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