On Monday a transgender woman from Saudi Arabia published a suicide note that incriminates her parents with forcing her to detransition.
Eden Knight lived in the U.S. while she was attending school, and she came out as transgender during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a release organized by her friends. She originally was living with a friend, Bailee Daws, in Georgia until she was pressured to move to Washington, D.C. before being trafficked to Saudi Arabia where she was barred from accessing hormone replacement therapy (HRT), she writes in her final message posted to Twitter.
“Eden was funny, sharp, well-read, and concerned with making the world a better place,” the release reads. “We are deeply disturbed by how she was treated. We believe that what happened to her was an unspeakable violation and there must be consequences. Justice must be served.”
Knight said that her parents hired “fixers” from a Washington, D.C.-based firm called SI. The business is said to be a professional services firm and government contractor in the investigations, intelligence, and cyber sectors. Knight, in particular, cites SI CEO Michael Pocalyko and his associate, SI Managing Director Ellen Cole.
In the summer of 2022, Pocalyko and Cole promised Knight that they would help resolve issues with her parents, and possibly grant her immigration status. “I thought this was impossible, I’m transgender and they are strict conservative Muslims, but I decided I would give it a shot because it can’t hurt right lmao?” Knight said.
Yet Daws also thought this was too good to be true. In a statement, Daws says that they repeatedly asked Knight to ensure she was involved in talks with Pocalyko and Cole. “This was very important to me, as I wanted to be sure that we clearly had a timeline of events and how things were going to work out,” said Daws. “Although she did ask for my involvement, they outright refused to allow me to be involved.”
Furthermore, the two fixers told Daws that “the situation was too complicated to involve other people and they didn’t want to jeopardize any plans that could’ve happened.” Even still, Daws didn’t sense any ulterior motive at the time, according to their account.
Soon, Knight took a train to a Virginia station where Pocalyko and Cole introduced her to a lawyer of the Saudi Embassy in Washington, Bader Alomair. Almoir also has connections to the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA), according to his LinkedIn. Knight’s father, who has been identified in the release as Fahad Alshathri, also has connections to SAMA. He is the Deputy Governor for Supervision at Saudi Central Bank (or SAMA), according to his LinkedIn. According to Knight, Alomair conditioned her to force detransition.
“First, he pampered me. He got me an apartment temporarily, he took me out to eat, he took me to therapists, but over time, the more conversations I had with him in person, the more I realized what he was trying to do,” said Knight.
Over time, Knight realized she was completely dependent on Alomair. He had control over her food and shelter. “[I]f I ran away, he could easily find my location, and since I was illegal, I would have just been deported to Saudi,” she said.
Alomair scheduled a flight to Saudi Arabia to traffic Knight to her family. Upon arriving, she recounted being treated by her family as if she “was going to run at any second.” She said she was also “subject to daily searches” and called an “abomination.”
“I am tired,” Knight said in the end.
She added a message to the people she loves.
“To my friends, to the people I chose to be my family, to my girlfriend, to everyone who has shown me kindness in this life, I sincerely thank you. You made an unbearable existence bearable at times,” said Knight. “I wanted to be a leader for people like me, but that wasn’t written to happen. I hope that the world gets better for us. I hope our people get old.”
On the news of her death, Knight’s biological family posted the details of her funeral to Twitter, but the account (@shatei_family) has since been deleted. “Go to the mercy of God, young man,” reads the post that deadnames and misgenders Knight throughout.
Alejandra Caraballo, a civil rights attorney and clinical instructor at the Harvard Law School Cyberlaw Clinic, told LGBTQ Nation that Knight and many others have options to seek asylum in the U.S.
Often asylum seekers in the U.S. have a “deep fear that anything they tell immigration officials will get back to either the Saudi government or their family,” said Caraballo. Knight’s family also has direct ties to the Saudi royal family, which Caraballo said may have led Knight to believe that she couldn’t escape or get immigration relief.
This, Caraballo says, “is not true at all.”
In Saudi Arabia, being LGBTQ+ is punishable by death, according to the organization Human Dignity Trust.
In the meantime, Knight’s former home, Georgia, is primed to pass S.B. 140, which would ban evidence-based medical care for trans youth.
“I think, you know, this is just another kind of trauma that we’re processing particularly after Briana Ghey, and I think these high profile instances encapsulate the pressures that trans people are under – the ways that we were under attack – oftentimes from our own families,” said Caraballo. “But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have hope, and that things won’t improve and things won’t get better.”
Editor’s note: This article mentions suicide. If you need to talk to someone now, call the Trans Lifeline at 1-877-565-8860. It’s staffed by trans people, for trans people. The Trevor Project provides a safe, judgement-free place to talk for LGBTQ youth at 1-866-488-7386. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.