Category Archives: Passenger Campaigns

Campaigns for individual passengers

Layla, From My Perspective

Jenny List

Our passengers usually travel alone, faceless beings in the global air transit system. That anonymity is their shield, because they warrant only brief inspection among the crowds hurrying for their flights. As a blind passenger Layla wasn’t so lucky, as at each step her accessibility needs had to be met. Her itinerary touched the UK, and so I met her at Stansted, tired but happy to be safe. We had a few days with a volunteer, so we took a trip to London walking round some of the sights.

She would leave from Gatwick, but here fate intervened. Sometimes the system favours us, but this time the airline didn’t like her visa and wouldn’t let her fly. That’s the reality of traveling on non-Western passports, something EU, UK, or US passport holders never see.

We were stranded in the early hours of the morning with an urgent need to think on our feet, reschedule flights, and find somewhere affordable and safe for a fortnight’s unscheduled stopover. We found a holiday cottage in a remote part of Great Britain’s west coast, extremely cheap at the start of November. The weather was wild but the cottage was comfortable, and it was nice to get to know her. She has a natural talent for languages that leaves my slow learning in the dust.

Her final flight left Manchester, again in the dark. Another motel at a motorway services gave us a few hours sleep, then she breezed through check-in with no worries at the colour of her passport. I was soon wishing her a safe journey before driving home into the night. Over my coffee at a stop in the Midlands the message came, that she was safe. She’s going to live a successful life as a confident young woman in a supportive environment.

Blind Trans Woman Escapes Saudi Arabia

Today a young Saudi trans woman is safe in the asylum system of a European country.  Layla Al Darwish was born with the misfortune not only of being trans in the most repressive country on Earth, but with retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that has made her functionally blind.

After her parents discovered she’d contacted us, her father threatened to kill her. In Saudi, this is not an idle threat. The Saudi state will do nothing against a parent who harms their child. So we had to arrange her escape quickly.

This has been a very dangerous extraction, the most difficult and complex operation we’ve completed to date, spanning from June to December 2022. A half dozen very brave people helped Layla on her way. One of them nearly had loved ones killed doing so, and Layla was pursued by family members while on the road.

Her travels took her through the Republic of Georgia. We are deeply grateful for the assistance of Equality Georgia, who partnered with us in this operation.

Women Attacked in Bundibugyo, Uganda

Bundibugyo, Uganda

In the early morning hours of Wednesday, Dec 14, 2022, the house where five trans women lived together in Bundibugyo Uganda was raided by police. Three of the women managed to flee, but two others were beaten by police and local people, screaming “Are you men or women?”

The two women were arrested and taken to the local police station where they were sexually assaulted and further beaten.

We are assisting a local organization help all five escape to the local organization’s trans shelter in a safer place.

The local organization has arranged to free the two jailed women and provided medical care. We are extracting all five to a safer place.

Work like this requires funds. If you can, please give a small gift to help this keep happening.

When Trans People Are Registered.

One of our passengers has had experience with registries of trans people. In light of the recent decision in Florida registering trans minors, she thought it was important people know her story in her own words:

I’m over 30 in Hungary. Before they banned transition, I had my psychological evaluation in the way, and visited psychologists over my issues. After the ban in 2020, the psychologists told me they can not help me any more, and after a few months, some ministry’s office started to harass me on the phone, pretty much threatening me that if I attempt to transition, they will send me to jail or worse.

I reported such to the police and blocked the number.

Nearing 2021, police officers shown up at my workplace and asked me to come around to the nearby police office. The officers were apologetic and embarrassed, but “we just do what we are told to do”. In the office, some woman from a ministry (not from the police) started shouting at me about how being trans is an evil fad and corrupts children, and I should write an official paper that I am normal, not trans, never will be trans and fill in some data on it. I refused because it seemed like getting data and “I am cisgender, leave me alone”.

Then she shown the papers from my doctor, which they pretty much confiscated from the hospital. “Yes, I had a time when I was unsure, but I am sure now. Leave me alone.”

So as I left, a police officer called me aside and apologized in the name of the Hungarian police force, stating that this is from the ministry and they have to do this, smaller office, so they are doing what they are told to do. I left anyways.

The phone harassment did not stopped and near the end of 2021, officers came around again, but they just shrugged when I told them they got the wrong guy.

Early 2022, Trans Rescue helped me out of Hungary to a safe zone in the EU. They gave me a temporary house until I got on my feet and legally could stay in a country.

