Monday, December 16, 2013

Ethiopia: ’A Graveyard for Homosexuals’

"I won't quit anti-gay advocacy until Ethiopia adopts the death penalty". " United for Life's president, Seyoum Antonius

"I don't want a gay son. You are not my son from this minute. It is better to kill yourself than be gay." An Ethiopian Father

 "Ethiopia is supposed to be clean and holy, I felt like such a dirty person for having those feelings." Exiled Ethiopian gay man

Does Homosexuality exist in the Holy land Ethiopia?

It was last Friday that I came across with these terrifying and troubling facts on Newsweek ( one of my favorite news-magazines I grew up with reading back in the days). One of my followers on twitter re-twitted it from his follower with a subject-line: "Ethiopia is a graveyard for all sorts of human rights". Well,  I couldn't resist my curiosity but found out that my follower's follower altered the original title "A graveyard for homosexuals" for some unknown reasons when he shared. Anyway, I know the human-rights abuses is bad but the anecdotes at the beginning of this piece speak volumes about the atrocities, discrimination and abuses against Ethiopian sexual minorities not only by the government but also anyone including their parents in that country. Katie Jim A. Baker of the Newsweek should be commended for writing such a very detailed, well-researched long feature by interviewing the victims, various international watchdogs, governmental and non-governmental officials. Claire Beston, Amnesty International's Ethiopia researcher told Newsweek that Ethiopia wasn't on the radar due to limited resources and difficulties getting around the anti-advocacy law. "The U.S., U.K. and other governments give huge amounts of aid to Ethiopia while remaining tight-lipped about the extensive violations of human rights happening throughout the country," Beston said. According to Pew Global Attitudes Study conducted in 2007, ninety-seven percent of Ethiopians would like homosexuality to be outlawed in the country. Honestly, I wasn't really surprised when I read this statistics because I know homophobia is highly prevalent due to patriarchy, centuries old cultural and religious beliefs and deep rooted ignorance. Katie explored these phenomenon in her writing; it's not uncommon to hear derogatory, sexist, bigoted and stereotyped comments against LGBT groups by highly educated Ethiopians at home and abroad.
 Ethiopian LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) activists to home and abroad to shade lights about the plights these minorities. International human right groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have published reports in the past but were surprised that Katie was able to conduct with members of Ethiopian LGBT groups and warned her to check up on sources after the story comes, because "
the government will do."
Almost nobody is spared from homophobia in Ethiopia even those in higher educational institutions who are supposed to read and know better than their compatriots in remote areas. Selamawit Tsegaye, a 25-year-old Ethiopian research who is doing her graduate study on homosexuality in Ethiopia summed it up this way: "my human rights classmates think homosexuals are less of a human and they deserve to die; some even say very proudly if they meet one gay man they would kill that person." Katie said even idealistic millennials are homophobic. Youth leader Hezkias Tadele, 24, championed his generation's "openness" at November's International Family Planning Conference in Addis but told her he didn't want to talk or even think about homosexuality, and claimed that his peers nationwide felt the same. "We want to keep our own culture," he said.

The Complicity of Right-wing Christians in Spreading Homophobia

One thing which unifies many competing ( often time sworn-in enemies) religious or and political groups is the hate against LGBT persons. It is a common knowledge those who claim being discriminated and fighting for freedom, human-rights are themselves wouldn't care less or many times  discriminate LGBT people- their logic- Homosexuality is un-Ethiopian and against religious beliefs. Such notion is widespread among millions of people in many African and middle-eastern countries if we look closely at Pew's research. A conference was held last year in African Union Head quarter in Addis Ababa which was organized by faith-based organizations and their zealot followers to condemn homosexuality. The irony is that these religious groups
have never spoken a word against the regime which have been perpetuating   unimaginable sufferings, killings, displacement, imprisonments and rape against tens of thousands of innocent Ethiopian citizens with impunity ever since it took power 20 years ago. At this LGBT bashing conference, the organizers and participants who often have conflicting interests, unified and vowed to eradicate homosexuality from Ethiopia. Even though, some the scriptures of these religious tell them to love one another including their enemies; hypocrisy at its best.  
Last year's anti-gay conference and others like it are organized and funded by United for Life, a Western Evangelical Christian organization that receives funding from the U.K. and U.S. In May 2013, United for Life hosted a workshop during which police told government officials, religious leaders and health professionals that "homosexual family members and neighbors" were likely to sexually abuse children. A representative from the Ethiopian Inter-Religious Council Against Homosexuality announced that the council was making "promising" progress in convincing the government to introduce the death penalty to punish "homosexual acts." United for Life's president, Seyoum Antonius, has made it clear that he won't quit anti-gay advocacy until Ethiopia adopts the death penalty. One of his rallying cries is, "Africa will become a graveyard for homosexuality!"
For many Ethiopians, homosexuality is either a western import disease or doesn't exist at all in the holy country; if there are any LGBT people, they should be by any means necessary either eradicated or given a lesson to convert into a normal life- meaning heterosexuality. Due to such high level of discrimination and harassment, thousands of this sexual minority groups have to live in fear; hide their gender identities and/or sexual preferences; and fled the country to avoid persecutions, imprisonments and daily abuses by their parents/siblings, neighbors, police, religious leaders and for that matter any average Joe on the street. They have neither  the right to live nor exist in Ethiopia unless they stop these "criminal  and unnatural activities".  

