Story

Jamaica's Soldier Girls

March 27, 2012|

001 Simone and Khayla in Jamaica.jpg

Simone and her daughter Khayla in hiding at a safe house outside of Kingston, Jamaica. Image by Micah Fink. Jamaica, 2009.

002 waiting in line at the US embassy Jamaica.jpg

Simone waiting in line to apply for a tourist visa at the U.S. Embassy in Jamaica. Under U.S. asylum law refugees applying for asylum must physically be in the United States before they can apply for asylum. Image by Micah Fink. Jamaica, 2009.

003 Emancipation Park Statues Jamaica.jpg

Statues of an African man and woman in Emancipation Park, commemorating the end of slavery in Jamaica in 1838. Image by Micah Fink. Jamaica, 2009.

004 karleen at Jflag.jpg

Karleen Williamson, then executive director of J-Flag, the Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays. Because homosexuality is illegal in Jamaica, JFlag operates as an underground group advocating for gay rights and against anti-gay violence. Image by Micah Fink. Jamaica, 2009.

005 Simone in her room at Crailo.jpg

Simone in her dorm room at the Crailo Refugee Camp in Holland. She shares a room with three other refugee women. Image by Micah Fink. Netherlands, 2009.

006 kids at Camp Crailo.jpg

Camp Crailo is home to refugee families from around the world. Image by Micah Fink. Netherlands, 2009.

007 kylah's picture on cell phone.jpg

Simone left her daughter Khayla behind in Jamaica in her bid for asylum. During their separation, Simone keeps a photo of Khayla on her cell phone. Image by Micah Fink. Netherlands, 2009.

008 Bathroom Instructions at Camp Crailo.jpg

Camp Crailo is home to refugees from around the world – some of whom have never used indoor plumbing. These posters graphically represent the right and wrong ways to use the shared dorm facilities. Image by Micah Fink. Netherlands, 2009.

009 learn dutch poster at Camp Crailo.jpg

Asylum seekers in Holland must learn to speak Dutch before they can legally work in the country. The government offers free classes to everyone who wishes to learn. Image by Micah Fink. Netherlands, 2009.

010 Simone and Charleen in Amsterdam.jpg

Homosexuality is legal in Holland and gay marriage is recognized—unlike in Jamaica, where sodomy is still a capital offense punishable by up to ten years imprisonment with hard labor. Image by Micah Fink. Netherlands, 2009.

011 Girlz club in Amsterdam.jpg

Gay bars like this one in Amsterdam’s red light district are popular and busy on a warm Saturday night. Image by Micah Fink. Netherlands, 2009.

While reporting for his project "Glass Closet: Sex, Stigma and HIV/AIDS in Jamaica" in 2009, Pulitzer Center journalist Micah Fink met Simone, an outspoken young lesbian from Jamaica. She had been brutally attacked by a group of anti-gay individuals and was hiding in a safe house with her daughter Khayla, planning to apply for asylum in the U.S. Being known as a homosexual is essentially a death sentence in Jamaica. But unlike many Fink had interviewed, Simone agreed to share her stories on camera—albeit with one condition: The film had to be broadcast after she had escaped from her country. Simone's request for an American visa was later denied, however, and her story was left untold.

Finally, the Netherlands granted Simone asylum, though she needed to leave her daughter behind. Simone now lives half an hour south of Amsterdam at Camp Crailo, a former military base with an approach still lined by high wire fences. Despite a crowded dorm room equipped with only four narrow metal cots, a slender metal locker and a small refrigerator, Simone is glad to have escaped the terror she knew in Jamaica. The camp's buildings are clean and open with little restrictions that would prevent occupants from exploring the country. Several hundred refugees here have come from different parts of the world, exposing Simone to new lifestyles which, for her, have been quite an education.

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