14 Aug

RK: However much she screamed for help, the more she attracted more beatings.

Life has not been easy for me right from childhood. I am a half-caste (Indian father and Ugandan mother).

I have 2 siblings all older than me. 21 years ago, my mother worked at the residence of a very wealthy Indian that stayed in our neighbourhood. She did all manner of odd jobs to take care of her children as a single mother. The Indian had his family back home in India and he stayed here on purely business status.

One day the Indian raped my mother and I was conceived as a result. My mother reported the case to police and she did not get justice. Instead the police aided the man to escape. So I am a product of rape and don’t know who my father is.

I have been aware I am a lesbian from as young as 13 and this has really been misunderstood by most people who crossed my path as I grew. The slum community we lived in was characteristic of calling me all sorts of names such as creep, shit, cockroach among others.

At around 19 years, I felt I needed someone to love. I had a crush on a very cute girl at the school I attended and made all attempts to make her know how much I loved her. I could buy small presents like hankies and sweets just to make her happy. However, she seemed to misread my intentions as casual friendship. I was becoming impatient and wanted to make my case known now. I chose to write a hand-written love letter. I crafted my seven-paragraphed letter with very clear and precise wording.

I waited until the evening when we are leaving to go back home and handed the letter to my girl. She grabbed the letter and with a beaming smile put it in her bag. I naively thought this was my chance now to hit a jack pot at real love. Little did I know that the letter was going to send me to near-hell in the next 24 hours.

I woke up unusually early the following day in anticipation that my girl would find me already settled and ready to receive her acceptance either written or oral. I was damn wrong on this. A very furious girl entered our class and found me pretending to be reading a Mills and Boon novel. She caught my blouse by the collar and slapped me three times. I sensed danger and attempted to flee but was subdued by two boys who had been briefed apparently before she entered class.

My so-called girl turned foe, followed hurriedly as the boys dragged me towards the headteacher’s office. The guys had a very firm grip on me and by the time we reached the headteacher’s office, I felt immense pain in my hands.

Long story short, my stay in that school was cut short by a summary dismissal and a threat for possible jailing.

I had just two terms to sit my final examinations for the upper secondary level. I was deeply engrossed in thoughts about how I was going to tell my mother. Poor as she was, she did not hate me for who I was but struggled every day to have all of us go through school. My elder siblings had each attained a relatively good level of education and were now able to also contribute towards my school fees.

Much as I had a dismissal letter in tow, it made nonsense to give it to her since she was illiterate. I decided to tell her verbally, and she was really hurt because they had just pooled money together to have me be in school and now hardly a term here I am expelled.

My brother and sister were so disappointed but did not give up on supporting me. A school was found and I was able to begin. This time although painful, I made all attempts at hiding my real self although feelings of love could once in a while overtake the better part of me.

Long story short, I completed my final year and was able to score 9 points which merited me admission to a nursing college.

The nursing college was a relatively friendly place so I thought but was completely wrong. The big number of LGBTs at the college did not make it any better for us to thrive and study as well as enjoy ourselves as we are.

We identified with each other well and made all effort to keep our issues to our chests. However, we are what we are and we could not hold onto for eternity. We learnt that those that are found to be LGBTs are harshly treated. We saw one time when a woman was locked in a very tiny dark room and was being hit by a piece of firewood. However much she screamed for help, the more she attracted more beatings. She was released and cautioned but the bullying that followed made it increasingly difficult for her to continue with the course.

What is shocking is the fact that there were fellow students who spy on us on behalf of management. We came to learn that a number of students were lined up for possible humiliation because they are what they are.

On good evidence, my name featured prominently and a haste plan was mooted to have us leave as soon as we could. We mobilized ourselves and left the next day at night. We were 8 in number.

Humiliation, rejection and physical and emotional abuse can be detrimental to one’s enjoyment of fundamental human rights. My country has a universal and generally held belief that LGBTs are a curse and society has been corrupted that the law can be taken in their hands. We could not stand becoming another statistic if any of us were captured and persecuted for belonging to LGBTs.

Humble appeal and a big thank you

I have learnt from our volunteer that a good number of our brothers and sisters have been aided with donated funds to flee persecution since 2014. I am delightedly thanking all those compassionate people that have made financial contribution to this cause of helping LGBTs flee persecution.

