WATCH: I Never Thought It Will Happen to Me

By Max J. Rosenthal

When Baraka* was just 16 years old, he fell in love with a man. It was a dangerous secret in Rwanda, where LGBTQ people sometimes face persecution and abuse. But he didn’t know another secret: his lover was married.

The man’s wife eventually found out about the affair. Enraged, she told her entire neighborhood Baraka was gay. “When I realized that the wife had told everyone about it, then I knew that was the end of me,” he said. Even his former lover turned on him. When Baraka went to him for help, he replied: “If I even see you again, I [will] kill you myself.”

“I decided just to run,” Baraka said.

He fled his home in Rwanda and wound up in Kenya, where many LGBTQ people from East Africa have gone to escape persecution. HIAS Kenya works with many such refugees, providing shelter, mental-health counseling, and other services that often save lives.

“To help them start afresh, rebuild, and embrace the future with all that it holds, that is all that matters,” said Evalyne Adhiambo Onyango, a HIAS Kenya social worker who handles Baraka’s case.

In this Pride Month video, watch Baraka tell his story and learn about HIAS’ dedication to LGBTQ refugees like him.

*Pseudonym used for client’s protection

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