Dear Saudi, their only crime was being born transgender, and that’s not a crime at all

Published: March 4, 2017

LGBT member with make up on her face attends on August 21,2016 in Istanbul a demonstration for the murdering of a transgender activist Hande Kader, a 22-year-old transgender who was mutilated, burnt and murdered in Istanbul. PHOTO: AFP

Amna, a 35-year-old from the Mingora part of Swat and 26-year-old Meeno from Peshawar were killed in Saudi Arabia this week in police custody. The death of any prisoner at the hands of law enforcement is already disturbing as it is, but these two were allegedly tortured to death. Alongside 33 others, they were arrested, placed inside sacks, and beaten, and beaten, and then beaten some more until the two succumbed to their injuries. Imagine being helpless, alone, inside a dark claustrophobic sack, and struck on the body and head with canes and kicks until dying painfully.

There is very little that would justify such a gruesome death.

Were they murderous criminals? No.

Were they terrorists who had killed others mercilessly? Wrong again.

Their crime, sadly, was a crime they had been committing since they were born in the eyes of hard-line Islamists; they belonged to the transgender community. They had offended the Wahabi-minded extremists enforcing draconian interpretations of Islam by wearing female clothes, because they gender identified as women.

Imagine being born as a transgender, enduring abuse and sexual harassment all your life, having limited education and job options throughout your life, and dying by torture at the very end of a life cut woefully short.

Transgender rights activist Qamar Naseem has been rightly left disgusted by the murder. He said,

“Torturing humans after throwing them into bags and beating them with sticks is inhumane.”

It’s difficult to believe that we are in the year 2017, and we still violently discriminate against others for their skin colour, sexual orientation, or gender identity. In Saudi Arabia, women are treated like property and retain very few rights, suffering constant human rights violations since the day they are born in the kingdom. Hence, it’s not surprising that according to various sources, transgender people have been banned from entering the country, especially from performing Umrah.

Unfortunately, Pakistan is so deeply in bed with Saudi Arabia doing it favours that it doesn’t have the guts to stand up for its citizens. After all, we have been freely taking Saudi money for generations, and it is well-documented how we’ve allowed Saudis to build madrassas across the country that preach dangerously hateful interpretations of scripture.

Naseem has been pleading with the Pakistani government to do something:

“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.”

Speaking to The Independent, Naseem explains how dire the situation is:

“Gender fluid people are treated badly, sometimes flogged, and if someone is arrested on the same law for a second time they can be executed.”

My question is who died and made Saudi Arabia the gatekeeper of Islam? What right does this backward family business have – one that uses extremism to manipulate its masses to stay in line while it hypocritically takes part in all sorts of debauchery – to ban anyone from entering to perform their religious obligations based simply on their gender identity?

What are transgender individuals supposed to do? If the holy Muslim cities did not exist in Saudi Arabia, no one in their right minds would ever put themselves through the torture of temporarily visiting. Saudi Arabia should realise that it does not own Islam. The crimes against humanity committed by the Saudis keep stacking up, and one day when the day of reckoning comes, the kingdom will only have itself to blame.

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Murad Farooqui

    Dear Nauman. Though my wholehearted sympathies are with the victims in this case, your question as to who made Saudis the gatekeeper of Islam is naïve to say the lease. Who made Pakistan the gate keeper of Islam? Who made any other Islamic country with a number of sharia laws the gate keeper of Islam?
    Once you allow any religion but particularly Deen-e-fitrut, Islam to guide the constitution even in a miniscule manner it will slowly envelope the whole constitution and that is what has happened to Pakistan, Malaysia, Afghanistan and so on. So, unless good people like yourself can multiply and convince muslim majority countries to adopt secular constitutions these atrocities will continue.Recommend

  • 19640909rk .

    TGs from Pakistan should stop visiting Saudi Arabia. Even though they have a very high incidence of homosexuality (probably Arabs are having highest incidence of this phenomenon – due to sex segregation), they act as if it is a crime. Torturing and killing them seems to be one way of atoning to their sins. The rules are meant for others, not for them.Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    Shariah has no chapters on oddity in human anatomy; this is reason enough.

    The rest of the Islamic world – perhaps Iran is as maniacal as our Saudi brethren – is just shy of open-assassinations of the transgendered; however, all other forms of bigotry against them, enjoys, a full freedom.Recommend

  • Parvez

    When our leaders openly admit, rather brag, about receiving millions of dollars as personal gifts from th house of Saud ……. then it’s not difficult to join the dots and understand what they given in return. One only has to look around and see the increasing intolerance and hypocrisy …… what hurts the most is these leaders loudly proclaim “Pakistan comes first ” and our gullible people believe them.Recommend

  • Shaz Kramer

    This is such escape cruelty of Islam in Saudi Arabia localized law, to mistreat individuals, let’s see these hijaabi or dishdassha men or women living in overseas secular nations misbehave with whites and get away with it? They always over react to something absolutely astonishing insignificant.Recommend

  • Baba

    There is no such thing as “gender fluid”. Stop using such western buzz words, which have no recognition in Non-western societies. Saudis have the right to ban people whom most Pakistanis and saudis regard as abnormal. Recommend

  • Polar Girl

    Actually, the Iranian government pays up to 50% of the costs for gender confirmation surgery which is more than the United States Government does.

    That isn’t to say transgender people are tolerated by let alone accepted and assimilated into mainstream Iranian society after surgery but it is vastly better than Saudi Arabia or even Kuwait where a transgender person flying from the UK to Australia and merely just catching a connecting flight in one of those country’s airports will be arrested just for existing like some American YouTube transgender star was.Recommend

  • PatelPara

    “denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex.”

    nobody borns with this. Since when identity crises is a birth issue?Recommend

  • Everlast

    Dear writer while agree with you on most aspect but it would have been much more beneficial if you would have written something on how “we” should treat people who identify themselves as TGs. Here is a good article in this week’s dawn to get you started

  • Pnauman Elvy

    Please don’t say anything blasephamous about Saudi bretheren..Recommend

  • hasanraza

    truth very good blog noman ansari sahibRecommend

  • Gul Ghazi

    You made an absurd statement. You made a false statement when you said “cruelty of Islam in Saudi Arabia”. Islam is not cruel. And Saudi Arabia is not an Islamic country. Its laws are based on the whims of the Saudi monarchy not on Islam. Its laws are not Islamic.Recommend

  • Gul Ghazi

    The punishment of the handicapped and the deformed is in the Bible but not in the Quran.Recommend

  • I am a Khan

    A correction- They were not arrested or killed for being transgender. But were arrested for hosting a ‘Guru Chela’ Party at their home. KSA does not allow any such parties whether they are of a religious or secular nature. Its not right to torture anyone and I am not supporting KSA, but the people living there should abide by the laws of the land.Recommend

  • Afsheen

    The Saudi ruling class dynasty is an evil empire. Their country is backward and sexually perverse as a result of their unnatural segregation that has nothing to do with Islam and everything to do with their barbaric culture. Muslims should boycott Haj and Umra in protest . Allah warns us by the Quran clearly that ‘oppression is worse than slaughter..’Islam does not tolerate torture and injustice it ..Recommend

  • LS

    Wow another holier than thou article chiding other as if they themselves have awesome record of being considerate to transgenders.