How Dalal, a Yemeni transgender, tries to survive in a hostile muslim-world

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Dalal is a Yemeni transgender woman. Her childhood was full of oppression and harassment. Her family was suppressing her feminine behavior. Dalal didn’t know why her family oppressed her. She didn’t know that those feelings inside her were her truth. She was harassed during her childhood by her relatives.

“My family did not know that there is a female inside me who wants to be set free. They thought that once they suppressed me, I would stop behaving like a female.”

When Dalal reached the age of 23 she was able to escape from the hell of her family. All she wanted was a better life, a life in which she could live her truth. Dalal arrived in Qatar in search of a job opportunity. She said “I was finishing my work and going back to my room to unleash that woman inside me. I was feeling free.” But unfortunately, Qatar was not safe for her. She faced a lot of harassment and complaints from employees because of her appearance. The company’s management transferred Dalal to Dubai. She said “I was happy when I saw transgender people in Dubai. I felt comfortable.” But in 2005, her manager molested her and she was fired on the pretext that her appearance was not worthy of the company. She was then forcibly deported.

Imprisoned at home in Yemen

Dalal returned to Yemen, but her family beat her and locked her up at the house. Dalal entered a severe depression and tried to commit suicide several times in order to escape from this painful reality.

But in 2014 she managed to escape. She fled to Saudi Arabia and began working for Al-Rajhi Company. But Dalal could not live as a transgender there as Saudi Arabia considers gender transitioning or wearing adventurous clothes illegal and punishable under Islamic law.

Imprisonment and flogged with 80 lashes I Saudi Arabia

Indeed, the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice arrested Dalal in January 2015 for imitating women after her mobile phone was searched and the sheik saw pictures of her wearing a dress. Dalal was sentenced to 10 months in prison and 80 lashes. 

In prison, Dalal suffered from beatings and harassment. Her epilepsy medication was kept from her. And after 5 months in prison, the punishment of flogging her was carried out.

Eighty Lashes were carried out in front of people’s eyes after Friday prayers. Dalal said,

“I was crying. There were more than 200 people spitting on my face and cursing me, it destroyed me psychologically.” 

Imprisoned and tortured in Yemen

She was deported to Yemen in May 2015 after spending half of her prison sentence in Saudi Arabia. Upon her arrival in Yemen, she was locked up in a prison in Ibb Governorate. Dalal lived five dark months in prison. She was beaten and tortured. She could not sleep because of nightmares and pain. Dalal was psychologically destroyed.

When she came out of prison, her family didn’t give her a warm welcome but locked her up in the house again. She said, “they wanted to kill me. They say I brought shame on them.” Dalal tried to escape from her family, but they reported her and she was imprisoned again in 2017. But she did not stay in prison for a long time. She was able to escape with the help of one of her relatives and arrived in Egypt in June 2018.

In Egypt imprisoned for the fourth time

Dalal’s psychological health has worsened since her arrival in Egypt. She was kidnapped, raped and her properties were stolen from her. She informed the police, but no action was taken to help her. Dalal said, “my life is going from one prison to another. I no longer feel at peace. I wish to go out to breathe the air. I want to live in peace. Why do people treat me with contempt?”

One day, while she was on her way home by taxi, the car stopped at a checkpoint in Zamalek, in Egypt. The officer asked Dalal about the shape of her chest. Then asked her to get out of the car and to open her mobile phone. But she refused, so the cop hit her in the face. He kept hitting her until she opened the phone. The officer searched the phone and saw her photos and her Facebook account. He then arrested her.

The Public Ethics Investigations arrested Dalal in May 2019 on charges of debauchery and sentenced her to a year in prison. The sentence was later appealed to 3 months. She said, “I wish I had died before I handed myself over to the prisoners and officers. I was a mouse for them they could torture and beat. They treated me like an animal”

“I tried to go on a hunger strike for two weeks. I wanted to send a message to them that I am human and should be treated as such.”

She tried to file a complaint against a police officer who harassed her, but she was threatened that if she did not stop her hunger strike and drop the report her prison term would be extended to 5 years.

And after spending 3 months in prison, the public prosecution ordered Dalal to forcible deportation. But the UNHCR office was able to overturn the deportation ruling.

But she still has not been released yet. The head of the Investigation Department prevents anyone from seeing her. She said, “he gave the prisoners green light to beat me, and forced me to give them a massage and clean the bathrooms.”

Dalal was illegally imprisoned for another 3 months. She said “I was in the midst of monsters, I was crying and begging them to take me to the bathroom. They weren’t feeding me, I was eating the rest of the officers’ food.” She was released in may 2020.

Now Dalal has nothing. No house, no job, and she also deserves a life in freedom like all of us. While working on a permanent solution for her, where she can get asylum in a country where she can be who she is, we want to form a small support group around her. To make sure she can pay monthly rent and living expenses, help her survive and work towards a brighter future.

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