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Nigerian activist stands up for asylum seekers and LGBTQs worldwide

In more than 80 countries, laws still exist that persecute people who identify as a member of the LGBTQ community. This is contributing to the global crisis of migration that has left an estimate of 65 million people displaced from their homes; we as good citizens cannot fold hands and allow this persecution to continue.

Edafe Okporo, an activist from Nigeria, is a board and trustee member of First Friends of New Jersey and New York, a non profit organization upholding the dignity of detained immigrants. First Friends was joined by Rise And Resist, a non-violent action group in New York City on Sept. 10, two days before the U.N. General Assembly to denounce the global persecution of LGBTQ+ people globally.

The protesters were invited to ask questions at the assembly as to why they have not yet upheld its Human Rights Declaration.

Credit: Pixabay

Edafe has suffered much persecution and mob violence as a result of his voice of activism in Nigeria; when he arrived at the U.S border seeking asylum he was detained and this led him to become a voice for minorities and question the norm. Full of rage due to the trauma he had suffered, Edafe wants to hold the government of Nigeria accountable and inform people of the dangers using detention brings. As many as 170 deaths have been recorded in detention centers due to poor medical conditions, people have lost their sanity due to isolation and many families are separated.

In his speech, he demanded the government of Nigeria denounce the same sex marriage prohibition act (SSMPA), that has given rise to mass persecution of LGBTQs by non-state actors tagged Jungle Justice. He is calling on the good global citizens to stand up for what is right and resist; he has also shared his experiences as an asylum seeker detained by ICE.

Edafe refused to accept the norms of using detention as a means of keeping undocumented immigrants because it is a violation of human rights for people to be stripped of their freedom. First Friends of New Jersey and New York support people in detention when they are isolated, having no friends and family, writing letters, visiting and providing post-release services, one of its recent actions has been an advocacy effort to counteract hate through defunding.

First Friends of New York operates on a key philosophy: “We call ourselves a country of freedom, we are not free until people who deserve freedom are given freedom”. The way newcomers are welcomed to the United States dishonors the founding values of this country. We should show more love and not hate.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Universal Declaration) is an international document that states basic rights and fundamental freedoms to which all human beings are entitled. The United Nations General Assembly will begin on September 12th and Edafe is calling on the member states to take action and uphold this declaration to protect citizens of their country. In Nigeria, LGBTQ citizens are subjected to 14 years in prison by federal law; there is no freedom of speech, no freedom of association.

Edafe said that many years ago some of his ancestors came to the United States as slaves, now they are slaves in their own country; that to be gay is as it was for you to be a black man in the United States in 1920. The reality is when people are deprived of freedom, this is the worst human rights violation of the 21st century.

We are citizens of a democratic government and the voice of the masses is greater than the government; we demand the government protect its citizens and denounce the current laws targeting asylum seekers. Since the law was passed, non-state actors have taken the law into their own hands by kidnapping, extorting and battering fellow citizens due to the attitude presented to them. In their statements they say they are helping the government sanitize the community of gays, that it is against their culture and tradition. Notable incidents can be dated to February 2014, a month after the law was passed, community members raided the Gwagwalada community in the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja; they broke into people's apartments, dragged them out, stripped them naked and chased them from the community never to be seen again. Recently in August 2017, some men were having a party in Lagos Nigeria and police arrested 72 men accusing them to be gay.

Edafe also made mention of the recent United States government failing to unite its citizens and growing the voice of white supremacism to discriminate and push back the legacy of President Obama.

This mob violence and Jungle Justice must stop, people should be allowed to live their lives the way they choose to without being discriminated and stigmatized. We must act now; tomorrow they might come for us and no one will be there to speak on our behalf.

In front of the Nigerian embassy in New York, demanding the government to listen to the crises of the masses pleading for the end of jungle justice.
Credit: Edafe Okporo

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Cover cartoon credit: Sergio Algeri/GYV