Ambassadors of Pride
LGBTQ refugees come to Sweden fleeing from intolerant societies and tyrannical governments, simply for being who they are. To stay, they face a new challenge: proving something they’ve hidden their entire lives. In a subjective and legally uncertain interview process, they have to convince the authorities that they are part of the LGBTQ community. To make it harder for the Swedish Migration Agency to question their life stories, they now have official roles within our organisation, as Ambassadors of Pride.
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Ambassador of Pride
“It will be the end of me if I have to go back.”
I used to think that I wasn’t normal. But when I realised that I was lesbian, I didn’t anymore. At the same time, I felt so lonely. In my heart, I knew that there was no one like me. Ever since I’ve always feared that I would live and die alone, and I was terrified about talking to anyone about it. I had no idea how I would ever be able to live a normal life. I became very self-conscious and started to think about how I dressed, how I acted, and who I spoke to. I was scared that people around me would notice something about me.
A friend in school was stoned to death by an Islamic militia group, just for dressing unordinary. They showed me the pictures of her head after it had happened. Another girl was shot to death because they suspected that she was gay. Soon, people started questioning why I wasn’t interested in boys.
I knew that if anybody finds out who I am, they will kill me right away. And nothing would happen to them if they did. They could call the police and say they’ve killed me and claim their reason for it was that I was lesbian. That’s not going to be a problem for them, they are protected by the law.
Having lived in Sweden, I will always be afraid of having to go back to my country. My family would force me to marry a man and start a family, but that would mean he would have to rape me. If I refuse, or they find out anyway, the consequences are terrifying. I have already witnessed a lot of people being executed because it got out that they were gay. I have lost many friends because they didn’t do or behave like everyone expected them to. Why would the same thing not happen to me?
Ambassador of Pride
“This is the first time I’ve been able to admit, even to myself, who I truly am.”
When I was eight, me and my family fled from Afghanistan to Iran. There we lived illegally, but pretty soon my father was arrested by the police. They gave him a choice to either go to Syria and fight or go back to Afghanistan. I never saw him after that. A few years later an uncle brought me in. But because he only had daughters, he forced me to work to bring in money for the family.
In the factory where I worked, I met a boy my own age that I fell in love with. The only place we could spend time with each other was in the locker room of the factory. In secret, we would meet whenever we could. At that time, I never thought I was gay, only that I was in love with a boy, and that our love was impossible. When homosexuality is one of the worst crimes one can commit, it’s not something you even dare to think about too much.
One day our boss found out what we were doing and told my uncle. After that, I was constantly beaten. My uncle threatened to tell everyone and send me back to Afghanistan where I would be stoned to death. Under constant threat, I was forced to work so that he wouldn’t expose me. In 2015, we found out that Sweden had opened its borders, that’s when we saw our chance to escape, hoping that my uncle wouldn’t find out.
After I arrived, I never talked about my sexuality. I was always afraid the same thing would happen here as it did in Iran. This was my chance to leave mental and physical abuse behind, or so I thought. If I start talking about my situation and who I am, I fear it will come out. But the alternative is going back to a Taliban-ruled country where I won’t make it out alive. If there's a hell for me, it's there.
Ambassador of Pride
“Even here, I fear being open. Almost no one knows but me.”
Even though I had sex with guys, I never perceived myself as gay. There was no such thing as being gay. It was unthinkable. It was only when I came to Sweden and talked to openly gay people here that I realised. It terrified me and still does in a way.
Back in Iran, I had a successful business, but my business partner who had suspicions of what I was doing got a hold of a video of me and used it to blackmail me. It was over from there. When the rumour started to spread, a group of men came to my apartment to kill me. I had to jump from the fifth floor to survive. Since that happened, I knew I could never go back.
I have never talked about my feelings with anyone. But to stay safely in Sweden, that’s what I have to do. I have to explain to a stranger at the Migration Agency something I’ve barely been able to admit to myself. When you’ve lived with something that is considered a taboo all your life, it’s difficult to find the words for what you have been through, who you are, and how you identify.
