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Thursday, 5 March 2009

Troubled life of a gay Ethiopian

Shaded relief map of Ethiopia.Image via Wikipedia
Source: Behind the mask

I was born in the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. I and my nephew were raised by my aunt.

The story that I heard from my family was that a few weeks before my dad passed away he gave me to my aunt.

I never knew my biological mother but I heard that she died of the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

As I went to school, from elementary to high school everybody used to tell me that something was different about me.

Since I was a little boy I never had feelings for girls, I was only attracted to boys.

I was depressed for many years because I wanted to fix what I thought was wrong with me but it was impossible.

I used to wonder who was going to heal me, but even if there was someone who could heal me, I wouldn’t be able to tell them my sexuality because it is shameful and would be a disgrace to my family, my religion, my culture and tradition.

The burden of facing such problems on my own was too much. My life was full of fear, shame and disgrace. I felt useless and unwanted by my community and worse, my own family.

I never told anyone about my sexual preference because there is a very strong culture in Ethiopia where no one is allowed to talk about sex in front of elderly people, even one’s own parents.

If you are gay it is given that you will be rejected by your family, community, and church. You will not have friends at all.

I was alone for a long time with my secrets until I found out people are talking about me.

I was between the ages of 14 and 16 when it became clear to me that I am gay.

It was a nightmare for me because I knew that if anyone heard, my life would be in danger.

The Ethiopian culture is 100% connected with religion both Christian and Muslim which means I had to vanish or if the government came to my rescue I would have to go to jail for the crime I didn't commit or for the sins I didn't do, but just because of my nature.

Even if I would go to jail, I would be killed in no time.

I was called by many names, but no one ever laid a hand on me because they respected my aunt.

Problems came after the war broke between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

We used to own a big hotel which was run by me and my aunt whom I used to call mom since I was a child.

But during the war, every thing was taken from us. We were told by government officials to leave the country. This was a big blow to us.

Even though we were told to leave our country we are still Ethiopians. These politics were too much for my aunt, she died on June 27 1998 after a long illness.

Her death was the final nail on the coffin; I had no family, no friends, no money and I felt betrayed by nature. I told to my self "from now on every body is my enemy."  At that time, the most important priority was to get out of my country.

Before I left, I met one gay guy from the southern part of the capital city called Akaki.

We met through my friend and before we knew it, we were like soul mates. We talked about our safety and we kept our secret but people were suspicious of me not dating any women from my community.

Things went crazy when people found out that I am dating a guy. They broke in to my house and found me and my friend in bed and started to attack us, using anything they could find.

My friend ran for his life but I was beaten into a pulp and I was left to die. Miraculously I survived but I still bear scars in my head, left arm, right ear, left arm, and my hand.

I went to my friends’ house and his family took me to hospital and they were under the impression that I was beaten by street muggers.

Upon my recovery I looked for a way out of my country. I left the country and came to South Africa in 2002 and I applied for asylum seeker documents.

I am still a seeker but have not received my documents. Even after I arrived in South Africa I was still hiding from everybody.

I dated some South African gay guys but I had to be careful not to be exposed by anybody because many Ethiopians who are in South Africa would beat me up as they have shown extreme homophobia, since they found out that I am gay.

In mid 2006 someone from Ethiopia found out that I am gay and all hell broke loose. I was called names and I was chased. The more I tried to convince people that I am not gay, the more difficult it got.

I had a group of about seven other gay people from Ethiopia and we used to meet secretly but now I am the only one left.

One was killed by Ethiopians in front of us in May 2006 because they found out he was gay. The tension was so terrifying every body went their own way.

Each one of us thought they would be next.

I am the most vulnerable because I live amongst Ethiopians and I know one day I will be next to be killed or seriously injured.

I don't have anybody to lean on, to depend on or to talk to. I live in fear every day of my life.

The only thing that bothers me is that no one is willing to bring my enemies to justice.

Even here in South Africa The Department of Home Affairs doesn't recognise my incessant requests for documentation.

For seven years I have been a seeking asylum but have not received any documents. I really don't know when I will be recognized as a refugee.

All in all I have never been protected and I have never had peace in my life.

I always think each day could be my last unless a miracle occurs.

I face so many challenges in my life apart from losing all my family. I long to be treated with respect and dignity.

I don't even have money to pay my rent, to buy food because I cannot get a job.

My life is threatened on a daily basis.
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1 comment:

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