A gay student who was forced to flee Kenya after his family tried to send him to a gay conversion camp has been awarded the Colin Higgins Foundation’s annual Youth Courage Award.
Mahad Olad’s terrifying ordeal in the summer of 2017 left him with no contact with his family, who brought him to Kenya under the pretence that it was a “vacation.”
Receiving the Youth Courage Award also means that he will receive a $10,000 grant. The award is given to an inspiring person within the LGBT+ community who has overcome adversity brought on by their identity.
Olad, who lives and studies in New York, opened up about his ordeal of almost being sent to a gay conversion camp in his student newspaper, The Ithacan.
He went on a holiday in the summer of 2017 to Kenya with his mother, who Olad says comes from an “extremely conservative Muslim background.”
However, upon arriving in Kenya, his mother told him that it was not a vacation, as he had been told, and that she had brought him there to send him to a gay conversion camp.
He was horrified to discover that his family had discovered the truth about his sexuality, which he had chosen to keep from them.
His mother asked him to withdraw from college in New York so he could be placed under the control of a group of sheiks who would reform his religious beliefs and “reorient” his sexuality.
“A few sheiks were at our hotel that night,” Olad wrote in his student newspaper earlier this year. “They briefly spoke to me about how being gay and atheist is unequivocally against my Islamic upbringing and African heritage.
“I knew that when they came back to get me the following morning, I would be forced to go with them.”
Olad said that the camps that operate in Kenya and Somalia are terrifying places where captives are subject to “severe beatings, shackling, food deprivation and other cruel practices.”
“Those who fail to cooperate, make adequate progress or try to escape could possibly be killed.”
Olad told his mother he was going for a walk that night and immediately called a group called the Ex-Muslims of North America, who helped him get out of Kenya and back to the United States. He is no longer in touch with his family.
Stonewall say that LGBT+ people continue to be exposed to harmful conversion therapy. A 2009 survey of over 1,300 accredited mental health professionals found that more than 200 had offered some form of conversion therapy.