He only wanted to be treated as a human

AS a journalist, a phone call in the wee hours is not extraordinary, but the call I received from Ashraf's mother, Mak Yah, at 1.45am yesterday came as a shock.

I first met Mak Yah only a few weeks ago, after she agreed to be interviewed about the negative stories about her family stemming from her son Mohd Ashraf Hafiz Abd Aziz's application to change his name to Aleesha Farhana in his MyKad.

During the interview, she told me about her family's plight in seeking a solution for Ashraf, who underwent a sex-change surgery in Thailand two years ago.

She was very distraught when talking about the humiliation of being branded as a bad mother by those who blamed her as the cause of her eldest son's "condition".

However, her sadness during the interview was nothing compared with the intense grief she felt when doctors told her that Ashraf's life was slipping away.

"We are going back to the hospital as the doctors have informed us that his blood pressure has dropped to a very low level," she said, her voice cracking as she tried to rein in her emotions.

I was shocked and searched for the correct words to say to Mak Yah.

I thought about my interview with Ashraf a few weeks ago.

I felt a chill as Ashraf's words came back to haunt me.

"It's going to be Ramadan soon. I hope you and your wife can break fast with my family although I have a feeling that I will not be able to celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri this year."

In the end, I just babbled a few words about being strong to Mak Yah.

My heart skipped a beat when I saw a new short messaging service text on my handphone at 6.15am.

My worst fears were confirmed when I read it.

"Al-fatihah for Mohd Ashraf Hafiz who passed away at 5am today," it read.

Questions raced through my mind as to whether I had done enough for Ashraf, a fellow Muslim and human being.

Ashraf was rather apprehensive about giving me an interview.

He said he would only agree to it if he was portrayed as a human being, not as a freak or a news item.

He brought me to meet his parents, Mak Yah and Abdul Aziz Ahmad, later that evening.

As a parent myself, I could understand Mak Yah's feelings as she poured her heart out that night.

She complained about how people had commented that Ashraf was better off dead.

"It was cruel of them to make such comments, as if my son's life is worthless."

At Sultanah Nur Zahirah hospital morgue yesterday, I met Mak Yah again.

"I had often prayed for the best for Ashraf. God loved him and has taken him before us although he is much younger. I believe God has decided that's the best for him."

I was again at a loss for words as Mak Yah had said it all.

Rest in peace and al-fatihah for Ashraf.

May God have mercy on him and on us, the living, who often take for granted the "luxury" of being regarded as humans.


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