Non-binary Saudi influencer denied asylum because UK ‘doesn’t think they are LGBT+’

by destinyketoreviews

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A non-binary social media influencer fleeing persecution in Saudi Arabia has been denied asylum in the UK because officials allegedly don’t believe they are really LGBT+.

Ali Saad Muthyib, a 26-year-old Saudi citizen who uses both feminine and gender neutral pronouns, told The Independent that they were forced to leave the repressive Middle Eastern monarchy in January 2023 after being fired from their job and repeatedly harassed and abused by police officers.

In one incident, Mx Muthyib said that an officer called to their aid after a homophobic assault instead laughed at them and took photos of their bloody face to share on Snapchat, before handcuffing them to their hospital bed with no curtain or partition so other patients could gawk at them.

Ali enjoying London in early 2024 while waiting for their claim to be decided

Ali enjoying London in early 2024 while waiting for their claim to be decided (Ali Saad Muthyib via Instagram)

Despite this, Mx Muthyib found out last month that their asylum claim had been denied by the UK’s Home Office, though they say were not given any reason.

A migrants’ rights charity later told Mx Muthyib that the Home Office had rejected their claim because it does not believe she is really LGBT+.

Mx Muthyib is now appealing that decision, but remains terrified of being forced back to Saudi Arabia and says the situation has left them feeling desperate, depressed, and frequently suicidal.

“I can’t go back to my country,” Mx Muthyib told The Independent. “They will kill me, they will hurt me, they will put me in prison; I will never have work…

“Yesterday I was really saying to myself, ‘I wish I was not part of the LGBT+ community. Why am I queer? Why am I non-binary? Why?’ I don’t want to cry, but I feel like I need to cry.”

Mx Muthyib added that they are still seeking a lawyer to help them navigate the asylum system. They have also set up a GoFundMe page to fund their appeal.

The Home Office declined to comment, saying it does not discuss individual cases.

Mx Muthyib says they feel unsafe expressing their gender identity in their new, mostly-male accommodation facility

Mx Muthyib says they feel unsafe expressing their gender identity in their new, mostly-male accommodation facility (Ali Saad Muthyib via Instagram)

Saudi Arabia has no laws that specifically criminalise being LGBT+, but LGBT+ people are nonetheless routinely fined and imprisoned for offences such as “indecency”, “cybercrime”.

Mx Muthyib says that it is no longer viable for her to live in the closet because her face is often recognised by Arabic speakers who have seen her on Snapchat or TikTok, where her videos regularly get millions of views.

Back in Saudi Arabia, she suffered frequent death threats and physical attacks, at one point being stopped by two police officers who detained her, threatened her, and told her to “dance for us”.

Mx Muthyib eventually escaped to the UK and applied for asylum. But on 16 May, she was told to leave her hotel room in Clapham, London because her “support [was] being terminated”, with no further details.

Though her support was later “reinstated”, on 27 May she was suddenly moved to Lea Halls in Luton, which houses around 450 migrants, in such a rush that many of her belongings were left behind.

The new, mostly male facility has left her in fear of bullying and violence, with some residents already recognising her and calling her homophobic slurs.

“I’m really afraid, because they want me to be a person that I don’t like. They’re pushing me to be a straight person,” Mx Muthyib said, adding that this was exactly why they had left Saudi Arabia.

A doctor’s letter provided by Mx Muthyib says she was admitted to hospital in April 2024 for suicidal ideation, which has “significantly increased” since being denied asylum and moved to the new facility.

Self-harm, suicide attempts, and violence between residents are common within the UK’s asylum system, which keeps many claimants in potentially unlimited detention while their applications are processed.

In February, a European anti-torture committee criticised the “prison-like” character of several detention facilities, as well as “excessive and demeaning” policy of handcuffing some claimants to their beds during visits to outside hospitals.

If you are experiencing feelings of distress, or are struggling to cope, you can speak to the Samaritans, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call or text 988, or visit 988lifeline.org to access online chat from the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. This is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.

This story was updated at 9:43pm UK time on Sunday 9 June 2024 to add details of Muthyib’s GoFundMe.

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