by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — On Tuesday, February 28th, two transgender Pakistanis were killed in Saudi Arabia after allegedly being beaten and tortured by Saudi Arabian police.
The two transgender individuals, Amna and Meeno, were allegedly killed by Saudi Arabian police while in custody following a house raid which took place during “Guru Chela Chalan” festivities. The celebration is one in which the Pakistani transgender community elects a “guru” to lead their group. Amna and Meeno were reportedly arrested for cross-dressing and engaging in same-sex relationships, which are prohibited under Saudi Arabian law. It is claimed that the two were “packed in sacks,” kicked, “thrashed with sticks and tortured to death[.]” The police force spokesperson indicated that the house was under surveillance for possible violations of the country’s clothing ban.
The raid resulted in the arrests of thirty-five transgender people. Eleven of those arrested paid a fine of over $40,000 for their release, whereas twenty-two were still in custody. While sex-change operations are illegal in the country, homosexual activity is punishable by death.
Human rights activists strongly condemned the actions taken by the Saudi police. Qamar Naseem, a transgender rights activist, cried out against the abuses inflicted upon Amna and Meena by stating the inhumane nature of “[t]orturing humans after throwing them into bags and beating them with sticks[.]” He indicated that the twenty-two transgender individuals remained in police custody and that no one would save them because transgender lives are “not of any value to anyone, not even our own government[.]”
Further outcries came in the form of transgender individuals’ inability to practice their religion. Farzana, a transgender woman in Saudi Arabia, indicated that the government prohibited transgender individuals from carrying out their annual pilgrimage to Mecca or their Umrah pilgrimage. She stated that this prohibition is considered “inhumane” due to the religious mandate that all Muslims must complete the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. The Saudi Arabian embassy, however, indicated that the government had not issued a ban prohibiting transgender individuals from traveling to the holy land for pilgrimage.
LGBTQ activists around the world called upon Saudi Arabian authorities to provide answers into the deaths of Amna and Meeno as well as the arrests of the thirty-five transgender individuals. Naseem further urged the government to release information due to the fact that the transgender community is feeling “delicate and scared” as a result of the “very confusing situation[.]”
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