Danish NGOs’ fight for lesbian, Angolan poet: “Freedom of speech is about being able to express yourself”

Homosexual poet Adelina Kiame is getting deported by the Danish authorities to a country that just a year ago had a law that made it illegal to be gay. Amnesty International and PEN are now fighting for her right to write about and express her sexuality.

By Amanda Frisk and Katrine Petersen

Hard knocks on the door. People in uniforms. Deportation. These are the things that can become reality for the Angolan poet Adelina Kiame, also known as Aaiún Nin, after her asylum application was rejected in July. Even though the Angolan airspace is closed down due to COVID-19, the Danish authorities still demand that she travels to Angola.

“Adelina is highly affected by the pressure she is under at the moment. Her mental state isn’t good,” says Mille Rode, the general secretary of the Danish part of the writers organization PEN, that fights for freedom of speech for authors, journalists etc.

Mille Rode has been the general secretary at the Danish affiliate of PEN since 1995. Photo: Katrine Petersen

Adelina Kiame is homosexual. Homosexsuality has a complicated history in Angola. In 1986 it was made illegal for people to have sex with people of the same gender. In 2019 the legislation was changed, so homosexusality is no longer a crime, and hate crimes against the LGBTI+ community are illegal, yet same sex marriage is still not accepted.

The new legislation

According to PEN the Danish Refugee Appeals Board has used this new legislation as the foundation for why the poet’s application for asylum was denied. This has been criticized by both PEN and Amnesty International.

On their website Amnesty writes the following about the situation in Angola: “The LGBTI+ community is still exposed to discrimination, intimidation and harrasment from both the state and the public. The authorities do not protect the LGBTI+ community against homophobic violence. Very few LGBTI+ cases go to court and very few lawyers are willing to work on LGBTI+ cases.”

Mille Rode from PEN agrees with this statement and adds that the situation would have been different if the legislation was five years old and reports had been made that could provide evidence for change.

Amnesty International also criticized the Danish Refugee Appeals Board for not taking into account that Adelina Kiame is a well known artist. Her writing is about homosexuality and is critical about the Angloan government. Even though she uses the pen name Aaiún Nin when writing, both her real name and her pseudonym are often published together. Therefore Amnesty has voiced their concern about how easily all the media attention Adelina Kiame has gotten could have reached the Angolan Government.

The minister will not get involved

In a letter to the minister of immigration and integration, Mattias Tesfaye, PEN calls for him to acknowledge the effect of COVID-19 and pause Adelina Kiame’s deportation until it’s possible to find a safe place for her to go.

PEN never received a reply, but in an interview with the danish newspaper Politiken, the minister said that it is important that the results of these applications is determined by the Danish Refugee Appeal Board, because of the fact that it is independent.

Therefore he will not involve himself with individual cases.

Mille Rode understands that it can be a difficult position to be put in:

“But there are multiple reasons why one could hope that he would make an exception. He could delay the deportation process, since due to COVID-19 she is not able to travel to the countries that could keep her safe.”

Educational rape

Adelina Kiame has expressed to PEN that she fears that if she is deported to Angola her family would not accept her, and she is concerned that she won’t be able to find housing or a job. She has also told PEN that she has seen firsthand the consequences of being homosexual, when her family discovered that her cousin was a lesbain.

“The family tried to re-educate her by having the male family members rape her,” says Mille Rode.

The general secretary underlines that what they know for sure is that if Adelina Kiame is send back to Angola, she won’t be able to continue writing:

“Her voice is important for other young people in Angola and other parts of the world who are living with the same challenges as her but don’t have the same talent to express themselves.”

The Danish Refugee Appeals Board was presented with the critique and refused to comment.