DAMASCUS, Syria, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- Imad's suffering did not come to an end after he underwent surgery to transform himself into a woman.
Both as a man and as a woman he has been rejected by the mainly Muslim conservative society in Syria.
"I feel I am a complete female now," says Hiba, as she now calls herself in a recent interview with United Press International.
"I even have the natural feelings of a woman who cannot help herself from teasing children and thinking of having a child of her own, of course by adoption in my case."
Hiba, 33, recalled the sufferings she endured for 32 years before taking the "daring and courageous" step of undergoing a sex change.
"After the doctors confirmed that my original structure was that of a woman, I decided to have a sex change in order to live my life in peace and serenity," she said. "... I wanted society to accept me as a woman, instead of being looked at with suspicion when I was a man with troubled behavior due to my genetic disorder."
Hiba recalls with great sadness the depression she felt when Imad discovered he was not a complete man and could not date girls like other students at the university.
"I discovered at 18 that I was incapable of any male sexual behavior and I was deeply embarrassed by the girls who looked at me with pity and preferred to stay away," Hiba said.
Imad tried to commit suicide 16 times.
"I took poison several times and tried to drown myself ... but every time I was rescued at the last minute."
Even at home, Imad was not at ease. His conservative father did not want to listen to any of his problems and threw him out of the house.
"I then tried to compensate for my male deficiency by practicing tough sports such as karate, tai kwon do and kickboxing, but nothing seemed to work," Hiba said.
Imad then tried to start a new life away from home and went to work in an Arab Gulf country in 1997, but his problems followed him.
After three years, he was fired and admitted to a mental hospital where he tried to commit suicide three more times. He was also jailed for failing to pay back a bank loan and for homosexual behavior, a sin in conservative Arab societies.
"The most important thing that happened to Imad during his sojourn in the Gulf country was that he met an Iraqi cleric who sent him to a gland specialist, who in turn established that Imad's original gender was female and that he should recover his nature," Hiba said.
"The cleric assured Imad that having a sex change did not contradict the teachings of Islam, which aim to serve the interests of humanity and ensure the happiness of people," she said.
Medical tests confirmed Imad's genes were mainly those of a female and his female hormones were more active and pronounced than his male ones.
Dr. Mohammed Hassan, the plastic surgeon who performed the surgery by replacing Imad's atrophic male organs with female ones, said, "Such an operation necessitates solid medical tests proving that the transformation could be possible, as well as psychological reports and legal approvals allowing the change of gender in the official records."
Hassan said cases such as Imad's were not very common in the Arab world, as many who suffer genetic disorders tend to conceal the fact.
"I now live in peace with myself," Hiba affirms, though it was not easy to be accepted as a female after having been considered a man for 32 years.
"My mother accepted the fact as God's wish, but the rest of the family did not conceal their disapproval and were rude enough to ask me if I could have intercourse with a man," Hiba said.
Her brother insists he has one sister, not two, while many members of her family try to avoid her.
"I have decided to abolish the past and get away from all those I knew before and who cannot accept my transformation," Hiba said. "It is better to start a brand new life with new people who would accept me as I am and would help me take my normal place in society."
Hiba plans to restart her career as a marketing person and to make new friends. She even hopes to meet a man and fall in love.