Unconditional Love???

I always have this naive thinking that parental love is unconditional but I was proved wrong after reading this story on Newsweek about an Ethiopian young gay man who was disowned by his father for participating at the annual Mr.Gay contest held in South Africa last year. Robel Hailu, a young Ethiopian gay man from the capital, made local and international headlines for good and bad reasons; his fellow LGBT members were proud for putting Ethiopia on gay map while millions of compatriot Ethiopians including his father were outraged for bringing such a "shame" to the once proud and culturally pure nation. Hailu sought asylum in South Africa after receiving death threat messages from Ethiopia and misses his family, friends and country he was forced to leave behind.  Hailu told Katie via skype the following 
"I told myself that if I put myself out there, a million people like me can start to live...nowadays things are worse than ever in Ethiopia.... I am not sleeping until everything sorts out."
Another LGBT activist who wants to be anonymous and  fled Ethiopia to the US after being attacked by the police for his activities told Newsweek that he still doesn't feel safe among fellow Ethiopians fearing retribution for being gay, even though he now lives in one of the gay-heaven countries  in the west. His fear shared by another fellow activist who also fled the country for fear of persecution and lives like a ghost to the followers of his FaceBook activist group called Zega matters ( Zega is an Amharic term which means citizen and a code word used by Ethiopian LGBT communities to identify themselves).  One of them emailed to Katie how he felt before he left Ethiopia. 
"Ethiopia is supposed to be clean and holy, I felt like such a dirty person for having those feelings."

Rights to Live is neither west nor east; it is UNIVERSAL 

Dagmawi Woubshet, an openly gay Ethiopian English professor at Cornell said the national campaign against sexual minorities has gained "extraordinary momentum" in the past five years.
 "There's complete silence around LGBT experiences because there's no forum for stories about the violence meted out by the state and family members on a day to day basis," he says. "My biggest fear is that these religious organizations are monopolizing the conversation and perpetuating a fear that's becoming impossible to combat."
Seventy-six countries criminalize sexual activity by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, and 38 of them, including Ethiopia, are in Africa. Unlike Mauritania, Sudan, and Northern Nigeria, Ethiopia doesn't mandate the death penalty for same-sex sexual acts, but thanks to draconian laws that forbid activism while allowing Western evangelicals to promote homophobia, Ethiopia is on track to join their ranks.
In many countries, it's getting better for the LGBT community. In Ethiopia, it's getting worse.
Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu, Minister of Health
Prominent international financing organizations like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which has convinced repressive governments to devote funds to educating and treating MSM (men who have sex with men), have had no luck in Ethiopia, which refuses to fund or even permit any MSM-targeted HIV prevention, treatment or care programming. Gays are persecuted in Uganda, but that recently admitted that specialized clinics for LGBT people have helped combat HIV rates; Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu, the Ethiopian Minister of Health, would only tell Newsweek that homosexuality is unlikely to be decriminalized "in the near future," although any person "can access any type of services regardless of their sexual orientation." More than two dozen gay and lesbian Ethiopians interviewed by Newsweek said that's a sick joke; the community is terrified to seek care.

"I Cry Over Them.... "
Katie met also a 24-year-old Ethiopian LGBT activist called Dabir who is more interested in revolution than Project Runway. Dabir, a tireless overachiever who excelled at university and has worked as a teacher and an educational consultant, showed Katie the streets where gay teenagers who are kicked out of their homes searching for rich tourists to sleep with in exchange for cab fare, and the bars where it's too dangerous to pick up guys in the bathroom. He becomes agitated when he talks about the young people who come to him for advice. "I cry over them," he says. "I don't give a f**k about me. I want to help them." That's partially because he used to be one of them, although by choice: when he moved to Addis after college from his hometown a few hundred miles away, he had to "do so much stuff to survive" - stuff he'd rather not talk about on the record. Dabir told his dream of building a shelter for these disadvantaged kids after he took Katie to his house where he lives with his sister and brother who don't seem to "know" about his sexuality. 
Dabir's brother speaks English and has been watching and listening to them for hours, occasionally asking Katie questions about whether homosexuality is genetic or how American's feel about gay marriage. Katie was convinced there's no way he doesn't know Dabir is into guys, but Dabir insists Katie is wrong. "He might suspect, but he won't admit it," he explains later, because the concept is "too disgusting" for him to fathom - and, perhaps, because then he couldn't bring himself to take his brother's money and live in his home. And even though they'd desert him if they knew the truth, Dabir worries about leaving his family: how will they survive without him?
The Facebookers - who Dabir wishes cared less about pop divas and more about future generations of gay Ethiopians - don't think the government will ever let him open his shelter. But Dabir is determined to prove them wrong and gain their support, even though he's already receiving threatening Facebook messages and texts warning him to stop his "illegal actions."
"I'm nervous, but there will be people who will take the next step after I leave," he tells me. "I don't think I can do everything by myself."
"Yes," he reiterates one more time before they leave his room for the night, and he closes his laptop, the photo of his sister that he uses as his screensaver fading to black. "They'll take over when it's impossible for me to function."

