BLOCK 13 – A PLACE TO DIE

Written by Teresa Kuhl

Imagine this. You are gay or lesbian or trans; you are someone in the LGBTQ community. You live in Uganda, where it is illegal to be gay. Your own mother has disowned you into a place where you are not safe. So you run to another country for safety.

Only, it’s not safe. At all. The other refugees in this place brutally attack the LGBTQ community. This part of the world crawls with people who actively hate LGBTQ people and see nothing wrong with hurting them.

I’ve seen so my photos of the multitude of bloody injuries after an attack on June 19, 2020. LGBTQ lives in a refugee camp in Kenya, Africa, near Nairobi. The Kakuma Refugee Camp, in Block 13. They are beaten because they exist.

Because they exist.

Kakuma Refugee Camp

The Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya has been home to hundreds of thousands of people. Do you remember the Lost Boys of Sudan? They were the first refugees of this camp in 1992.

Now there are more than 60,000 people here, making it the largest refugee camp globally, according to the UNHCR, the United Nations Agency, which takes care of the refugees there. Except they aren’t doing their job.

This is Jorne, born Ssenyonjo John. (Birth name used with permission) Along with the other LGBTQ refugees I have talked to, Jorne says the UNHCR is not doing their job. They are not keeping people safe.

That doesn’t sound like safety to me. The LGBT community at Kakuma is in grave danger. They are housed together in what is known as Block 13. They face attacks from all around daily because they are not straight. This part of the world has no time for the LGBT community. Here, they are tormented and harmed every single day.

Jorne, above, was also a victim in the June attack and shared this with me.

“On 19th/06/2020, I and my fellow LGBTQ asylum seekers in the camp at block 13, were again attacked. I my self call it a massacre (massacre) because we shredded blood that day. A group of people came in big numbers outnumbering us and engulfed our community. I saw blood filled in people’s faces, clothes, etc and on top of that they stole our belongings.”

And when Jorne and others went to the police and to UNHCR?

“They never gave me any ear. No official was ready to listen to me because they are homophobic. Instead, what they saw right to do was to fire me with tear gas, live bullets, and serious whips that even left scars on my body till now. And after on gunpoint, I was brought back to the camp by the police on UNHCR orders. They arrogantly brought me back to the same place I was complaining of to be unsafe for me. But the situation went more viral and bad that this time around, I was brought back to the camp at block 13 in specific that I and my other fellow LGBTQI of all most 140 reside.”

All of the people living at Kukina and especially those in Block 13, have a single desire. Jorne summed it up beautifully,

“Of all those issues that are keeping on rising in my life, that make me unsafe and insecure in Kenya, am hereby humbly on my knees submitting my request, asking everyone to advocate for us, for our rights, freedom, love, that is shattered. Write to UNHCR in your country, write to Kenya embassies in your country, write to the immigration office in your country informing them of our situation and that we need to evacuate not integrate in this kind of camp, asking you to join us on that big team that you a yet to rescue from the hands of death, from the many persecutions that I am encountering so that I get my smile and freedom back.” 

Please, won’t you help? Let everyone know about what is happening to our brothers and sisters in Kakuma. Let’s work together to FREE BLOCK 13.

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