The US government is investigating the apparent suicide of a Saudi Arabian transgender woman who says she was coerced by her family into leaving the US, according to reports.
Eden Knight, 23, posted a suicide note on Monday alleging that her parents had hired American “fixers” to help bring her back to the authoritarian kingdom and force her to detransition.
She said the fixers introduced her to a Saudi Arabian lawyer in Washington DC who slowly made her dependent on him for “food and shelter” while pressuring her to live as a man, leading her to suffer a mental breakdown and acquiesce to her family’s demands.
On Thursday, a spokesperson for the US State Department told Vice News: “We have seen these reports and are studying these allegations.”
Ms Knight’s friends welcomed the investigation, though some expressed fear that it would go nowhere.
“Forced detransition is torture,” said Merrick DeVille, a friend of Ms Knight who has been leading an effort to compile evidence about her case for journalists and activists.
“[Eden] would still be here if her family just let her live how she wanted to. I am tired of watching my friends suffering and dying. This community just wants to live their lives and be themselves.”
The Independent has not been able to fully confirm Ms Knight’s death, but social media accounts belonging to her alleged family members announced funeral arrangements for a “young man” with the same legal first name and surname, and friends have not heard from her since her suicide note late on Sunday 12 March.
That post, apparently scheduled in advance, sparked dismay and fury among her many friends in the US, where she had attended high school and later studied computer science at George Mason University.
The post alleged that her parents, whom she described as “strict conservative Muslims”, bullied her, berated her, and denied her access to her hormone medication until her spirit was broken.
Speaking to Vice, friends of Ms Knight’s corroborated her account of being approached by American “fixers” in the summer of 2022 and then hosted in DC by a Saudi lawyer.
One friend named Hayden, who hosted Ms Knight at his house in Georgia for five months last summer, told Vice that he had overheard Ms Knight talking on speakerphone with a man who offered to mend the divide between her and her parents.
Two friends gave similar accounts to The Independent, saying that Ms Knight had initially been optimistic about the outreach because she was hoping to claim political asylum in the US.
Helen Vogel, a 28-year-old artist in Los Angeles who described Ms Knight as “like a sister” to them, provided sceenshots of private messages from August in which Ms Knight says the alleged fixer had “called [her] to help with [her] asylum process”.
“She thought the man in the screenshot… was a good Samaritan who would help her stay in the US long-term,” said Ms Vogel.
Saudi Arabia has invested substantial resources in neutralising dissidents and critics abroad over the last few years, often by trying to persuade them to return to the country or even arresting them during brief trips back.
Neither Ms Knight’s apparent family nor the alleged fixers have responded to requests for comment.