Life story of HAWOD

My name is Hawod and I am from Nairobi, Kenya. I am 31 years old. I had to leave Kenya in February 2016 because my family learnt that I was gay.

Until then I was living a double life, hiding my identity as a gay person as much as possible. In Kenya one can go to jail for 14 years for being gay so even speaking about it was dangerous. Being Muslim made it even harder as my family and the community to which I belonged did not accept homosexuality. Homophobic violence is on the rise in Kenya and I could have been murdered or raped by fundamentalists and/or homophobics for being gay. What could I do when I was surrounded by hostility from the government, religion, culture and family? I love my family very much and I could not see them going through humiliation because of me. So I decided to leave Kenya and move to another country where I did not have to live like a criminal.

I did some research online about where to go and I decided on Barcelona as it was supposed to be very gay friendly. On my way to Spain, I had to stop in Netherlands and here began the worst nightmare of my life. The Marechaussee (one of the armed forces of Netherlands) interrogated me for several hours and took away my passport and visa. They suspected that my documents were fake, perhaps because I have a muslim surname and I was coming from Kenya. I kept telling them I wanted to go to Spain and did not want to be in their country but they never listened. They put me in a detention camp for three months. I had never been in jail before and accepting my situation there was very hard for me. I was depressed, frustrated, confused. I was psychologically traumatized there and I am still undergoing counselling in Barcelona because of it. That system makes you hate the world and change for the worse; it pushes innocent people to become bad people. There were some refugee friendly organizations such as VWN that was helpful but apart from that I held on to certain things such as music and even religion, Islam and especially Christianity, to give me strength. I became more resilient and in years to come I will go back to Netherlands and put up a sign saying “Hey, I am still alive!”

Finally one day, I was told I could go to Spain. When I was escorted by the police out of the airplane in Madrid I thought the nightmare would begin again. I waited for two hours and then I was told “You’re free to go”. I had no idea where to go, I had no money but I just started walking. I was finally free. Spain has been like a paradise for me, especially after my experiences so far. Here people want to know more about you, people are largely aware of various sexualities and being gay is very much accepted. I have been in Barcelona since May and organizations such as CEAR, ACATHI are supporting me to start thinking about a future here. I am currently living in a facility with various other people seeking asylum and most of them had to leave their countries and loved ones to escape violence. Some of them know I am gay but I face no discrimination. Maybe it’s because we all come from pain and hardships that we are empathetic to each other. I sometimes wonder why people are judged by their colour, by appearance. A person is much more than that.

I am really looking forward to living in Spain. I am hard-working and I know I can make a life here. I look forward to studying and getting a diploma in logistics. In the future, I see myself in organizations such as ACATHI, assisting people who are in similar situations like mine. I feel like I’m beginning a new life now – A New Start.