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!
“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.
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.