Umrah visa: Travel agents say no Saudi word on transgender ban

Published: November 28, 2016
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PESHAWAR / ISLAMABAD: The Travel Agents Association of Pakistan (TAAP) has denied receiving any Saudi government notification about visa ineligibility of transgender persons for the minor pilgrimage (Umrah).

Ishtiaq Ahmad Khan, regional secretary of the North Zone, Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, told The Express Tribune, “There is no truth in it. TAAP did not receive any kind of instructions or notification from the Saudi government.”

Another TAAP official in Lahore said, “It is not in our knowledge. We just got to know about it though the media.”

He said such misleading and wildly inaccurate reports are only meant to create discrimination among society. “In our society transgender community members are already being treated as outcasts and such news serves only to tarnish their image.”

On November 22, the news media cited a  Saudi diplomat saying that a notification has been issued prohibiting transgender persons from obtaining Umrah visas.

Meanwhile, the transgender community of K-P, reacting to the media reports saying, “no one can stop them from visiting the holy house of God”.

“Like other human beings, we too have a right to perform the pilgrimage,” the president of the Shemale Association of K-P Farzana Jan told a news conference.

Jan said: “We are grateful to the Senate to give a response to our demands and referred the matter to a special committee formed to address the problems.”

“We have also contacted the Saudi embassy in Islamabad and it has dismissed claims that a ban had been imposed on transgender persons.”

“They have told us that there is no truth in the report,” he said. “In an attempt to remove any doubt or confusion regarding the matter, we have sent a letter to the Saudi ambassador to issue a clarification in this regard.”

Published in The Express Tribune, November 26th, 2016.

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