I am just one lucky woman who with seven other women managed to act fast to elude an imminent danger. 24 of our colleagues are also possible targets of the radicals and sooner than later they may be harmed.

I have learnt that through our compassionate volunteer, we shall be able to flee to another country. I therefore thank all those that make contributions to enable our volunteer have us move out.

I politely, request that those kind people making contributions towards the cause of persecuted LGBTs, continue the good gesture because the persecution is bigger than many people believe.

I passionately appeal that our dear colleagues who are 24 women in number be aided if they ever get in touch with the volunteer.

Maybe one day I will find a receptive country and pursue my dream of a career nursing.


18 Jul

Amy Na: Rejected First By My Family And Finally My Country For Being Who I Am – A Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Story

22 years is a very prime age for any young woman with good life aspirations. At my age I have endured agony and untold suffering as I was growing.

Both my father and mother are professional teachers with a very strong Anglican background.

I have 2 sisters and 1 brother who are all older than me, meaning I should have enjoyed the pampering that comes with being the last-born. This pampering is typically given to first and last-borns. However, in my case, this was never the case.

While I was in primary 3 at an only girls’ school not far away from the capital Kampala, I realized that I was more inclined to male behaviour. I recall always being dominant over other classmates just like any male being would conduct themselves, especially around female beings. All my mannerisms centred around mimicking our daddy who was very authoritative so to say.

Little did I know that this rapidly changing behaviour would also manifest shortly in body changes that are unusual for a female straight. I remember, I could get a few canes here and there for behaving in what my teachers and prefects regarded stray behaviours.

Although it took a year or so for my family to notice my boyish ways, little concern was accorded. This gave me leeway to enjoy and live the way I wanted. I admired being a boy. However, this fun-filled life was short lived considering that my mother started rebuking me. I had started preferring to put on male shorts. I found my elder brother’s old shorts stashed away in an old box. I selected the ones that fitted me and had them washed. I started putting on shorts while at home and also got a few T-shirts to go along with my new home dressing code.

On realizing my new me, my mother started being extremely harsh and would constantly remind me that I was a girl and should behave and conduct myself as one. I could hear none of what she said regarding my boyish behaviour. Sorry to admit this, but I started hating my mum for being harsh to me for who I was.

It was a protracted struggle for me to exert myself among my family members. My mom one time convened a meeting and informed my dad and siblings that it was increasingly getting unbearable for her to continue looking at a disgrace. She emphasised that as far as she recalls, she had borne a girl and not a boy as manifested in my behaviour. Most critical and basic supplies were cut off for me from both my dad and mum. My dad started accusing my mom for being responsible for my behaviour. He insisted that in his entire lineage nothing of the sort had ever been cited, so it could have emerged from my mother’s side.

These accusations and counter-accusations just worsened life for me. I became an outcast in my own family with my siblings as well joining the fray to make fun of me. I endured 4 solid years of suffering, beatings were the order of the day.

Painfully and begrudgingly my parents at the urging of our local priest paid for my school fees for me to join form 1 at still a girls’ only school. I had performed excellently well scoring a distinction 1 in 3 subjects and a distinction 2 in one subject. This meant I could be admitted in any school of my choice. I had wished to joined a top-notch girls’ only school at the time of filling our admission forms before we sat the final national exam. My wish was granted on merit and was admitted to the school of my choice. Little did I know that this was the genesis of my suffering phase two.

My dad and mom protested my joining a top-notch school on the simple premise that I had become an embarrassment to their “well respected family” As a punishment for my being me, my parents decided that they could not pay any more school fees for me and surely did fulfil their promise. I could be left home doing household chores as my siblings went to school.

I am naturally a fighter and while at home, I came across a newspaper that profiled the work of a charitable organization that helped disadvantaged girls go to school. I read the article from start to end and realized this was a perfect fit for me to have my educational predicaments sorted. Indeed, I was right and my three times escapes from home to visit the organization and explain my case yielded positive results. I scooped a scholarship fully paid for with scholastic materials provided. It was supposed to be a four-year scholarship. I grabbed it with two hands.

