For Yusuf Abbasi, being deprived of food was not the worst part of being locked up for almost three days. “They wouldn’t allow us to do our five daily prayers; our prayers,” he says incredulously.
The 25-year-old is one of 52 men arrested in July on suspicion of being gay in the northern Nigerian state of Kano.
“It was a birthday party and there were about 100 of us there. They came in and started attacking us, saying we were attending a gay party, but we were trying to tell them that it was just a birthday party,” says Abbasi, who chose not to use his real name.
The men were arrested by the Hisbah Corps, an Islamic security force established by the Kano state government in 2003 to enforce Sharia, Islamic religious law. Speaking to the Mail & Guardian, one of the Corps’ commanders denied having any knowledge of the arrests.
Ali Bangura is a friend of one of the men who were arrested.
“I’m very concerned about him. He is not the same person. Back in his community, he is being treated really badly because of this; because people now believe he is gay.”
Abbasi adds: “When I didn’t come home for those three days, my friends and family knew I was one of those people who had been arrested. I’m facing a lot of stigma now. My parents don’t want to know about this thing. They are saying, ‘you have tarnished our name; our image’.”
Juliet Bar, a Nigerian human rights lawyer, says the security agents are taking advantage of the discriminatory laws and environment and “now use every opportunity they get to arrest people perceived to be LGBTI [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex]”.
“It is a terrible situation. People will continue to get arrested until something is done about the unfriendly legal environment,” says Bar. Read more via Mail & Guardian