The harassing calls did not stopped, the Hungarian officials still tried to threaten me that if I ever return to Hungary with a changed gender, they will hit me “with all the power of the law”.

She, and we, thought it was important to get this out, but for obvious reasons she was reluctant to release it on her own.

Trans Woman Assaulted in Kenya

May 25, Mombasa

Rita, a trans woman in coastal Kenya, was assaulted on May 15 at her restaurant chef job, after the restaurant owner learned she was trans. He and another employee attacked her, probably giving her a concussion and skull fracture.

The police came and arrested Rita, charged her with “impersonation” and “shaming” the restaurant. She was denied medical care, despite the severity of her injuries, and was placed in a cell with men. During the night she fended off a sexual assault.

Trans Rescue provided funds and some local trans women (some of the group starting Eden House) bailed her out. Trans Rescue also provided funds for medical and psychological care.

Anne Ogborn, a Trans Rescue staff member, said, “We’re particularly anxious to get Rita away from this area, since we fear she’ll be blackmailed now.”

As one of the women helping Rita said, “is it wrong to ask for a Job surely why are some people so heartless?”

We’re withholding the name of the restaurant and it’s owner to prevent retaliation against Rita. Rita is an alias.

Follow up. Rita collapsed during a follow up medical appointment and is currently in hospital. Trans Rescue is trying to raise 2000 EU to pay for medical care and to get Rita and the group of trans women she lives with out of the area on an emergency basis.

Rayan – Saudi Arabia

Last year Rayan’s situation seemed hopeless.

As a ‘female’ in his home country of Saudi Arabia, he had little control over his life.

His wealthy, powerful, and criminal father ruled the family with an iron fist.

He’d been threatened with death both by his father and mother, been abused by family members,

subjected to medical mistreatment and conversion therapy, and was in a country whose government would not only not protect him, but would actively help his abusers maintain control.

Rayan had, seemingly, little chance of getting out.

A break came when the family moved to Turkey. He was still trapped in the family compound, but at least we could reach the compound.

Rayan did an incredible job of carefully preparing his escape. He started going to a gym in the compound, and carrying a change of clothing in a backpack. He located his passport in his father’s desk.

On the chosen day, he slipped into his parent’s room and took the passport. He was committed now – if his father discovered he’d taken the passport, he’d be killed. He’d already assembled the small collection of things he’d take with him.

He stepped out, as he always did, to go to the gym.

A TransEmigrate agent appeared in a car. Rayan got into the car and disappeared into the crowded streets of Turkey.

He was away, but still had to get out of Turkey. His family could easily track him down anywhere in the country.

We flew him to a country in North Africa. He stayed there, in hiding, for over a month. Any day his family could ‘redeem their honor’, as they saw it, by killing him. They were actively looking.

We tried to get him into Europe, but he wasn’t allowed to board the plane at the last minute. He seemed stuck.

We arranged a scheme that would make John LeCarre proud. There were fake companies, fake contracts, and even a fake warehouse full of fake produce. Another of our volunteers, in real life a programmer, risked her own freedom.

Rayan is now in Canada.

It was all worth it. Most people in immigration detention in a foreign country would be frightened. Rayan called us with happy news.

One day it was, “I learned to play ping pong today!”

One day it was, “A guard let me try playing his guitar. I want to learn!”

Rayan is now out, settled down, and preparing to get on with his life. He’s taken up boxing, and is building up his new testosterone muscles.

He plays the guitar badly and is fixing up his small apartment.

Some details of events and circumstances have been changed for the safety of Rayan and our agents. Rayan is an alias.. Photo courtesy IBA Boxing

Walim – Egypt

Engineers are born, not made, it seems.

Some people are in love with machines and will tinker endlessly if allowed.

Sadly, in some places people seen as women still aren’t allowed. Often our work at Trans Rescue isn’t about fighting transphobia as much as it is about fighting sexism.

Walim is a 19 year old Egyptian trans man. He loves machinery and electronics and reads about it endlessly. One of our volunteers spends a lot of time teaching him electronics over the internet.

His father is driven crazy by his love of gadgets and beats him regularly for it and for doing ‘boy’ things.

When he cut his hair short, his father beat him savagely.

We desperately need to get him out before he’s killed. We’ve made one attempt recently, but need funds to make a second attempt.

