In the Ugandan capital of Kampala, three policemen, one armed with an AK-47, burst into a theater hosting the nation's only LGBT film festival on Saturday, reports Reuters. Homosexuality is illegal in the country, where violence against LGBT people is frequent.
“In Uganda, there’s this narrative that there are no gay people, that it’s a Western import. This is why we need this kind of festival,” Kamago Hassan, the director of the Queer Kampala International Film Festival told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Festival-goers fled the scene after receiving a tip from Nicholas Opiyo, head of the independent human rights group Chapter Four Uganda, warning them that police were heading towards the event. As volunteers and attendees rushed out of the venue, they found a police officer waiting outside, taking photos of people entering and exiting the event on his cellphone.
“For the past two years, it has been impossible to organize any major LGBT event (in Uganda),” Opiyo said.
This raid is part of a pattern of Ugandan police storming into events and arresting people for "promoting a gay lifestyle." In 2016, officials forcibly entered a nightclub hosting a gay pride event and arrested between 16 and 25 people.
“No gay gathering and promotion can be allowed in Uganda. We can’t tolerate it at all.” the nation's Minister of Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo told The Guardian after canceling a Pride event this past August.
According to a 2017 Human Rights Warch report, the Ugandan government has also used force anal examinations to determine whether or not suspected citizens were gay, which HRW describes as “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment that may amount to torture.”
Despite the threat of arrest and assault, Hassan is determined to bring back the festival later again this month. “Because if we don’t do it, it means the homophobic people are actually winning,” he said. “We are not bowing down because we are not breaking any laws and we are on the right side of history.”