By Saba Rani
PESHAWAR: Two transgender persons, both natives of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), died on Tuesday after being subjected to torture allegedly by Saudi police in Riyadh for dressing up as women in public.
Thirty-five transgender people were arrested by a law enforcement agency for cross-dressing, which is a punishable offence in the kingdom.
A rest house was raided where a ‘Guru Chela Chalan’ gathering, a formal meeting of Khuwaja Sara in which they choose their Guru (leader) and Chelas (Students), was taking place.
Amna, 35, who belonged to the Mingora area of Swat and Meeno, 26, who was from Peshawar died in police custody. The police allegedly packed them in sacks and thrashed them with sticks in prison.
Colonel Fawaz bin Jameel alMaiman, the police’s media spokesperson in Riyadh, told a local news agency that the field-control management had the site under constant surveillance. Women’s clothing and jewellery were also recovered from the rest house.
He added that the 35 people inside had been apprehended.
“Majority of the arrested, belong to K-P and the others from other cities of Pakistan. Torturing humans after throwing them into bags and beating them with sticks is inhumane,” said Qamar Naseem, a transgender rights activist.
While 11 were released later after paying a fine of 150,000 riyals, 22 are still in police custody, Naseem added.
The suffering ended for these two after being physically tortured, however, the rest are still languishing in Saudi jails, he added.
”No one is there to save them as the life of a transgender is not of any value to anyone, not even for our own government,” he lamented.
Naseem said that the National Commission for Human Rights had been contacted and they are awaiting their response.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Farzana, a transgender person, said that if they were involved in any illegal activity the police should take them to court instead of thrashing them like animals.
”Ending someone’s life without a court ruling is in itself illegal,” Farzana said.
She claimed the kingdom would not even allow a transgender person to perform Hajj or Umrah.
The ‘Kabbah’ is not their property — it is god’s property and every Muslim has a right to visit, she added.
In 2016, local media reported that the Saudi consul-general in Islamabad, in a notification issued to the Travel Agents Association of Pakistan (TAAP), warned against granting visas to transgender persons for Umrah pilgrimage.
TAAP has denied receiving instructions from the Saudi government for not issuing visas to transgender persons who wish to visit the holy land.