KONFRONTASI-Samuel Isai Mejia's problems began last year with workplace sexual harassment, but things quickly snowballed from there. Facing intimidation from police and military forces as well as gangs, he fled Honduras this year.
Mejia is from a dangerous area of La Lima, a city 16km southwest of San Pedro Sula, in northwestern Honduras. But his neighbours did not know two key things about him that carried heavy risks: where he worked, and his sexual orientation.
"I'm part of the gay community," the 25-year-old told Al Jazeera in Tapachula, in southern Mexico.
Discrimination and harassment aimed at Mejia and his LGBTIQ colleagues at the 911 call and dispatch centre in San Pedro Sula were fairly common but it goes unreported because people fear speaking up about harassment could get them fired or lead to further targeting outside the workplace, he said. More than 250 LGBTIQ Hondurans were killed between 2009 and 2017, according to local rights groups.
Working at the call and dispatch centre can also place workers living in gang-controlled neighbourhoods at risk. Civilian employees taking 911 calls work directly with national police and military police officers, and that can cause gang members to consider them snitches, Mejia said.
Eventually, this happened to Mejia, but his troubles first started when one of the civilian managers began harassing him.
"He was sexually harassing me. One time while out with colleagues, I felt suffocated. He was pressuring me to have sex with him," said Mejia, adding that he clearly told the manager that he was not interested and that he already had a partner.
"That's where it all started, and it got out of control. I then didn't only experience sexual harassment but also labour harassment," he said.
In February, after a year and a half at the call and dispatch centre, Mejia was fired. He initiated legal proceedings against his employer, a Honduran state institution, for termination without cause, but the future of the case is uncertain now that he is out of the country.
In retaliation for his pursuit of legal proceedings, Mejia believes the manager or someone else at his workplace began spreading the word that he worked there and that he is gay. Around that same time, Mejia and some of his relatives began to experience incidents of intimidation from military police and gang members in La Lima and San Pedro Sula.
That's when Mejia decided to leave. He is now in Tapachula with more than 3,000 other Central Americans, mostly from Honduras, fleeing poverty, violence and persecution.