The police in Iran have an eye on me. If I go back, they will stop me at the airport, they will take me aside and interrogate me. From there I will be taken to court and a judge will decide my fate. Either I’m imprisoned, or they execute me.
Ambassador of Pride
“It was either be killed or kill myself.”
I never felt drawn to the female sex. From an early age, I looked at guys and felt that I liked them. As time passed, I met someone I fell in love with. Then I started to realise that I was gay.
When my family found out, they tried to kill me. First, they tried to poison me and run me over, then they told the police and sent me to prison. There I was tortured, harassed, and abused many times. Society, my friends, and my family have all rejected me, and since I was known by the authorities, I had no place left to hide.
I remember one night after I had been abused and raped, I was going to commit suicide. But someone I used to date helped me out. He helped me plan an escape. I didn’t know where I was going, or how I would get there. I didn’t have a passport or other documents. I didn’t have any money. But with God’s will, things went well, and I ended up in Sweden. That’s how I came here.
The reason why I fled is the same reason why I can’t go back. I’m gay and I can’t change that. I learned to be proud of who I am and feel that it is better for me to accept that than to pretend to be someone I am not. If I go back, they will imprison me again, or take my life. All I want is to live a quiet life where I can be myself, without fear.
Ambassador of Pride
“I’m here because, where I come from, who I am is considered a crime.”
In Morocco, my brothers wanted to force me into marrying a woman. When I told them I wouldn’t do it, they threatened to kill me. I'm terrified of my family because I know they will do it if they ever get the chance.
At university, I met a guy that I got close to. We liked each other very much, but we could never show it. When we got to know each other better, he told me he liked guys. At first, I was careful, but after a while, I started opening up to him too. He was my first love, and we liked each other so much.
Where I’m from, homosexuality is considered a crime. Because it is an Islamic country, you simply cannot be gay. I’ve had this feeling all my life and that is why I fled from there. But when the Migration Agency looks at me, they want me to go back anyway. It doesn’t matter that I feel threatened. They say that I must seek protection from the police or the authorities in Morocco, but they do not understand that who I am is a crime. I will be excluded from society. It’s even written in the law book that it is forbidden. I do not understand why they do not see this. If I go back, I'll risk my life.
It was too dangerous for me to stay, and I don’t want to be anyone else than myself. I want to be a human being. I do not want to live in a society that does not tolerate who I am. I want to find someone who loves me, I want to live with that person and create a family. This is what I dream about. It's my human right: that I should be able to choose how I live my life. My dream is not to live in Europe, it is to live in freedom. That's why I came to Sweden, because here I can be myself.
Ambassador of Pride
“My mom tortured me, but I told her, being gay is not a choice, it’s not something I can do anything about.”
When I was 16, my mom caught me in bed with my boyfriend, I told her the truth, thinking that she would support me and understand. But that was the biggest mistake of my life.
She started to beat me every day. I was living under humiliation, a secret life, a depressed life. I had to do everything my mom told me so that she wouldn’t expose me. But the one thing I was afraid of was not the law, it was the people in society. If they found out about me, they wouldn't take me to the police, they would beat me until I die.
After years of abuse, on a day where she was hitting me with a stick, I decided to kill myself. So I started stabbing myself, all over my body. I started to bleed, a lot. The next thing I knew, I woke up in a hospital. There, I felt like I wanted justice. But I couldn’t go to the police because who I am is illegal in that country. If they found out that I was gay, they wouldn’t arrest my mom, they would arrest me.
When I came to Sweden, I had nightmares every day. Haunted by my past. But I met people here that were willing to help. That listened to me. All I want is to live in a place where I don’t have to be afraid. I want to live in a society where I won’t be judged for who I am, and I can’t do that in Senegal.
When I left, almost no one knew that I was gay. Now everyone knows. If I go back, they will kill me. They are waiting for a chance to kill me.