Tariq Aziz tells us that She was driving home from work when two men stopped her. Aziz did not understand what was going on, and the men did not explain it.
Instead, they arrested him while Aziz was shouting for the police.
– The men were dressed in completely ordinary clothes. “I thought they were criminals, but it turned out that they were working for the police,” Aziz says.
According to Aziz, she was taken to a cell where she was told the next day that the arrest was due to her tweets.
Tariq Aziz is a non-binary person, who wears make-up and does not dress like the traditional man in Saudi Arabia.
Since 2015, he has been involved with LGBTQ causes and has publicly advocated for the equal value of all in a country that persecutes homosexuals and arrests dissenters.
Imprisoned without trial
Criticizing Mohammed bin Salman’s kingdom can mean torture and long prison sentences. Human rights organizations have repeatedly sounded the alarm.
Just a few weeks ago, 29-year-old fitness trainer Manahel Al-Otaibi was accused of using a hashtag calling on Saudi Arabia to dissolve the country’s male guardianship laws.
For Tariq Aziz, the journey back from work in Dammam ended in a year’s imprisonment.
She was held for 20 days before being transferred to prison without trial. And only two months later he was found guilty in court.
“The longest year of my life”
It appears in the ruling that Aziz “produced, prepared and transmitted information that could harm public order.”
It was impossible for me or the lawyer to do anything. How can we win? The law is on their side. “We don’t have freedom of speech and you can’t talk about gay rights in our country,” says Tariq Aziz.
In prison, Aziz says, he waited 40 days in solitary confinement before Aziz got his own cell. There was no mattress in the cell.
– It was just an iron bed. I asked the guards about the mattress, but they replied that this is not a hotel. It was very difficult and probably the longest year of my life.
Aziz was released last May and moved to San Francisco three months ago. It did not feel that Saudi Arabia was a safe place.
– I am not accepted there either by the authorities or by the rest of society. The police are looking for people like me, people who wear make-up and look feminine.
An appeal to the players
Controversy over Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on LGBT people has been revived in the world of sports in recent years.
The country has invested large sums of money, for example, in golf, Formula 1 and above all in football in order to divert the focus away from the human crimes committed by the regime.
During the summer, many football stars left the European leagues in order to make big money in the Saudi Premier League.
It’s simply a sports wash. It’s not more difficult than that. The players do it for the money, of course, and I think they don’t care about our rights, says Aziz.
Do players have a responsibility to defend these kinds of cases?
– I hope they can somehow do it. But I don’t know, sports stars aren’t known for being active. They focus on sports. But I hope they can somehow speak for us.
In any case, Aziz will continue his fight for LGBT rights in the Middle East. On Aziz’s Twitter account, which was shut down by the Saudi state in connection with the ruling, he posts about life as a non-binary Saudi to his 44,000 followers.
– The system can’t stop me. I will never be silent.
“Unapologetic writer. Bacon enthusiast. Introvert. Evil troublemaker. Friend of animals everywhere.”