NEW YORK (IDN | GIN) – The nephew of Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, threatened with the loss of his government scholarship over a pro-LGBT Facebook post, has been granted asylum in the U.S., local media reports.
Alagie Jammeh confirmed the story to the Washington Blade, an LGBT news source, in a telephone interview. Jammeh, who is due to graduate next week from the University of California, Santa Barbara, told the Blade that he wrote the post after he became friends with a gay man.
Alagie Jammeh had learned on May 17 – the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia – that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had recommended him for approval. He told the Blade that his lawyer called him two days later and said his asylum request had been granted after passing a background check.
The post that jeopardized his graduation appeared September 2014. It said, “no one should be denied of their fundamental basic human rights because of their sexuality.”
“I did this because it was the right thing to do. And I didn’t even really think about it, I just did it as normal,” Jammeh said. “So for someone to take this whole story and think, ‘Alagie challenged the government,’ or something like that and make me a wanted person in the Gambia, it’s rather unfortunate.”
“One of the reasons I came to school here is to see things from a different angle,” Alagie Jammeh said. “I’m not going to apologize for that.”
In 2014, President Yahya Jammeh signed a law under which those who are convicted of “aggravated homosexuality” face life in prison. Activists and U.S. officials have sharply criticized the Gambian president over his anti-LGBT rhetoric, which includes threatening to slit the throats of gay men who live in the country.
Alagie Jammeh told the Blade last year that the Gambian government asked him to return to his homeland and publicly apologize for his Facebook post. He refused, saying that Gambian authorities would have likely arrested him once he arrived in the country.
“I can’t go to the Gambia,” said Alagie Jammeh. “I will be arrested – not only arrested, but killed.” A Gambian government spokesperson accused Alagie of lying.
Alagie Jammeh told the Blade on June 6 that he will continue to publicly support LGBT-specific issues once he graduates from UC Santa Barbara with his degree in global studies and international relations.
“I’m never going to apologize for supporting gay people,” he said. [IDN | INPS – 14 June 2016]
Photo: Alagie Jammeh, nephew of Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, speaks at the Newseum in D.C. on December 8, 2015. Credit: of Phil Humnicky/Human Rights First
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