Non-binary Saudi influencer has UK asylum claim rejected: ‘I can’t go back’

a person holding a non binary flag

A non-binary influencer from Saudi Arabia has been denied asylum in the UK because Home Office officials allegedly do not believe they are a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Ali Saad Muthyib, whose social media videos get millions of views, said they were forced to flee the Middle East kingdom after receiving death threats, being attacked, and harassed by police, as well as being fired.

During one incident, Muthyib claims an officer laughed at Muthyib following a homophobic assault, took pictures of their injured face to post on Snapchat and handcuffed them to their hospital bed with no curtain or partition for privacy.

Muthyib said they cannot live in the closet in Saudi Arabia because many Arabic speakers recognise them from their viral videos, meaning they would not be able to hide their identity from those who wish to harm them.

“I can’t go back to my country,” they 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 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.”

You may like to watch

Ali Saad Muthyib on TikTok
Ali Saad Muthyib in a TikTok video. (wearealiyass2)

LGBTQ+ rights are non-existent in Saudi Arabia. Same-sex sexual activity is criminalised with the maximum penalty under the law being death while “crossdressing” is also illegal, with trans people facing prosecution for not adhering to the country’s strict dress codes.

The country has been criticised for carrying out mass executions, abusing activists, attacking and silencing freedom of speech and lacking women’s and migrants’ rights. 

Muthyib fled in January 2023 and came to the UK to seek asylum but found out last month that their claim had been denied by the Home Office, without any reason given, they said.

A migrants’ rights charity later told them, however, that the government denied the application because they did not believe Muthyib was an LGBTQ+ person.

Muthyib is appealing against the decision and looking for a lawyer.

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

Saudi Arabia cannot escape its human rights abuses

Saudi Arabia’s human rights record has come into sharper focus in recent months, following the announcement that the nation will host the 2034 men’s football World Cup.

The country’s relationship with football has been the source of increased controversy, with many fans and pundits accusing the nation of using sportswashing to hide its long list of human rights violations, and criticising players who move there on huge deals.

However, Saudi Arabia faced scrutiny long before news of the World Cup broke.

In 2018, the murder of US journalist Jamal Khashoggi – a staunch critic of the government – significantly damaged Saudi’s international standing. 

In March 2023, the trans community mourned the loss of 23-year-old Eden Knight, a transgender woman who took her own life after she said her parents lured her back to Saudi Arabia and pressured her to detransition.

In her final message, she claimed that her family hired American “fixers” to re-establish contact with her. Isolation from her affirming chosen family and her uncertain immigration status in the US ultimately forced her to detransition and leave for Saudi Arabia.

LGBTQ+ Saudi activist Wajeeh Lion told PinkNews at the time of Knight’s death that “she’s not the first and she won’t be the last” queer person to die at the hands of the Saudi’s oppressive regime.

“If you’re a Saudi and you’re a member of the LGBT community, know and accept that your life is always in danger,” he said. “The day I accepted that I am queer, the day I accepted that I’m non-binary, the day I accepted that I’m gay, is the same day that I accepted that I could be killed at any minute – and anyone in Saudi Arabia from the LGBT community can tell you the same.”

Please login or register to comment on this story.