Feeling God's Hate

In 2009, clandestine gay get-togethers were so popular in Addis that a Wikileaks cable from the U.S. embassy cited them as evidence of a "thriving" underground LGBT social scene. But no one can recall any taking place after last June, when a documentary called No Silence - About the 666 Satanic Act of Homosexuality in Ethiopia made national headlines. It didn't live up to its lurid title: The most "egregious" moments feature men in women's clothing drinking beer at a secret party. Still, the party-goers who were
outed by the undercover cameramen had to go into hiding, especially after newspaper articles alleged that homosexuality was a contagious disease and the moral equivalent of child rape. A man named Solomon Negussie posted a comment wondering "what I can do as an Engineer to eradicate these people (I mean gays and lesbians) from Ethiopia or generally from the face of earth next to praying to God to give me the wisdom to produce a machine or virus that will kill or make them straight (like normal people!)".
The video was produced by the Gedame Tekle Haymanot Bible Association, based in Washington, D.C.
Ethiopia is a deeply religious country - the majority of its citizens are Orthodox Christian, then Muslim - but many church leaders are increasingly progressive when it comes to social issues like family planning. During a visit to the Holy Trinity Church, tour guide and longtime teacher Getenet Teshome told Katie that the church had relaxed its stance on contraception but that LGBT rights were "unthinkable" - even discussion was "highly condemned," since gay people would "bring doom to the whole earth." He added, with a smile, "I would kill them and expose them to the public, and I'm sure the public will never have mercy upon them."
For the likes of Seyoum Antonius, if you've got balls (if you have any at all), instead of spreading unscientific and unfounded fear against sexual minorities; fight the tyranny which is terrorizing millions of Ethiopians for the last two decades with impunity. Millions all over the world including Ethiopians mourn the death of the iconic anti-aparthaied freedom fighter Nelson Mandela; however what many are missing is that Madiba didn't freed only the black South African majority nor heterosexuals, he rather created a Rainbow nation where the rights of every citizens irrespective of his/her religious/political/ethnic/skin-color/gender and sexual identity or other differences are respected and that's why South Africa has become the only African nation which legalize same sex marriage. A true tribute to Mandela would be to stop hating each other; stop all kinds of discrimination; homophobia; sexism and misogyny so that to create a better world to live. Wishing to kill someone or death just because he/she is different is an abomination to humanity, lest from religious leaders who are supposed to preach love and tolerance.  I will leave you with the following video produced by United For Life to make your own judgment how such defenseless and vulnerable group are being portrayed and degraded through American and UK's taxpayers money.



  1. God is mighty and powerful!!! You just a worm!!! You will never win!!!! Sinful and filty people--I feel sorry for you!!!

  2. "So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." John 8:7

  3. It is a good thing you are using the scripture to show Jesus love for sinners. He enlivened the conscious of the woman's accuser so that they can recognize their hypocrisy in condemning her. And they eventually had to leave one by one. But he was a man with out moral failures and had the authority to condemn her but did not but not with out telling her the truth, that is that she needed to sin no more. So it would be misleading at best to use that to endorse her actions , which in this case was most probably a sexual sin of some sort. That's why Jesus many times says that he came for the sick and lost and rebellious and not for the morally perfect. And he came to call sinners to repentance not to endorse their life choices and the church does the same. She calls sinners to repentance , because evil will estrange people from God but Jesus came to reconcile us to himself despite or particular sin. I my self have struggled with sexual sin ( pornography , masturbation , sex with out marriage ) since childhood and know first had the damage to ones soul these things have. They enslaved me ,until I came to a knowledge of Jesus and what he did for me on the cross. And I believe thats what Jesus call homosexuals to experience to. There is greater joy than sexual joy and that joy is to be found in him who made humans and call them to himself. I know that there are many who have been liberated from the grip of homosexuality and now live a life free from it. If one normalizes sin and tries to pass it as good an worthy to be celebrated and accepted then that is going against the interest of the individual , the society and the family. Much can be said about homosexuality , how it goes against every natural boundary , how it destroys the family , how it perverts self awareness and how it estranges people from God as any other sin. But God unconditional love liberates from its lies and as such if even all try to celebrate it the church will recognize it for what it is and will boldly proclaim the truth will holding open arms to those who want to take refuge from it and come to Jesus Christ.