Monique Coverson and her partner Larissa (Photo credit: change.org/ Free Monique and Larissa Campaign)

Monique Coverson and her partner, Larissa (Photo credit: change.org/ Free Monique and Larissa campaign)

Monique Coverson served in the U.S. Army for seven years, as did her partner, Larissa, as openly lesbian women. After their military service was complete the couple were able to get jobs as military contractors and returned to the Middle East to work in Kuwait. Life seemed to be going well for the pair until Kuwaiti police kicked in their door in May 2015 and found an ounce of a suspicious substance. The women were arrested on drug possession charges and were initially incarcerated for eight months in a Kuwaiti jail while the substance was tested and they awaited trial. It turned out the two women were using  K2, a synthetic form of marijuana — and according to their lawyer, they would be fine.

However, when trial time arrived the 1 ounce of K2 was deemed to be 1 pound of hashish by the government. On Jan. 16, 2016, both women were sentenced to 25 years in jail for illegal drug possession. Monique Coverson’s family believes the real reason they were sentenced to jail was because they are lesbians. Kuwait is a strict Islamic country and homosexuality is punished under a “debauchery law.” Men caught having sex with men can be sentenced to as much as six years in prison and hefty fines. There are no protections for the civil rights of the Kuwaiti LGBT community.  Monique’s mother, Jasmine Coverson, has started a change.org petition to bring attention to her daughter’s plight and to ask the Obama administration to intercede.

“My daughter Monique earned a stellar record for her seven years as a soldier in the United States Army, stationed in Kuwait. Now, she and her partner wallow in a Kuwaiti prison, facing 25 years on baseless charges. After active duty, Monique and her partner, Larissa, later returned to Kuwait to work as military contractors. On the morning of May 8, 2015, their house was raided and police confiscated one ounce of a “tobacco-like” substance. It was sent to a lab in Germany for analysis, and it was determined to be a substance that is completely legal in Kuwait. Yet, Kuwaiti officials held them in prison anyway. After 8 months of uncharged incarceration, the one ounce of legal substance magically turned into one pound of marijuana, and on January 12, 2016, Monique and Larissa were sentenced to 20-25 years  in prison. I am begging the US Government to do what it can to get my daughter and her partner out of jail and back to the States. They have clearly been targeted by the Kuwaiti government for their lifestyle, and could spend half their lives in prison for it. This whole ordeal is a nightmare. One minute, I was expecting her for Mother’s Day, and the next, I was told she was in prison. Everything I have learned has been through her friends and her lawyer, who has only called to demand more money — money for services he hasn’t rendered. Right now, I would do anything just to hear her voice. To this day, I cannot understand how the US government has allowed them to remain in prison. They were not in possession of an illegal substance, yet their freedom and belongings have been taken away from them. They are being held captive in a foreign land for a crime they did not commit, with no help in sight. I need all of you who read this to help me send a message to the US Government, and ask them to do what is right and get Monique and Larissa out of jail and bring them home. This injustice cannot stand. Please sign my petition.”

The petition is addressed to President Obama, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait Douglas A. Silliman. So far the petition has 87,500 supporters.

Mo Barnes

"Mo Betta" Maurice "Mo" Barnes is a graduate of Morehouse College and Political Scientist based in Atlanta. Mo is also a Blues musician.