Saudi Arabia

Kamran struggles for sexual freedom

Note: The name has been changed, but the facts have not.

Kamran grew up thinking there was something wrong with him. Family members told him that when he was a child, he repeatedly hit his head against the wall. He falsely believed that this might have caused him to be gay.

Raised in a family of Yemeni citizens who lived in Saudi Arabia for work, Kamran was the eighth of 12 children. He attended an all-male high school and was attracted to a classmate, but was too scared to follow through on the attraction. Homosexuality is a crime in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Kamran knew about gay men who were whipped at least 60 times by the police, and that some gay men were jailed for a year or more.

He also was ashamed and fearful of how his family would react– afraid that they would disown and punish him. There was even a chance that extended family members might try to kill him. When Kamran was growing up, his mother would often say: ”I have a girl for you and I want you to get married.” His excuse was that he needed to finish his schooling first.

Kamran came to Portland in 2012 to continue his university studies. There, he met a trans woman through a dating app, and they started a serious relationship. He was careful not to bring it into the open, afraid that his family would find out back home. Keeping things secret was hard  on his relationship with his partner.

Safe Route Immigration filed an asylum application for Kamran in June 2014. That was the start of a long waiting game.

One day while working his shift as a waiter, Kamran was attacked and injured by a man shouting racial epithets. At this point his asylum case had been pending for several years, so Safe Route began the process for Kamran to file for special non-immigrant protection for crime victims in the US. In the meantime, he was finally granted his asylum status in May 2020.

Kamran now works on staff for an accounting firm in Portland.