Saudi Trans Woman Eden Knight’s Death Sparks Outrage and Investigation

Saudi Trans Woman Eden Knight’s Death Sparks Outrage and Investigation

CW: This article contains discussions of suicide.

Eden Knight posted a suicide note on March 12 that read: “I wanted to be a leader for people like me, but that wasn’t written to happen." Now, mystery and shock looms over the circumstances that led to her death.

An investigation by Vice last week revealed that family members of Knight's confirmed she had died, shortly after she shared her intentions to die by suicide. In her own words, she described a campaign by her family to extradite her from the U.S. and forcibly detransition her in Saudi Arabia.

Friends of Knight have spoken with various outlets including Vice, Rolling Stoneand The Independent, and corroborated the allegations made in her suicide note posted on social media. As they allege, a man named Michael Pocalyko contacted Knight in August 2022. He is the CEO of intelligence contractor Special Investigations, and said he would help put her back in contact with her parents. Her roommates, Bailee and Hayden, described him as a "fucking creep." They'd housed Knight in the spring of 2022 after she had finished college and was unsure about her future in the U.S.

In her note, Knight said the man was a "fixer," and she hoped he could bridge the gap between her and her "strict conservative Muslim" parents. From there, Pocalyko got Knight to leave her apartment and move to Washington D.C., where he installed her in a hotel room and put her in contact with a Saudi lawyer known only as Bader. He was her only contact, and Knight said “He tried to get me to be ‘normal.’ Gave me examples of feminine men and said that they are transgender but they are hiding it, that it’s better to hide it. Told me stories personally about people he knew that successfully hid it."

Because she had no job, uncertain legal status, and nobody but Bader to contact in the hotel room, Knight described herself as totally dependent on the lawyer and was fearful of leaving. Friends who spoke to Vice also said their contact with Knight during this time was sporadic and "fragmented."

In a Discord message reviewed by Vice, Knight wrote:

“He knows I left my family to transition and told me to lie to them and say it was grade issues. He like constantly says I look like a man and a teenager that’s confused which is fine cuz I have piercings and dyed hair but I’m just having fun with those things they don't make me a woman, nobody misgenders me so purposely like he does."

Knight said in her note that Bader's attempts were successful, and she eventually was handed a plane ticket to Saudi Arabia to meet with her family. At this point, her friends lost all contact with her. Her note revealed she learned Pocalyko and Bader had been hired by her parents, who called her a "freak" after they found hormones she'd taken in secret.

She wrote of her time in Saudi Arabia:

"The first month was fine, okay even. I was on edge the entire time, but I was treated like I was going to run at any second by my family, then came the second month. At this point, I was subjected to daily searches of my belongings, my mom searched all of my electronics whenever she got the chance. I was berated for being a freak when my mom found my private photos, my dad called me a failure and an abomination."

The day after her note was posted in March, her family shared she'd died. Vice's attempts to contact the Saudi embassy in Washington or her family were unsuccessful. The Independent, meanwhile, matched the name of her father to a Saudi finance official who worked in Washington D.C. while Knight was in high school. Photos of the man were later verified by friends as her father.

In a document compiled by friends, they wrote: "Eden started her journey on Twitter still living in the closet and hanging out with progressives and people who want to build a brighter, better world. Everyone who speaks about her mentions her humor and her kindness. She possessed an inner strength that we admire and know deserves recognition.”

In her note, Knight also wrote: “I hope that the world gets better for us. I hope our people get old. I hope we get to see our kids grow up to fight for us. I hope for trans rights worldwide.”

If you or someone you know is in need of help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Photo courtesy of Eden Knight/Twitter