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Julie Khan protest
Photography Javaria Waseem

Pakistan protests oppose the arrest of trans activist Julie Khan

Khan, a trans woman who has spoken out against transphobia in the country, was held for seven days in a men’s jail before being released on bail

On August 16, members and allies of Pakistan’s transgender community came together in the capital city of Islamabad. They were there – outside the city’s National Press Club – to protest the arrest of the trans woman and activist Julie Khan, who was arrested early last week (August 10).

Holding signs that read “#JusticeForJulie” – an appeal that has also been shared widely across social media – the protesters claimed that Khan’s arrest was unlawful, had been conducted without a warrant, and had seen her violently mistreated by police officers. 

Despite her legal gender status not being listed as male, Khan was also held in the men’s section of Adiala jail for seven days, prior to her release on bail August 17, the day after the demonstration took place.

“We believe that it is the right of the trans community to be treated with dignity and respect and we stand against the fact that Julie has been in police custody since August 10th” said Neha Tauseef, an organiser for the #JusticeForJulie campaign, during the protest.

“We are gathered here to fight for Julie’s right to a fair trial for this case,” added Ahmad Abdullah, a student and activist. “The role of the police has been humiliating during the arrest and I condemn how the justice system fails trans people again and again despite the fact that Pakistan has some of the most progressive trans law.”

In 2018, Pakistan passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, which allowed citizens to self-identify their gender and included broad protections for trans people. Back in 2016, Pakistan clerics declared trans marriages legal in Islam. However, transphobic discrimination – both violent and non-violent – is still a problem in the country.

In social media posts advocating Khan’s release, activists also pointed out that she received insufficient protections from authorities while jailed, despite alleged threats on her life, echoing a statement from her lawyer, Hassan Niazi, who told the Pakistani news organisation INCPak: “It is a life-threatening situation for her.” 

“She has no support. She is only alive right now because of her being famous on social media.”

Khan is one of Pakistan’s most prominent voices opposing transphobia, having previously spoken about violence and discrimination against the country’s trans community in a popular video series titled “Naked Truth”. 

In her first interview since being granted bail, the activist has thanked her supporters and vowed to continue opposing transphobia and injustice, saying: “I will make sure to stand against injustice and I will keep fighting. If you kill me, I will leave behind so many supporters that they will never end.”

Watch the statement delivered by Julie Khan below.