(TIML NEWS) In September, news leaked that the Thai immigration authorities had made an unusual arrest in Bangkok.
The detainee was Nur Sajat Kamaruzzaman, a glamorous, 36-year-old Malaysian cosmetics entrepreneur with a huge social media following.
The Malaysian authorities immediately sought her extradition on charges of insulting Islam, which had been brought against her in January, and which are punishable by up to three years in prison.
Nur Sajat’s offence was to wear a baju kurung, the traditional long-sleeved outfit worn by Malay women, at a private religious ceremony she held in 2018.
In the eyes of the Malaysian authorities, Nur Sajat is a man, and under Islamic law, a man cannot dress as a woman.
Nur Sajat is a transgender woman, and as such she was given refugee status and allowed by Thailand to seek asylum in Australia.
Speaking to the BBC from Sydney, she said she had no choice but to flee, after being assaulted by officers from JAIS, the religious affairs department in the state of Selangor, which had brought the charges against her.
“I had to run away. I was treated harshly, I was hit, pushed, handcuffed, all in front of my parents and family. I felt ashamed and sad. I gave them my cooperation, but they still did that to me,” she said.
“Maybe it was because they see me as a trans woman, so they did not care if I was held, beaten, stamped on. We trans women have feelings too. We deserve to live our lives like normal people.”