A religious court in Saudi Arabia has decided this morning to invalidate the driver’s license of a man because he underwent an operation to become a woman.
34-year old Abulrahiim al-Qahtani, now known as Salsabyl al-Qahtani, underwent a sex change operation in Germany in November 2015 and lived there for over two years.
She decided to return to Saudi Arabia in December, and her parents left a car for her at the airport so she could drive by herself to their residence.
Unfortunately for her, she was arrested by members of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV), the Saudi religious police.
Even if she still had a valid Saudi driver’s license, she was immediately arrested by the religious police and her vehicle was seized.
She spent 17 days in prison before her family’s lawyers and foreign non-governmental organizations were able to obtain her liberation.
Her driver’s license was still revoked, however, and her case was transferred to the Islamic tribunal.
This morning, after less than two hours of deliberation, she was declared “mentally unfit to drive a vehicle” by an Islamic court, in Jeddah.
The three judges declared that Ms. al-Qahtani’s desire to become a woman, by itself, proves that she has mental problems.
“Allah created man in his own image. No sane man would disrespect Allah by becoming a vile woman.”
Many European and North American organizations fighting for LGBT rights have condemned the judgment, calling it “transphobic”, “despicable” and “shameful”.
In an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, Salsabyl al-Qahtani described the judgment as “medieval” and said she was considering moving back to Germany.
This unusual case has attracted a lot of attention worldwide and exposed the difficult living conditions of transgender Saudis.
A few transgender Saudis were imprisoned, lashed and even stoned to death over the last few years, so most chose to live in hiding or move to other countries.