Remember, I did all this without the consent of my parents and did not wish them to know either. The sponsoring organization had a residential programme for girls who had nowhere to stay. This gave me a chance to escape from home to go and reside at the home of this organization for two weeks prior to official opening of school. My offer of admission at the top-notch school still stood firmly. The organization gracefully paid everything and on the day of reporting, I was delivered to school. Fitting in in this school was the toughest thing I have ever encountered in my life. I was strangely looked at by the girls. My walking gait and the voice were always a matter of concern. One day I overheard a pair of girls saying “She is a tom-boy”. I was almost isolated and was usually used as a guinea pig for exemplifying bad manners that other girls should not emulate. One time my headteacher commented that “none of my girls should ever admire to be like this Amy who does not know who she is.”

Long story short, my stay at this school saw me get more brutally assaulted for being who I am. On many occasions during the 4 years of my stay I had more than 6 suspensions of not less than 2 weeks each. Common sense demanded that I tone down but this was very hard for me considering it was not a made-up behaviour. I behaved the way I felt would bring out who I am. The several distractions I got kind of affected my performance and I managed to score a third grade. I ended up joining a nursing course also on sponsorship from the same organization.

Long story short, my stay at this school saw me get more brutally assaulted for being who I am. On many occasions during the 4 years of my stay I had more than 6 suspensions of not less than 2 weeks each. Common sense demanded that I tone down but this was very hard for me considering it was not a made-up behaviour. I behaved the way I felt would bring out who I am.

The nursing course is a 2-year course and my stay at the college was as short lived as eating an apple. Luckily when I joined the college last year, little did I know that I could not complete my course.

Unlike other places of learning I had been to before, it was at the nursing college that I realized that people who are like me exist in multitudes. There is an informal group at the college whereby LGBTs know each other. An informal leadership structure exists but operates more clandestinely. My confidence was re-built and I knew there would be nothing to stand in my way of attaining my nursing qualification after two years. However, my girlfriend who now was in second year shared some saddening news of how women had been expelled from the college every year for being lesbians, transgenders and bisexuals.

The college was extremely intolerant on what they termed “Animalism”. The so-called straight students would abuse, insult and assault those they considered stray human beings. I saw students who were brutally battered in bathrooms. On this the school management paid a deaf ear and we learnt that realized a list of 32 women had been generated and was secretly circulating with clear and precise instructions to have them “punished”. Although the punishment was not well defined, we smelt a rat having seen our names on the hit-list.

My girl-friend and I appeared on the hit-list and had to silently find a soft and safe exit from the college before we would be harmed. Six other women joined the group of escapees. In total 8 women left in the night and found ourselves at a safe haven that had been referred to us by women who left before us.

My girl-friend and I appeared on the hit-list and had to silently find a soft and safe exit from the college before we would be harmed.

Now almost 2 weeks in hiding, we believe by conviction that our lives are still in likely danger. We have temporally relief from the jaws of the radicals at the college and want to find our way out of our mother-land. Our own country has rejected us and in my case my family rejected me before anybody else could.

Good and kind-hearted people are rare but they exist. The guy who is volunteering to have as many of persecuted LGBTs leave for safety is doing us a good service at the expense of his dear life.

I mentioned earlier that 32 women were listed and 8 women escaped to the volunteer. We are not sure what can happen any time. The number of women escaping and finding safe haven where we are could rise soon.

I and on behalf of my friends, appeal to whoever can support financially the effort of our local volunteer to continue helping more persecuted people flee the country.

I also want to heartily thank all those kind-hearted people who made contributions to have our group of 8 women now ready to flee any time soon.

Amy Na (not their real name) has now been transported out of Uganda along with the seven other passengers. But there are always more who need our help. Please make a donation to help Friends Ugandan Safe Transport continue to support the brave Ugandans who help LGBT Ugandans like Amy to find a new safer life.

