Omar, 29 years old

Omar at Martyrs’ Square, Algiers, in an evening of Ramadan.
Omar at Martyrs’ Square, Algiers, in an evening of Ramadan. | ©Goethe-Institut/Leïla Saadna

I’ve been in Algeria for 5 months. I came to file a request for asylum because in my country, Guinea Conakry, homosexuality is not accepted. There I was a charity worker in an NGO which battled AIDS, thus indirectly helping gay people. One day, a woman from my district saw me entering the building of this NGO and went to see my elder brother. That’s how they found out that I was gay.  They started investigating me, they followed me every day and they ended up entering the premises of the NGO, where I was giving a talk on the prevention and detection of AIDS. That evening, he told me to leave the house. He threatened me with a knife, he threw my things into the street, and the locals wanted to burn me alive. That’s why I left. I succeeded in getting my passport with my small savings. But I had to work for 6 months to get the money for the plane ticket. I had to do this in hiding, because they were looking for me and wanted to kill me. I would have liked to leave immediately, but I was too afraid to do it via the Sahara, because that they were attacking and killing people.
 
When I arrived, I had 45 euros in my pocket, the equivalent of 30 000 CFA francs. Friends had lent me money and I was able to pay for a bed in a dormitory, where I still live. I filled out the necessary papers with the HCR. That took two months. The wait was very hard, I was too stressed and depressed. I prayed every night. Then they accepted my application for asylum and gave me the card. But I’m still waiting to sign for a move to another country, which will take responsibility for me.
 
To survive, I sometimes do housework for very rich people. I didn’t expect them to be racist, but they exploit you and use you a lot for very little money. I have to content myself with that while I’m waiting.
 
In Algeria, I don’t have a life, because life starts with liberty of expression and the right to go wherever you want. Black people don’t have such liberty here. You can’t walk about or say what you want. You have to put up with all that. I live hidden, I’m terrified that they’ll grab me and force me to go home. I’d be killed immediately if I went back there. I only leave my dormitory to but food. I spend all my time on the social networks, because I feel very lonely.
 
There’s a lot of racism in Algeria. Most Algerians don’t respect black people. They think they’re better than us. When you get on the bus, the people don’t move, they seat themselves however they want. They openly show you that you’ve got no rights, that this is their country. Even if I get up to offer my seat to an Algerian mother who could be my grandmother, my mother, my older sister, she doesn’t want to sit in my seat because I’m black. They disrespect us in every way. They say that we’ve got nothing to eat in our country, they ask how we sleep, whether we sleep on trees.
 
Sometimes, kids on the street insult you in Arabic or hit you, but you can’t punish them or else people will come to give you a hiding. Once I was walking in Martyrs’ Square, in the time before the repatriations. Two young boys came to me and said: “Good evening comrade”. Since they were kids, I was friendly with them. The first touched my skin to see whether it would stick to his hand, since I am black.  The other insulted me in Arabic. I was angry but I knew I was powerless. An old fellow saw it all, he came to see me to tell me not to pay any attention to kids, that they are educated to hate black people.
 
All this racism hurts such a lot! These people who think that they’re better than black people! Skin colour isn’t important, it’s what’s in your head and heart. And all the more so in that they claim to be Muslims. A real Muslim should not be racist, he should love his neighbour and not feel superior to others. These mentalities must change! But the way Algeria is going, I don’t know if things will change.
 
When I first came, it was the first time that I had left my country and been in a country which didn’t like black people, so I was very afraid of becoming homeless, of being refused asylum or of falling seriously ill. But thank God my application was successful. I met very nice people who helped me to pay for my dormitory and gave me food, and even though my spirits are low, these people are there for me. It also moves me a lot that these friends are not only black, there are also some Algerians.