“Being a LGBT+ person and a refugee have both been a blessing and a hardship.
I arrived in Denmark on my birthday. I felt as if I was born again.
My Danish friends know I’m gay and support me. In contrast, if I post something on my social media about LGBT+ rights in Arabic, I don’t get much recognition, because some people are scared to support it. I don’t want to sound like a bigot, though. I have a great deal of LGBT+ friends who are Muslims. I post a lot about human rights and LGBT+ rights on my social media.
I want people to realize that LGBT+ rights are human rights. At the World Pride in Copenhagen this year, I was on stage telling the crowd that I am gay and I’m proud. I felt strong. Nobody can tell your story better than yourself. But even if you are gay in a safe country, you can still feel scared. I meet up with my Syrian LGBT+ friends to talk, because we can relate to and support each other. We have especially one question in common: What about our future? If we are sent back to our home countries, we will be persecuted and maybe even killed. I haven’t been back to Syria and my family for ten years. My dad has cancer, and I can’t even give him a hug.
Keys in the engine
In 2015, I worked in Turkey as a navigation officer, but I had to leave the country, because my passport expired. I couldn’t go back to Syria. I had a chance to get to Greece by boat with 80 other refugees. In Turkey, we met up with a human trafficker to take us to Greece in return for a large sum of money. Eventually, he abandoned the boat because he feared getting caught by the police. At this point, I took over the steering wheel. The keys were still in the engine. I opened Google Maps on my phone and steered the boat to land. I didn’t have any choice.
From Greece, I went to Denmark. I worked for two years at Maersk Line with container shipping. After that, I worked different jobs for one year in order to apply for a permanent residence permit. Unfortunately, I lost my job due to Covid-19, and I lost those years in my process of getting a residence permit. This puts refugees in a state of constant torment and fear.
LGBT+ person, refugee and proud
When you are a refugee, you need to feel part of the new country that you live in. I want to build a future, and I don’t want to be a refugee forever. As a gay man with a Muslim background, it feels like you fight everyone – Muslims and people who are not welcoming to refugees. When some people only see you as a refugee or look down on you because you are gay, you feel small.
When I feel like giving up, the LGBT+ community make me feel proud of myself again. I’m not alone. I know they will fight for me, and that makes me feel safer. I’m trying to give back to the community that has supported me tremendously by participating as a member of the LGBT Asylum and as a volunteer. I want people to feel free no matter their religion or sexual orientation. We should be proud that we are all human beings. We have the same rights and duties to protect our earth instead of creating hatred, intolerance, and wars between us.
During my time at Maersk Line, I had an idea. I suggested to one of the captains, who was also a gay man, that the biggest shipping company in the world should participate in the Pride. The people at Maersk Line responded positively. In 2018, they became one of the sponsors of the Pride Parade. Now, when I see my old workplace represented at the Pride, I feel proud and happy that I did something of impact.
This is my life. This is my body. I cannot change the color of my eyes. I cannot change my sexuality. I was born this way.”
Mohamed’s story is about a lifelong battle for safety, refuge and the ability to be himself as an LGBT+ person. His journey from Sierra Leone to Europe wasn’t easy, and to this day, he is still fighting for his right to be safe.
Ndaishimiye lives with his wife and children in their house in Nduta Camp, Tanzania. Back in his country, Burundi, he was asked to teach children about the ruling party, but refused. As a consequence, he was jailed.