14 Apr

UPDATE: Our Latest Letter to Friends and Supporters of Friends Uganda Safe Transport

Below is our latest letter to friends and supporters of Friends Uganda Safe Transport. It should be noted that since the letter was sent, the number of passengers waiting for aid has changed. As of today, there are seven passengers and another four likely within days. ~ Gabi Clayton, April 14, 2017

March 18, 2017

Dear Friends and Supporters,

It has been several months since Friends Uganda Safe Transport (FUST) has communicated directly with you. We have had considerable activity in December and January.  One of the Ugandan conductors was jailed briefly, during which time he was physically and sexually assaulted.  He required emergency surgery and blood transfusions to save his life. We are pleased to report he is now recovering and is doing much better.  However, hospitals require payment up front and he had no money. FUST was able to raise these emergency funds primarily through the generosity of local Friends.  We did not use our regular contributions to fund this medical emergency.  As a result of focusing on this added need, our overall contributions have been down since the beginning of the year.

Your generous contributions of $165,870.81 have supported the safe transport of 1,859 LGBTQ passengers since we started this work on April 13, 2014.  The cost of safely transporting one person out of Uganda is between $55 and $185 depending on the distance from the Ugandan border.  We currently have 25 lesbian passengers in hiding awaiting transport. This group has been waiting for quite some time now and we are hopeful that we can raise the funds necessary to transport all of them soon.

As many of you know, this work is conducted and controlled by Ugandans for Ugandans.  The role of Olympia Friends Meeting’s FUST project is to provide the financial support that funds the conductors’ work.  To date, 14 countries have accepted LGBTQ Ugandan refugees.  We hope to add more.  We have the support of 29 Friends’ Monthly Meetings, two Yearly Meetings, several other faith communities, and many individual donors.  Your support and contributions allow us to continue this important work.

For new donors and those who have questions and would like to know more, we invite you to 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://friendsugandansafetransport.org/blog and read the personal, heartfelt stories of some of the refugees you have helped be transported to safety.

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

With warm regards,
Gabi Clayton and Kathleen O’Shaunessy
Co-managers of Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

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.

Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund
Olympia Friends Meeting
3201 Boston Harbor Road NE
Olympia, WA 98506-2800 U.S.A.
Phone: (360) 888-5291
Web: http://friendsugandansafetrasport.org
Email: info@friendsugandansafetransport.org

To make a donation, go to http://friendsugandansafetransport.org/donate/
Thank you!

01 Jan

As 2016 wanes Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund shares stories from two of the people who are depending on us to help them escape from Uganda

This is “ViW” – his picture was altered by Friends Ugandan Safe Transport to protect his identity.

This is “ViW” – his picture was altered by Friends Ugandan Safe Transport to protect his identity.

Am 25yrs young and I can say am a refugee in my own country.

Ever since I was outted as a gay man I haven’t had any kind of peace, living in hiding and constant fear of being lynched since most of my countrymen believe homosexuality is evil, a curse and dangerous.

In my country, due to primitiveness and imported homophobia it is not a safe place for an exposed gay man. Chances are high that you are likely to be killed by your own mother because of your sexuality. The only family one has here is a very gay person or a straight ally. There is nothing like people will mind their own business when it comes to homosexuality, people will mind you and the only way they want to deal with their own fears is by killing you.

We are left with no option but to flee Uganda to go and seek refuge in a less homophobic country.

Where we are hiding its not safe. Anytime anything can happen.

Am appealing to anybody who comes across this message to find it in his or her heart to help us flee Uganda.

Blessings
ViW
—-

This is “ChaL” – his picture was altered by Friends Ugandan Safe Transport to protect his identity.

This is “ChaL” – his picture was altered by Friends Ugandan Safe Transport to protect his identity.

The Kill Gay Law (Anti – Homosexuality Bill) here in Uganda was grounded by the Uganda Constitutional Court but it wasn’t grounded in the hearts and minds of many Ugandan Citizens.

Let me tell you something, there isn’t so much rule of law in Uganda after all. You will be surprised to learn that very few cases of abuse, death, attacks and hate against LGBTq make it to the media.

There is a lot of negative reporting when a case makes it to the press. Still be reminded that only cases from urban centers can get to any form of news reporting. It’s clear and a honest mark out that there is a lot of state sponsored homophobia in Uganda.

There is a lot of negative reporting when a case makes it to the press. Still be reminded that only cases from urban centers can get to any form of news reporting. It’s clear and a honest mark out that there is a lot of state sponsored homophobia in Uganda.

Not long ago it was known all over the University that am gay and am wanted by the police.

