A Saudi Arabian police raid on a gathering of 35 trans-gender people in Riyadh left two Pakistani trans-genders dead. Human rights groups claim that police forced the victims into sacks and beat them with sticks. The raid was based on a Saudi law criminalizing cross-dressing
The two transgender people killed were both from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. Amna, 35, hailed from Mingora, while Meeno, 26, was from Peshawar. They were both Khawaja Sara, a third gender in South Asia that is used by transgender persons, cross-dressers, transsexuals, and eunuchs. The gender legally exists in India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
Amna, Meeno, and 33 other Khawaja Sara were meeting in a rest house in Riyadh as part of a formal gathering when Saudi police carried out the raid. Police spokesman Colonel Fawaz bin Jameel Al-Maiman told Saudi outlets that his force had been surveilling the house for possible violations of the Saudi clothing ban.
Of the 33 others arrested, 11 were released after paying a fine of 150,000 riyals ($40,000). The remaining 22 are still in prison.
The actions of the police have been met with strong criticism from transgender rights groups. Pakistani human rights activist Qamar Naseem said that, “Torturing humans after throwing them into bags and beating them with sticks is inhumane. The suffering ended for these two after being physically tortured, however, the rest are still languishing in Saudi jails.”
“No one is there to save them as the life of a transgender person is not of any value to anyone, not even for our own government,” Naseem said, adding that the majority of the 35 were Pakistani nationals. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has been alerted and a response is forthcoming, he said.
Farzana, a Khawaja Sara and head of transgender rights group TransAction, told The Express Tribune that the police’s actions were criminal, as those accused of crimes have a right to be tried in court. “Ending someone’s life without a court ruling is in itself illegal,” she said.
According to Farzana, transgender people in the kingdom are banned from making pilgrimages to Mecca. The Saudi government has no right to do this, Farzana says, as the pilgrimage is a holy right guaranteed to every Muslim.
Under Islamic jurisprudence, cross-dressing, transgenderism and homosexuality are criminal offenses within the kingdom. In 2009, 67 men were arrested in Riyadh for wearing women’s clothing, according to Human Rights Watch. They faced lashes and jail time.
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.
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.