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Ethiopia: Online death threats against LGBT people

LGBT flag map of Ethiopia
LGBT flag map of Ethiopia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An article in the online news site Bikyanews.com sounded optimistic: Under the headline “A better Ethiopia for gay people,” it told of a young gay accountant in Ethiopia whose success at work created an impression that Ethiopians were becoming more accepting of the gay community.

But his life outside the office was so difficult that it was clear that that headline about “a better Ethiopia” was overly optimistic. The article soon attracted  online commenters whose violent remarks dissolved any remaining optimism.

In response, Biyanews.com reported, “A number of comments and angry emails have been flowing in that call for the death of Ethiopia’s small lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.” For example:

  • “kill them all these rubbish people. the country never allowed this kind of community.”
  • “Our community dont tolerate such disgusting practice, if you want to be a gay then please leave our country.”

“Sometimes you just can get around those types of people,”  said the accountant, David Emete.  “If they don’t understand or meet gay people, they won’t know better.”

In the original article, Emete admitted that his life was far from easy:

“Just walking down the street, many people know that I am gay and they say the worst things to me,” he told Bikyanews.com one recent evening at a local café. For him, the rise in homophobia has been “shocking” as he believes Ethiopia is still a tolerant society in comparison to neighboring East African countries where being gay is punishable by death. …

The worst was three weeks ago when a local youth gang attacked him, beating him in an alley after he told them to be quiet. … [When] he went to report the attack, which saw him break two ribs, the police laughed at him. …

He said that an anti-gay article published June 18 in the Yenga daily triggered a rise in antagonism against LGBT people.  The article described gay men as “sex-craved addicts,” said that “gayness” was growing dramatically in Ethiopia, to the point where the “infestation of those carriers” totaled at least 16,000 people.

The article alleged that gay men average 75 sex partners per year — a practice  “imported” to Ethiopia by students study in the United States and Europe on scholarships.

Emete said, “I will have to buy a car and drive to work if this keeps up because I fear that I could be killed if nothing changes.”

Read the full articles here: “Ethiopia online users call for death to gay people” and here: “A better Ethiopia for gay people.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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