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A tribute to the bravest

Top Left

Buje (not his real name) is gay.In December 2013 he was taken from his home in Nigeria by a vigilante group who

beathim with electric cables.

“When I was 19 years old my mother caught me having sex with my friend. She called my brothers and sisters. She told them. Since then, I became different in the family. My brothers started showing me hatred and discrimination. After then my family called me to have a meeting about me. When I came and sat at the meeting I feel I should just kill myself. I started regretting and crying. I started pleading and begging them. I felt as if I don’t exist.

After some months after that incident another relevant issue happened again and lead me to the prison. Then I saw the greatest humiliation in my life. I started praying that God should take my life so that I can rest because of the difficulties and maltreatment I faced in the prison from the prison warders. They asked us to carry faeces and wash plates and clothes and showed us hatred. If I pass by the cell they will be saying “this is that Gay person that fucks men.” Everyday I cried.

After I came out of the prison my family rejected me. Then I entered another serious problem. Everyday I prayed that God would take my life so I could rest. It was hard but after some time my family accepted me but still didn’t treat me like a family member. They didn’t give me food. And when I was sick no one cared for me. They were saying to me “God should take your life away so that everyone will have peace because you have caused such shame to our family”.

After I recovered from being sick I came to someone who washes cars behind my street for a job. A week later the people in my area met the person who runs the car wash and asked him to send me away from the place. He didn’t have an option but to send me away. I became nothing, and nobody. No studies, no food.

Any time I remember my family and my mother, the hate they have for me, I will just be crying, I want to die. I came back to Jos after a week to stay with my friend. The family of my friend said I should leave their house. I became homeless, had no family, nothing. It became difficult for me.

There is no end to this suffering, until God wills it. But for now I am thinking even if it is house help I can do for work, so I can just get a place to stay, and something to eat. Just until my parents will understand and accept me like before.”

Top Right

Ruslan Savolaynen, 25, is a survivor of multiple homophobic attacks.The many assaults have resulted in a brain injury, memory loss, retinal detachment, and a broken leg.He now has frequent headaches and nosebleeds, and doctors fear he has had a cerebral hemorrhage. St. Petersburg, Russia. November 2014. 

“While I was in high school my peers never missed a chance to call me a fagot, and make comments which underline, once again my homosexuality and publicly ridicule me. I could never understand why they did it, because I never stated in the school that I was gay.
One day when I was walking with a girlfriend from a neighboring school, those who do not miss a chance to hurt me begin fallowing us. They were laughing and shouting insults. Suddenly, one of them pushed me under the wheels of a passing car, the driver saw me and braked, but the wheels passed over my leg. I didn’t feel the pain so I let the frightened driver go convinced that all is well. Five minutes later, when the shock was gone I felt wild pain, I could not stand on my leg! The doctor said that I had broken a few bones and my massive boots saved my leg from being crushed by the wheel.

I spent a few months at home. There were the courts, which I refused to go to. The excuses of the guys were so ridiculous that it became silly. I felt only resentment and anger, and didn’t understand what right they had to expose my life such danger?!
The second case, when I was attacked, happened when I was first year student of university.
I was walking with my dog in the yard. There was a group of skinheads hanging around. I was a perfect target because I had long hair and dressed brightly. Everything happened very fast. They smashed my head with a baseball bat.
I don’t want to describe what I felt that evening and how much I was scared, because I don’t want to remember these attacks over and over again, it’s very painfully.

Another case was when, after clubbing, a random group who were not very friendly, called me a “fucking fagot”. I replied with some expletives (I could not just keep quiet when somebody insults me). And then I lay unconscious in the flowerbed – they had smashed a bottle over my head and kicked me in the stomach and head. Thank God my friend did not get beaten as much as me.
Any way I didn’t go to the hospital.

As a consequence: another concussion. The consequence of multiple concussions have become frequent fainting, headaches, nose bleeding. One doctor said that he is surprised I had not become an invalid.
The last attack affected not only me but also my friends. Near nightclub XXXX we were attacked by patrons of the club. They were Dagestani. They believed that “fagots shouldn’t dance next to their girlfriends”.
They stomped on our heads until we lost consciousness. I had another concussion, and on of our girlfriends got a splinter of bone in her eye, and had to have surgery.

