Alagie Jammeh left his native Gambia for California, where he lived with a gay roommate. The experience made him realize that his cultural opposition to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons was wrong and that they deserve equal protection under the law.
Jammeh, a student at University of California, Santa Barbara, posted on Facebook last September, “No one should be denied their fundamental basic human rights because of their sexuality.”
The expression of support for LGBT rights was met with vilification by his own uncle, President Yahya Jammeh.
Last May, President Jammeh made one of the most violent statements against LGBT persons by an African head of state. He advocated slitting the throats of gay men in his nation.
The president criminalized homosexuality and sex between men—punishable with life imprisonment.
Western nations have withheld foreign aid due to its oppressive laws against LGBT persons.
Having learned of his kinsman’s acceptance of LGBT rights, President Jammeh instructed the government to rescind his nephew’s scholarship. He was also told that he would face life in prison or the death penalty if he ever returned to his homeland.
To make matters worse, the younger Jammeh’s mother was forced to flee Gambia—as she faced hostility from a largely devout Christian and Muslim population that vehemently opposes LGBT persons.
“I have been alienated by my home government, family, and friends, and have suffered financial burdens,” the younger Jammeh explained.
UC Santa Barbara has offered limited support so that Jammeh can continue his studies. But it still leaves him with tuition debt. He has begun a crowdfunding campaign to help offset costs. He hopes to raise $42,000.
Jammeh has also reached out to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, asking for political asylum.
“Living in the United States, I am not scared to do what I know is right. But what awaits me in my home country is shame and persecution,” he explains. “Even though I have been suffering, I still have my freedom. I want to express myself without fear of losing my life.”
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