafetrasport.org

We are most grateful and appreciative of your support and donations.  We hope you will continue to support FUST in these most critical times.

With warm regards and good wishes during this holiday season.

Gabi Clayton and Kathleen O’Shaunessy
Co-mangers, Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund


Download this letter in PDF format here.

If you are able to financially support the work of Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund, please go to our DONATE page. Thank you!