I just want to get out of here. Am broke and helpless I pray that this letter gets out there and somebody knows what’s happening so they can contribute so that I may flee Uganda.

I just need help.

ChaL

Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund needs your help to fund the safe transport of ViW and ChaL and many other passengers in hiding out of Uganda.

Right now, the Ugandan conductors owe a debt of $10,472.00 to transporters for getting people out of Uganda in emergency situations. This debt must be repaid so they can continue their work.

One of our Meeting’s members is owed $4439.00 which was loaned in three separate situations when there were emergency situations. And our FUST project owes a debt to our Meeting of another $337.90.

They are all emergency situations – but some are far more urgent and dangerous than others and so debts have grown – but people’s lives have been saved!

As of tonight, New Year’s Eve – 12/31/2016, FUST has supported the Ugandan conductors to help 1,855 individuals escape from Uganda: 1,841 LGBTQ adults, six straight allies, and eight children.

We can’t do it without you.
Please make an end of year donation — or a new year donation as soon as possible, and share this with others.

You can donate online here:

Thank you,
Gabi Clayton
for Olympia Friends Meeting’s Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund

05 Dec

MaK’s and F’s Stories – Shared with Friends Ugandan Safe Transport

MaK’s Story

Though my papers read M, I know that’s not me! I am MaK! I was born in a wrong body. That was easy to say not knowing the trouble ahead.

At first it was my family, when dad questioned that why am I behaving and walking like a girl. Dad gave mom serious instruction on how to raise me as a boy, I received a lot of beating and punishment every time the woman in me came out. 

mak-fustsnapshot

This is “MaK” – her picture was altered by Friends Ugandan Safe Transport to protect her identity.

I was even taken to only boys’ boarding school so that I grow up as a man. This really affected my growth and social life. Things only changed when I went into University far away from home and I accepted myself as a woman. This new earned freedom has not lasted really long. The Christian strictness of this University quickly targeted me and I was identified as a Transgender. The news made it to university gossip groups. I was attacked twice in the bathroom by haters and before I knew it the University suspended me.

Going back home wasn’t something I can even imagine. I just realized that I need a helping hand to help me go into another country where I can live as MaK not M. The only criminal act I have committed is being me. My community wants me to live a life which isn’t mine. Yes my biology says am a man but inside me I am a woman.

Transwomen and Transmen are high targets for the haters of the LGBTQ people. There is no compromise whatsoever, people are happy to save you by only killing you.

I rather die than live as a man.

I can’t imagine how being a woman can bother somebody so much. The world was given to us free and we make choices as long as they don’t affect another people. Why can’t I just be ignored?

My only way out is to flee. I have been dreams I want to be a designer and make fashions which bring on diversity.

Help me get out of here and I rebuild my life from another country.
MaK

F’s Story

All my life I had wanted to become a priest in our Catholic Church. To become a Reverend Father is a big dream for millions here in Uganda. It’s a long journey and a painful sacrifice. It’s something which starts right from high school. I joined the Seminary with love and lots of joy. I knew what it takes and I was ready. I did all I was supposed to do and last year I became a full Deacon. I had only this year and I was going to be ordained as a Father, last December I even dreamed that I am Fr. F.

However I should tell you that I have had a big secret and a few of my acquaintances – brother J & brother L – we are gay.

lxfxj-fustsnapshot

This is F with J and L. Their pictures were altered by Friends Ugandan Safe Transport to protect their identities.

We had become so used to each other and sometimes we weren’t careful enough to keep our secrets closed. This year we were investigated and the Vocational Director ordered for our immediate suspension. This also comes with being exposed. I don’t want to apportion blames now but the dream came down just like that.

Am now battling for survival and racing against time to get out of Uganda.

I want to try and start a new life as an open and out Gay man. Am still a Christian and I choose to serve God.

Every Blessings +
F

Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund needs your help to fund the safe transport of MaK and F and the 120 other passengers in hiding out of Uganda.

We can’t do it without you.

Every dollar helps.

