Cardiffians celebrate to raise funds for transgender asylum-seeker

Refugee and LGBTQ issues merged in an event supporting a transgender man fleeing a death penalty in Saudi Arabia.

Baklava Saudi Trans Beats
Hosts sold Middle Eastern refreshments for additional donations.

Cardiff campaigners held a celebration on Sunday to raise money for a transgender asylum-seeker fleeing persecution and a possible death sentence in Saudi Arabia.

The event at Cardiff’s Gwdihŵ Café Bar featured LGBTQ performers and sold Middle Eastern food in an effort to raise funds for a Saudi asylum-seeker trying to escape violent persecution and looking to pay for gender-affirming surgery in the UK, who chose not to be identified.

“Today is a fundraiser for our friend, who is a trans man from Saudi Arabia,” said Abderrahim Elhabchi, a key organiser. “He came here claiming asylum, fleeing the horrors of his country, because it’s really banned and punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.”

Gwdihw audience Saudi Trans Beats guitar
Attendees enjoyed the venue’s outdoor lounge and live entertainment while raising funds.

Organisers publicised the event under the name Saudi Trans Beats on Facebook and Twitter and hope to continue raising money through a GoFundMe campaign, which is open to the public. Attendees donated £400 on Sunday toward the current goal of £6000 to cover surgery costs.

Those familiar with the person seeking help emphasised the emotional toll of body dysphoria, surgery costs and the threat of being sent back to Saudi Arabia.

“He has struggled with the asylum-seeking process, which is really tough at the moment,” said Ash S., a friend of the individual. “All that has added onto his transition. … It needs to happen as soon as possible.”

Event leaders and organisers were associated with Glitter Cymru, a local LGBTQ support group centred on black, Asian and minority ethnic members of the community, and many members had personal connections to the cause.

“I am from Morocco and I am an asylum-seeker as well, as a gay man,” Mr Elhabchi said.

Donation rounds frequently accompanied the evening’s festivities, reminding attendees of the event’s sobering focus. But despite the campaign’s seriousness, LGBTQ entertainers sought to create a safe environment for other members of the community in attendance.

Acoustic artist Amo Fox sang, “I think this is where trust lives, and this is where I feel safest.”

LGBTQ Amo Fox acoustic music
Musician Amo Fox performed original songs, often about non-binary gender identity. Photo by Ben Marriott, used with permission.

The ongoing GoFundMe campaign can be found here.