After beating I lost my memory, for an hour, for a day or two. I lay at home for months under the supervision of doctors, suffering from seizures (blood would gush from my nose, and I would get a headache so bad that I would lose consciousness).
Going to the police is not beneficial. They do nothing.
Now as I am writing this, I’m hold back the tears because of the shame, because it seems like it’s forever, so it will be again and again. And the anger is so much. I’m sick of always being the victim.”

bottom left

Lesbian couple “O,” 27 (right), and “D,” 23 (left). They were attacked on the way home from a concert after kissing at their subway stop. “The real fear I experienced was not for myself, it was for the one I love,” said O. St. Petersburg, Russia. November 2014. 


“October 19th, we were returning in a great mood from a jazz concert. It ended quite late, so we went home on the last subway train. At the station just a few people came out with us. The escalator was empty except two guys, about 25 years old. We are going up with holding hands and in one moment kissed. After that, there flew in a crumpled piece of paper, but we chose not to pay attention to it, thinking it was an accident.

We got out of the subway and went our usual way, holding hands. The street was deserted, but nothing but we go that way every day, so we no reason to be worried.

They attacked us when we were on the way to home…

O: I heard quick footsteps, and immediately felt a strong blow to my head. They attacked us from behind without saying a thing. Everything happened so fast that I did not even have time to understand what was going on. I thought that they wanted to take my bag.

D: I saw in my peripheral vision someone quickly approaching my girlfriend. I wanted to pull her toward me, but it was like lightning, and at this moment he hit her on the head. The impact was strong – she could barely stay on her feet. I was very scared. Turning, I saw that the attacker – one of those young people from the escalator. He shouted, “Oh, you fucking lesbian!”. I tried to push him away, but then he hit me.

O: In fright I screamed: “Are you crazy?! We’re sisters.” At this moment he hit D. in the face, shouted, “Yeah, I saw you! Promoting  LGBT! “. I wanted to stop him, but I couldn’t even reach him. He hit me.

He beat us in turn, shouting: “No LGBT!”. We tried to do something, but to no avail. We felt absolutely helpless. All this time his friend stood by filming what was happening on his phone, probably to show off to his friends. This lasted a few minutes. Finally the assailant shouted that he would kill us if he ever saw us again. Then they were gone.

D: I tried to stop O to see if she was okay. But she pulled me forward and asked to go straight home.

O: I cried and did not understand why this happened to us …

D: I was in pain and went limp. I was very angry at myself for having failed to protect us. At home we felt the full impact of each stroke.

O: I was sick, dizzy and sick. My entire spine and face were in pain. But I knew that we were lucky – in any case, we both alive …

D: My thigh ached – I could not sit, stand, everything hurt. My head ached. But most of all I was worried about O, I thought that she was in more pain than me.

We were in such a state that we could not do anything. The next day, we were afraid to leave the house, and we didn’t call the police because we were expecting a negative attitude from them because of our orientation.

O: Still, a day later we went to the police, the emergency room, and a human rights organization. But the criminal case has not yet been initiated, despite the efforts of our lawyers, and our own efforts. But the police were very quick to provide our story in the media. Many people made negative comments about the articles, because in our country, gay people are not tolerated. All this only aggravated our emotional state.

O: After the incident I felt like someone could just run up and for no apparent reason to attack us. This feeling stays with me even when we are in a crowded place during the day, not to mention late at night … I do not feel as free as before. Now, when we walk hand in hand, I cannot help thinking: “And how will that crowd there respond to us? Will they pounce with cries of “no LGBT!” … I have asked for forgiveness from my girlfriend for being in this situation and not being able to stand up for her. Up until now, the thought of my helplessness haunts me. Before, I did not want to believe that people can be so easily attacked in the street just because they are gay. Now I believe it …

O: After the attack, I felt even more strongly how dear D is to me, and how scary the thought that I could lose her. The worst thing that I felt was an absolute inability to protect the one I loved, or even myself. Yes, now I look back on the street and look at every passing male as a possible source of danger. I realized that there are defective people who can pounce on us just because we are lesbians. But every time, now when I’m in the street, when I take her by the hand, I do it consciously, it is my choice. D. hold my hand, this is my reward for your courage.”