You can make a donation online here:

Thank you,
Gabi Clayton and Kathleen O’Shaunessy
for Olympia Friends Meeting’s Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund
30 Nov

Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Update and Giving Tuesday

Dear friends and supporters of Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund,

Olympia Monthly Meeting (Quakers) created the “Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund” in 2014 to aid LGBTQ Ugandans who are fleeing their homeland for their lives and safety. We were given an opportunity to provide direct assistance and with your support, as of  today – 11/29/2016 – we have supported Ugandan conductors to help 1,815 individuals to escape from Uganda: 1,801 LGBTQ adults, six straight allies, and eight children.

Last week, Conductor #1 wrote:

“I recall D’s statement when we had just started that this work .
I wish funds could come and most of them are transported as a Christmas season gift.
I got the 8 lesbian women today and my total now is 15, all women. Likely to get more next week.

“We are only constrained by lack of adequate funding but the desire to help those persecuted is not about to wane.
We are not about to tire on this matter.
Innocent people are persecuted by ignorant people

“Gabi, we are doing all we can but can never fully help and bring to an end to this xenophobia. I thought it would be a one year event and we would be done. I was wrong on that. It’s like we have just started.

“My mentor D once commented that we are the transport business for a long haul. Truthfully this has come to pass.”

Then today he wrote:

“I have 15 lesbian women in waiting and am likely to get 24 more over the course of the next two weeks making it thirty-nine.”

And Conductor #2 wrote:

“My situation is I am a total volunteer who gave up everything to make sure that what we started with this keeps on going against all odds. I have seen friends and work mates die in the line of duty. I have seen volunteers give up. I have kissed death. I have been ignored and forgotten many times. I have no job or any sort of income. Any risk I take there is no insurance whatsoever. I have some people here but they are as equally poor like me though they have a heart to help.”

“By Ugandan law I am a criminal so I have to fake identity to live another day. It’s not a party here. Every day we live is a gift.”

If you plan to donate to nonprofits for today’s Giving Tuesday – or if you can make tomorrow  Giving Wednesday or any day you can, please consider a donation to Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund to help us fund the work of these brave amazing Ugandan conductors who are risking everything to save the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in their country.

To get the 39 lesbian passengers with Conductor #1 out of  Uganda, it will cost $185 each, so $7,215.00.

Conductor #2 has more passengers in hiding in their care but owes the transporter over $12,000.00 for getting hundreds of LGBT passengers out of Uganda when there were emergency situations and no funds to pay for them. The transporter must be paid back.

One of our Quaker members is owed $1,964 which was for another emergency situation. And we owe our Friends Meeting $438.80.

Every dollar counts!

Please DONATE at:
http://friendsugandansafetransport.org/donate/

Note: Contributions to Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund through Olympia Monthly Meeting (Olympia Friends Meeting) are tax-deductible.  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.

Thank you,
Gabi Clayton
for Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund

21 Oct

They have to leave as soon as yesterday. Help so we can get a miracle tonight.

Message from H, one of the conductors doing the work in Uganda that Friends Ugandan Safe Transport funds:

fust-ugandanflag-lgbt-flagTo the eyes of the world, the kill gay law (anti-gay law) is dead and forgotten but to some of us who volunteer at the grassroots it’s active and fully in function.

Over 92% of the news which happens in the rural or semi urban poor communities never make it to the media and when it so happens the big media houses are not interested of course.

It’s only a high profile and internationally known gay who will attract international media centers. But the ones who suffer the daily oppression and struggles are in the closet gays living in smaller communities. Take examples of many young lgbti being threatened with death in many up country universities and seminaries.

I must save the details because of security concerns but we have 41 gay students from a religious institution and 19 transgender students from a university in hiding who are the most urgent cases we have waiting with us for funds to pay for their escape. They are in an extremely dangerous situation and they have to leave as soon as yesterday.

Help so we can get a miracle tonight.

Am crying, knowing I have no way out. This reminds of the recent deaths of 4. Why why why…knowing u are helpless and somebody is likely to be killed because you failed to help just in time can be so heart breaking…. anyways this is all I can write now.

thx, h


Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund needs your help to fund these sixty passengers who are in extreme danger. It will cost $55.00 each to transport them out of Uganda.

We can’t do it without you.

Every dollar helps.

Please make a donation so we can send it to conductor H who puts his life on the line every day to help get others to safety.


More info on donations here.
Thank you,
Gabi Clayton
for Olympia Friends Meeting’s Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Fund
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.

##

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!