Transgender teenager from Brunei seeks asylum in Canada
By Evan Duggan VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Zoella Zayce displays no photos of her family in her basement apartment in Vancouver, thousands of miles from where she left them in Brunei. The 19-year-old refugee claimant is a transgender woman, something she never told the family she describes as conservative. Back home, family and friends sometimes asked if she was gay.
By Evan Duggan
VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Zoella Zayce displays no photos of her family in her basement apartment in Vancouver, thousands of miles from where she left them in Brunei. The 19-year-old refugee claimant is a transgender woman, something she never told the family she describes as conservative.
Back home, family and friends sometimes asked if she was gay. It was an alarming question in the Southeast Asian country, which this month introduced new Islamic laws to punish homosexuality, adultery and rape with the death penalty, including stoning.
The laws, elements of which were first adopted in 2014, have been rolled out in the country of 400,000, stirring international outrage.
"I just didn't feel safe with my family," said Zayce, who knew from childhood that she was transgender. At 11 or 12, she remembers being forced to visit a cleric who performed a ritual she described as an exorcism or cleansing. "I was traumatized."
In 2014, she heard about two people fined and jailed for crossdressing: "I knew I had to leave very soon."
Zayce arrived in Canada late last year, and now awaits the results of her asylum application, which could come as soon as November.
She chose Canada because it was far from Brunei. She thought it would be too expensive for her family or the authorities to come after her. Canada also had the reputation as an open society with strong protections for human rights.
"(Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau was very accepting of people fleeing their countries so that was one of the major things as well," she said.
She works full time at an office doing data entry, and on the side as a math tutor.
"It's been very busy for me and I'm glad I can support myself and don't have to rely on the government," she said.
She hopes to find a boyfriend and to eventually study computer science.
Zayce hopes for a secular Brunei in which the Sultan would abdicate and make way for democracy and more freedom.
Brunei has defended its right to implement the laws. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, 72, who has ruled the oil-rich country for 51 years, is one the wealthiest people in the world.
Brunei's embassy in Ottawa was not immediately available for comment.
The international community could help by applying trade sanctions against Brunei or scuttling the royal family's investments around the world, Zayce said.
But mostly, she is concerned with making her own voice heard, even though it means she may never be able to return to her country.
"I just want to let the world know that if I do get sent back to Brunei, I wouldn’t mind dying back there," she said, starting to cry. "If I do go back, I would have at least lived a good life ... on my own terms."
(Reporting by Evan Duggan; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.