Tag: burned

Victims were flogged and burned

Around 23 LGBT+ people in Uganda were whipped by officials before being chained and walked to the police station, disturbing footage shows. (Screen capture via YouTube)

The Ugandan men were whipped by officials before being chained and walked to the police station, disturbing footage shows. (Screen capture via YouTube)

LGBT+ Ugandans arrested under dubious coronavirus charges have revealed the harrowing levels of abuse they faced while in prison – being beaten with iron rods, burnt with firewood and forced to “confess” their identities.

In interviews with The Guardian newspaper, two of the approximately 20 people arrested earlier this year at an LGBT+ shelter described how seemingly government-sponsored homophobia has been veiled by measures purported to curb the coronavirus.

Indeed in Uganda, the fight for LGBT+ rights means fighting for survival, they said. In March, police pounced on the shelter, where a municipal mayor caned the group before security agents chained and marched them to a police station.

“They tied us like slaves and marched us through a trading centre full of homophobic people,” explained Ronald Sssenyonga, a 21-year-old student.

“Some people slapped us. Others hit us with stones or whatever they could find. They shouted and condemned us.”

Harrowing footage emerged of the raid, which activists said was part of a slew of targeted attacks by law enforcement against the community.

After the sudden police raid, at a shelter run by non-profit Children of the Sun in Kampala, the queer men and trans women spent almost 50 days on remand, without access to legal counsel for the first 42.

Subsequently, a top local human rights organisation launched a lawsuit against Ugandan authorities, claiming the group suffered “cruel and inhuman” torture in prison.

“They thought we were nobody, and we had no one on our side,” Sssenyonga said of his time in jail. “They burned us with firewood and forced us to confess that we are gay.

“They used abnormal size sticks and iron bars [to beat us], and they turned other prisoners against us.”

LGBT+ Ugandans have ‘nowhere to go’ after being arrested and goaded by authorities to come out.  

Prosecutors did not charge the group under the country’s barbed anti-LGBT+ laws. Instead, they were charged with disobeying coronavirus regulations on social distancing – part of a new playbook of autocratic authorities exploiting the pandemic to hastily push authoritarian laws and persecute marginalised and vulnerable groups.

Before the raid threw his life into jeopardy, Ssenyonga was a typical student – worried about his A-level results and excited to start university.

“But after they showed my face in the video, everyone knows I am gay,” he said.

“I am too ashamed to show my face at school. So I do not know what the future holds when I cannot even go out to pick up my results.”

And for his neighbour, Tevin Haris Kifuba, morale is similarly wilting. Working at a small media shop, Kifuba edited videoes before he was arrested during the raid. The viral video ruined any chance of him returning to his job or living with his family.

“I had to accept that I was gay because it is who I am,” he told The Guardian.

“It broke my mother’s heart. The village was spitting fire. Before, I could at least return home.

“But I had to leave the village, and now I have nowhere to go.”

Non-binary teenager burned and abused in Muslim conversion therapy

muslim conversion therapy singapore

The teenager was forced to endure repeated exorcisms by religious leaders. (Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty)

A non-binary, pansexual teenager has described how they were burned, psychologically abused and told being gay was worse that rape during conversion therapy enforced by their Muslim parents.

Iani’s story is one in a series on conversion therapy in Singapore being released by queer brand Heckin’ Unicorn.

While religious conversion therapy is often thought of and reported on as a Christian practice, the Singapore teenager’s experience shines a light on the similar experiences of queer Muslims.

Throughout their childhood Iani had a close relationship with their parents, but that all changed when they were outed as queer.

Iani’s extended family began organising for them to go through conversion therapy, and one day their uncle, an Ustaz [male Islamic religious teacher], came to their house.

Their uncle began calling out and trying to commune with an “evil spirit”, but it soon became clear that the “spirit” he was speaking to was Iani. After asked them a series of questions he declared that they were “possessed”.

The evil spirit, or jinn, needed to be expelled from their body in order for Iani to become “normal”, he said.

While the bizarre session was difficult and upsetting, Iani was not prepared for what would come. Their uncle returned a week later to perform an exorcism, or ruqyah.

He forced Iani to recite verses from the Qur’an, while whipping them with a cane. Their body was draped with a blanket before the whipping, to ensure there would be no visible marks. Then, making Iani get on the ground, the uncle held a lighter under their feet, burning the teenager to “cast the jinn away” while they screamed in pain.

Iani’s parents continued to arrange exorcisms, and their mental health deteriorated. Reaching the point of a breakdown, their parents invited an Ustaz to restrain and “treat” them with another exorcism, instead of seeking professional help.

One day, their father forced them to watch a documentary on the story of Lut, often quoted by Muslims to insist that being LGBT+ is wrong. The teenager, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, told their father that the story also warned against rape.

Their father said: “Rape is everywhere, but being gay isn’t. That’s why being gay will always be the biggest sin.”

Eventually, Iani fell into a mental health crisis and was hospitalised at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) for emergency treatment of a psychotic breakdown.

Now older, Iani is unsurprisingly still non-binary and still pansexual, yet they are forced to live with the mental health repercussions of the abuse they suffered every day.

While conversion therapy in Islam is not so well-known, its core ideas are almost identical to Christian conversion therapy; that being LGBT+ is unnatural and wrong, and that sexual orientation and gender identity can be changed through religious practices.

Heckin’ Unicorn is sharing stories of conversion therapy in Singapore because there, like in the UK, the horrific practice is still perfectly legal.

The company is calling for a full ban on the practice and advertising of conversion therapy in Singapore.