Oliver’s Story: Fleeing Nigeria, Finding Hope
My name is Oliver Anene, and I fled my birth country of Nigeria when I was 26 years old. Growing up and living as a gay man in a country where homophobia runs rampant was, and still is, a terrifying experience. Gay men like me are afraid to reveal their sexual orientation because we become subject to ridicule, threats, intimidation, physical attack, blackmail, arrest, criminalization, and death.
I became a target when I began advocating for the gay community and working to raise awareness about the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases in my home country. As an activist for gay people’s rights in Nigeria, I was openly and highly visible. As a result, my risk of experiencing hostility was greater than other people who have not yet come out.
Since 2007, I lobbied to prevent the passing of Nigeria’s bill criminalizing gays. By 2008, the Nigerian media erroneously reported that the bill had already become law. Consequently, people began to take matters into their own hands by reporting gays, or suspected gays to the police and the violence against my community increased. Throughout the next 5 years, more and more of my friends were fired from their jobs, thrown out of their homes, and attacked for being gay.
I was undeterred and continued my work of educating the community about health issues. I traveled across Africa, Europe and even participated in a conference in the United States. During my travels I never considered asylum because my work in Nigeria was too important. It wasn’t until late 2011 that I felt the need to flee as a result of increased pressure from homophobic neighbors. But the last straw came when my mother found out that I was gay and confronted me about it. She called me crying and began to scream at me. She ended the call by telling me not to return home. When she hung up the phone on me, I was devastated.
In July 2012, I was able to come to the United States, where I found Immigration Equality. It was a challenging time for me, but Immigration Equality made all the difference. I didn't know what to expect the first time I met with one of their staff, but within three months of my first visit to their office, I had won my asylum case and the freedom and protections that come with it.
Now, I am contributing to my adopted country by becoming a social worker, mentoring young people, and being an outspoken advocate for LGBT and HIV rights. I want to say thank you to Immigration Equality for saving my life.
Honor Immigration Equality’s 20 years of service to the LGBT and HIV-positive community by becoming a monthly sustainer today.