January 4, 2023

We’re happy to announce that Walim is no longer in Egypt. He was extracted in a difficult operation on January 4, 2023. He is in a safe location, and will be moved to a final destination as that becomes possible.

Some details of events and circumstances have been changed for the safety of Walim and our agents. Walim is an alias.

Ife – life in Nigeria

Ife is a beautiful young (21) trans woman from Nigeria.

She’s surviving on street hustles.

Five minutes talking with her and you realize how intelligent she is. She’s well read and can talk about gender theory like a western baby trans. As we discuss plans to get her out, she emphasizes, over and over, how important it is to her to get to somewhere she can continue her education.

When she first contacted us she was living in poor conditions. Soldiers came to her flat and threatened her, and neighbors were harassing her, so she had trouble entering or leaving the flat.

We moved her to a safe house, but have been having trouble getting her out of Nigeria. She once called it ‘her never ending vacation’.

A family member caught up with her at the safe house, and we’ve had to move her to another city.

She can’t really pass as a boy, so it’s particularly difficult to get her out.

She’s interested in languages and wants to live a normal life. We’d like to get her to a European country where she has family.

We have a scheme to get her out, but it’s going very slowly. It’s very hard to get a visa to a safe place from Nigeria.

Please help us get Ife out.

Some details of events and circumstances have been changed for the safety of Ife and our agents. ‘Ife’ is an alias. The image above is a stock photo of an actor.

Sara – Intersexed in Iran

Sara is an intersexed woman with an undiagnosed sex hormone issue. She lives in a small town in northern Iran.

She’s unable to have the issue properly diagnosed or to obtain supportive medical care. The local authorities, and Sara herself, have no word for intersex, and so say she’s LGBT.

The police have sent letters to her family telling them to send her to the local health center. She’s not gone, but eventually they will pick her up. She’s been told in Iran she must either be a boy or a girl, or she will be arrested. She has no place to stand.

She used to go out sometimes, but after much street harassment and several encounters with the police, including being jailed for several days, she doesn’t go outside any more. If this goes on long enough she’ll be thrown in prison.

Her father is physically and emotionally abusive and has threatened to kill her.

Sara contacted TransEmigrate for help 9 months ago. We’ve been trying to get her out.

With our encouragement, she’s took the giant risk of enlisting her mother. They’re working together with us to get her to a safe country where she can find acceptance, a full life, and proper medical care.

Maeen Aldahbali

I’m Maeen Aldahbali from Yemen. Im currently in Egypt.

I’ve been shot, humiliated, tortured and jailed.

As a young Yemeni born in 1998 I dream of a peaceful life and brighter future for me and all youth of my community. Unfortunately, the spring of my age met my home country’s autumn years. So I witnessed the war in Taiz city when it had just started in the beginning of 2015, I saw people suffering especially the youth and children. That was when I decided to do something for them and not to be useless as I always stand for peace and humanity.

After a year of working for children rights and trying to keep them away from the war, I got selected to be the governor for Taiz City for the Youth and Children Government. I worked hard to do better for the youth of my city as much as possible at least to prevent them from being involved in the war, and protect their rights during the conflict. Because I truly believe they are the men of tomorrow, they should be empowered by knowledge not by extremism. We helped educate them and keep them safe far away from any kind of violence.

However, in the end of 2016 I was shot three times on my arm after a terrorist attack from my back while driving back home in the evening. After two weeks, though I wasn’t safe, I immediately went back to work because I’m driven by a purpose and passion.

The second attack happened in 2019 while driving to work with my friend in the morning. Not only have I been shot again but also my friend had been shot and killed.

When I got out of the hospital I was asked to go to be questioned which I thought is normal. However, I was taken to a basement jail for more than 10 months, where I was extremely tortured and forced to stop working for Youth and Children rights in exchange for my freedom after my case went public.

I managed to escape from Yemen to Egypt with TransEmigrate’s help. I’m currently in Egypt which is even not safe for me, I’m receiving death threats. I’m trying to move to a country far away where I can live at peace.

Trans Rescue says:

Trans people know what it is to be in danger. Maeen is a cis man who contacted us in desperation when no one else would help him. We said screw it, we’re better than cis people. We helped.

Maeen remains in Egypt, still in danger. We’re trying to get him out. Meanwhile, we’re trying to keep him out of the hands of his enemies, who know roughly where he is, and who have been seen in Egypt.

Most descriptions of our clients have details changed. This one does not.