Bottom right

Jessie, 24, is a transgender Palestinian woman born in a refugee camp in Lebanon. She was born male, but knew she was female from a young age. Her uncle repeatedly raped her, and her father and brother have attacked and tried to kill her multiple times. Unable to complete her training as a nurse due to discrimination, she has resorted to doing sex work.


“When I was small my parents saw me playing with a Barbie doll with a girl. They beat me. There are taboos – boys shouldn’t play with girls. My father said I was like a donkey, a dog. ‘You’re a disgrace’ he said…

When I was 6 or 7 years old, when my family was away, I used to sit in front of the mirror and put make up on like my mum. Sometimes my family caught me – they would insult me and beat me.

My uncle raped me when I was 11 and told me not to tell anyone about this. He raped me three times. I felt destroyed. He was stronger and forced me to do this against my will. I got depressed. It lasted for a long time. It was a very horrible period of my life. He used to tell me it was normal and give me money and told me not to tell anyone. I used to scream and tell him to go away. I couldn’t tell anyone about it because no one would believe me because he was this religious person.

My brother has always been ashamed of me. He still is. Many times through my life he beat me and insulted me. Five or six times, with the support of my father, he tried to kill me. My brother tried to stab me but he never was able to. Several times he beat me with a thick piece of wood. Once my father tried to strangle me but I managed to escape and run away… I used to go to school with bruises on my face. Teachers would ask me what had happened. I would cry and not say anything. I was afraid.

I had studied nursing for one year but when we were to start the internship, which we must do to graduate, my instructor told me ‘you should change yourself, and change your look if you want to do the internship’ I said ‘I can’t change myself. My behavior and my look is not related to my knowledge and my education.’ She then called my parents and told them that they need to change me, and that I should go through spiritual therapy and I cannot do the internship because my look and my style would damage the reputation of the university.

I was very down when I realized I would not be able to be a nurse, I got depressed. But then I thought, ‘no, I’m not going to give up, I’m going to show her that I will be successful. I will graduate and find a job to show that there are people who can accept me’ – not like her.

I’ve been looking for a job for five years, but when they see me for the interview, they often cancel it. Once when I went to apply for a job at a hospital, there was a big group of people handing in their CV’s, they took everyone’s, but refused to take mine. At another hospital I went for an interview, they said to me “You’re coming to apply here? We can’t receive people like you here! We don’t even know your gender!” I turned around and left. I felt so humiliated and oppressed.

It was morning, I was still in bed, my father burst into my room, he started shouting at me ‘you have damaged our dignity and our honor!’ as he said these words he raised a broom which he had in his hand and beat me with it. I started screaming and all the neighbors came. He threw down the broom and left my room, but he came back immediately with a knife. The neighbors were shouting ‘kill her and make humanity relieved from her, we don’t need these kinds of people in our neighborhood!’ I tried to escape. I thought that someone would help me but they were all against me. Somehow, I don’t know how, I managed to get my clothes and escape.
This is the tradition. I know he will keep trying and if he doesn’t do it with his own hand one of the family members will. He still sends me threatening messages… I’m waiting for my father to come back after me, but it might not be him, I’m afraid of all the people where I live… but I was born this way and I will die this way!

Dear family: I am a human being and I have the right to live, and to build myself and reach my aims and my sexual identity and continue my studies, and build my future and my real world, which not ruled by bad traditions. You destroyed me, abused me and humiliated me. But despite all of these I am still a human like any other human being which he have his own dreams and hopes to reach. I wish to live in a country where I am treated like a human and which will give me the opportunity to live my life in a normal way, I am in real need for the minimum of my rights as a human being.”