Thousands of LGBTQ Gambians have experienced the violent homophobia of President
Yahya Jammeh. Now, he’s found another target for his vitriol –– his own nephew.
Alagie Jammeh is a third-year global studies major at the University of California – Santa
Barbara who’s currently facing life in prison or worse. A distant nephew of President Yahya
Jammeh, Alagie came to California in 2011 on a presidential scholarship. After sharing his
pro-LGBTQ views on Facebook last fall, he lost several friends, most of his family, and all the
financial support that he needed to continue his education. To make matters worse, he now
stands to lose his life.
Growing up in The Gambia, Alagie Jammeh was taught that LGBTQ were perverse and
violent. Though he had never (knowingly) met any queer people, he held all the intensely
homophobic views that his politically active family had socialized him into. “They keep teaching
people that homosexuality is evil and bad. They have this big law that homosexuality is the
worst crime you could do as a human being,” Jammeh said. “When I got here [California], I see
a different story.”
Jammeh’s anti-LGBTQ views began to change when he realized his close friend and
roommate at UCSB identified as a gay man. In the ensuing months, Jammeh grew to support
LGBTQ rights and oppose punishing queer people for living openly. Last September, he posted
the following message to his Facebook page: “No one should be denied their fundamental basic
human rights because of their sexuality.”
Within hours of his posting those 14 words, a relative from The Gambia called Jammeh and
said plainly, “If the government sees this thing, you are dead.” Two months later, that danger
became a reality.
Because Jammeh’s statement directly opposes the beliefs of his uncle and the Gambian
government, Jammeh was stripped of his scholarship and President Jammeh has threatened
him with either life in prison or execution should he return to his homeland.
“Earlier this year, I showed open support on Facebook for LGBTQ people, who I have come
to love and respect dearly,’ explained Jammeh. “Since then, my mother has had to leave the
country, I have been alienated by my home government, family and friends, and have suffered
financial burdens- leaving me in debt to my University, unstable food sources and housing, and
daily stress, anxiety and depression from losing everything I hold dear.”
While UCSB has given Jammeh some financial support, it’s insufficient to cover his food,
housing, and tuition. Jammeh is committed to both staying in the United States and finishing his
degree. Because of the fate he faces in if he returns to The Gambia, he’s applied for asylum
status in the US. In the meantime, Jammeh has set up a GoFundMe to cover his tuition and expenses.