|Stephane Tchakam, Charge de Communication Pan Africa ILGA|
Freedom Sudan is the only LGBTI organisation in Sudan. The organisation was formed in December 2006 and is considered illegal. Homosexual behavior is illegal in Sudan and homosexuals face the death penalty. A member of Freedom Sudan recently posted a video to YouTube encouraging the Sudanese people to start talking openly about homosexuality.
Ali*, the exiled co-founder and president of Freedom Sudan, recently told his story about the daunting challenges faced by the Sudanese LGBTI community. It provides the context for the video conversation below.
In April 2009 in Sudan, 11 friends and I were holding a private house party. Agents from the intelligence agency raided the party and took us away to an unknown location. Everyone was put in solitary confinement in cells.
The cells were very dirty and I was denied water and food for two days. In their interrogation they stripped me naked and began asking me about everything.
They wanted to know whether I am gay, who my friends, my family were and what were my political and LGBT association activities?
Then they started to hit me. One of them put a pistol to my head and said he wished he could kill me right away. They dragged me by the legs and strung me up, and hit me with a metal rod all over my body. They grabbed my privates and hit me there too. They anally raped me with the metal object that they used to beat me, all the time laughing out loud and mocking me asking if I wanted more.
By this time I was screaming from pain and I was bleeding and hurt I couldn’t even control my bladder. They kept at this until I lost consciousness.
I remained locked up for four weeks and spent another three and a half months in prison and while waiting for my trial in which I was expecting to be sentenced to death since I was caught “red handed.”
However some of my family members succeeded in smuggling me out of prison and then I escaped the country using a fake passport. My other friends did not have it easy either. Eight of them were flogged 100 lashes each while the fate of another three, including my boyfriend remains unknown.
Sudanese Gay Voices is Freedom Sudan's video series about LGBTI rights. The second episode is an invitation to the Sudanese people to open the conversation about homosexuality.
Greetings to all Sudanese LGBT folks and everywhere around the world who face oppression.
On my second video I'd like to encourage people in our societies to start talking about homosexuality openly and honestly.
We all know that homosexuality exists in Sudan and everywhere in the world.
Anybody can be queer. Our children, our parents, our brohers, our friends, our aunts, our grandmothers...
Gays exist in all places and at all times do not allow them to express themselves in our culture.
This is why we may deny their existence or think they do not exist in our culture.
Notice that I am not advocating for a particular view for or against homosexuality.
I am generally calling for talking, discussing, and conversing about the subject of homosexuality.
I personally disagree with the general opinion in Sudan that homosexuality is wrong. But I also think that everyone has the right to voice their opinions.
The problem in Sudan is that both gay and straight people are not even allowed to talk about homosexuality. I ask why?
There's a difference between doing, talking, and thinking.
Practicing homosexual sex is against the law in Sudan and its punishment can be execution. But that is a subject on its own.
It's a different subject to talk about a phenomenon that's widely present in society.
I don't think that this is against the law. Even if it is; it shouldn't be.
I wonder why we in Sudan consider even talking about many subjects such as sexuality in general, an homosexuality in particular shameful.
I encourage people in our culture to think about this concept. What should and shouldn't be "shameful"?
There are many LGBT people who feel lonley and suppressed because they can't share their feelings with others.
The issue of homosexuality is very important because it affects us all: our children, our parents, our families, and our societies in general.
This is why we need to learn to listen to each other without judgement.
I ask our society to engage constructive dialogue, democracy, and freedom of thought and expression.
I ask those who are educated, those who have high positions of responsibility, families, and friends to see homosexuality as a social issue that has many facets: scientific, physhological, political...
We tend to consider homosexuality as a moral issue only. We judge it by cultural and religious standards as sinful and shameful.
But we also have to realize that homosexuality exists and affects our society. Suppressing and ignoring this reality will not make it go away.
Rather, this will lead to consequences that are more harmful, like STDs, drugs, and suicide.
There are many people in our society who view homosexuality as a psychological problem or a disease.
I personally don't agree with this belief. But even if we assume that it is true, then those people should at least be compassionate towards a homosexual person like any other "ill" person.
But we know that LGBT people in Sudan get treated with violence, disrespect, and rejection.
When I came out to my family, I am thankful that my mother and some of my siblings still talk to me normally.
But my Dad and my older brother refuse to talk to me.
I think it is sad that a parent won't even talk to his son just because he chooses to live in a certain way.
I wish you all to find people in your lives who are from Sudan and other places who will love, respect, and accept you for who you are.
This is not impossible; believe me. Thank you for listening. See you on a future video. Bye.
Ali* describes the importance of this video to the movement, "Despite all the complications we face, we still managed to put the LGBT problem in Sudan out to the world. With this we give a sense of hope and strength. One of our members had the immense courage to come out to the world and spoke to all the LGBT Sudanese through the net."