Editor’s note: The Washington Blade published a Spanish version of this article on Sunday.
CIUDAD DELGADO, El Salvador — A transgender woman was found dead in El Salvador on Jan. 17.
The body of Briyit Michelle Alas, 22, was found in the Santa Margarita 2 neighborhood of Ciudad Delgado. She was not immediately identified because authorities did not find her ID documents at the scene; but she had been shot three times in her torso, once behind her ear and once in her shoulder. Authorities said Alas was killed at least 10 hours before they found her body.
A source told the Blade that Alas’ family was able to identify her.
Alas had not been home for several hours when photos of her dead body with the clothes in which she had been seen began to circulate on social media. Alas’ family identified her body at the morgue.
Alas is the first trans woman in El Salvador to be reported killed this year. Her murder is one of the hundreds of unresolved cases that Salvadoran LGBTQ organizations have documented and for which authorities have largely not followed up.
LGBTQ activists and organizations are helping Alas’ family cover her funeral costs because they have few resources.
“We unfortunately do not have better information (about) if she went out with a client or how it happened,” Camila Portillo of Asociación ASPIDH Arcoiris Trans told the Blade. “We don’t want to go into details with the family, but we are at their service for anything that they need and we put them in contact with Jessica Torres of El Salvador’s human rights ombudsman’s office because she wants to follow-up on the case.”
The aforementioned organization on Jan. 17 urged authorities to investigate Alas’ murder.
“ASPIDH calls upon the National Civil Police, the attorney general, the human rights ombudsman and President Nayib Bukele to speak out about trans murders in El Salvador in order to highlight the reality the LGBTI community in El Salvador and trans women especially have to live day-to-day,” tweeted ASPIDH.
Aislinn Odaly’s, an independent activist, for her part mentioned to the Blade the government must guarantee the right to work for trans people, and trans women in particular. Odaly’s said some of them are sex workers on the streets, which is where they are at the most risk.
“We are the most visible and vulnerable because we have a gender identity that is different than the one assigned at birth,” said Odaly’s.
“Briyit ran head on into a society that denied her the opportunity to succeed in a job with better security,” Bianca Rodríguez, executive director of COMCAVIS Trans, another of the organizations that has been helping Alas’ family, told the Blade. “She studied Salvadoran gastronomy, but she was never able to work in the field because they rejected her for being a trans woman.”
The Salvadoran government has remained silent on these crimes against the LGBTQ community, even though there is ample evidence of the barbarity with which they are committed.
“This government’s silence and lack of access to justice will ensure more hate crimes will be perpetrated and impunity will continue to prevail,” says Rodríguez.