“I was born in Sierra Leone in West Africa in 1974. I’m 46 years old now and I have been fighting for the right to be who I am since I was only 14 years old.
I know this: If I was forced to return to Sierra Leone, I will always have to hide my sexuality.
I left my home country when I was only 15 years old. Today I have not seen my mother and my sisters for nearly 30 years.
I realized that I was homosexual when I was 14 years old. I attended an all-boys’ school where I started to develop feelings for my classmates. My father was a strict imam, and he would never allow it. At that time, I had never thought of homosexuality as a crime, because my feelings had always been for boys. But in my home country it is considered a crime. I lied to my father every time he suspected me of being with other boys.
When my family found out, the whole village found out. I come from a small village of only 50 people. Everyone watched while they fractured my waist and destroyed my scrotum, marking my body with sharp objects. I was bleeding. I managed to crawl behind a bush, where my mother found me and carried me to a traditional priest to heal me. Ultimately, he wasn’t able to.
I was sent to the neighboring country of Guinea-Conakry for treatment with another traditional priest for nearly 9 years there. The traditional priest wanted me to return to Sierra Leone, I didn’t want to go back – my life was destroyed in that place. I was seen as a criminal, an evil person. I never returned.
When I later on arrived in Gambia, I was homeless. I earned money by prostituting myself. In the mornings on the beach, I started educating myself, trying to read and write and better my English skills for future use.
I arrived in Scandinavia in 2016, after I became friends with a Danish man in Gambia. We travelled together to Scandinavia. He told me that he would help me get a permanent stay in Denmark. He tricked me, though. He took me to a remote house in Sweden instead in the middle of nowhere where I was held captive by two men who abused me sexually for nearly two weeks. I managed to escape one night. I asked a man for help while I was fleeing. I found the nearest migration center. I received help to seek asylum in Denmark after four months in Sweden.
When I finally arrived in Denmark, I was picked up by the police. I was so afraid. But the Danish police were very kind to me. I was placed in several asylum centers for a long period of time. My asylum case was rejected, and I was afraid I would be sent back to Sierra Leone. That was when I fled to Germany in 2019.
During my time in Denmark, I was in touch with the LGBT Asylum community who is like a family to me. They have helped and supported me in ways that I cannot describe - personally, mentally, and socially. They have given me life. I was very active in the organization, especially during Pride where I was the marketing manager, promoting the cause, and I will always be ready to walk along with my LGBT+ family in the Pride Parade.
Today, I’m part of the LGBT+ community in Munich. I’m still in the process of getting a permanent residence permit, and I struggle with my mental health. Even though my experiences have made me stronger in some ways, it is not easy, because I don’t know my faith – but I’m trying to be strong. I want to be strong.
In my heart, I feel strong and at home with my LGBT+ family no matter where I am.”
Photo credit: Thomas Cato
Mohammad started working at the age of 11 at the local pharmacy. That is how he earned the means for his education and managed to graduate the economics at the university. He learned a lot about medicines and developed an affection towards medicine – knowledge that turned out to be very useful.
Moayed has been volunteering since day one in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Now, being an asylum seeker for almost a year he has a job and lives independantly in an apartment that he rents.
In 1997, Nicole fled Eritrea to avoid military conscription. Her story is a story of female empowerment and strength. Coming to a new country, Nicole had to overcome the challenges of being “othered” due to her birth name, Rahwa.