Human rights activists in Mauritania imprisoned for blasphemy

Guest article yon Yahya Ekhou

Authorities in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania began a large-scale wave of detentions of human rights defenders two months ago.

Othman-Mohamed-Lehbib
Othman Mohamed Lehbib

As a result of these measures, twelve people were arrested, including journalists, writers and human rights activists such as Cheikh Nouh, Emine Houd, Mekfoula Ibrahim and Mini Ibrahim. During the investigations by the national security authorities, the accused were placed in solitary confinement for several days. Nine of the accused were allowed to leave prison after this time under judicial conditions. They are not allowed to leave the country.

Continue reading “Human rights activists in Mauritania imprisoned for blasphemy”

Press release: About the unsafe situation of non-religious refugees in Germany [Video]

Zusammenschnitt der Veranstaltung „Menschenrecht: Glaubens-Freiheit“ ist bei YouTube verfügbar 

Am 6. Februar fand im Forum der Volkshochschule Köln ein Informationsabend der Säkularen Flüchtlingshilfe e.V. in Zusammenarbeit mit der VHS Köln statt, zum Thema Menschenrechte religionsfreier Geflüchteter. Eine Zusammenfassung ist seit dem 30. März auf YouTube verfügbar:

Die Säkulare Flüchtlingshilfe e.V. ist der einzige Verein in Deutschland, der sich explizit für die Rechte Geflüchteter einsetzt, die ihre Religion, den Islam, verlassen haben und hier weiterhin Verfolgung ausgesetzt sind, genauso wie bei LGBT*.

Als Referent:innen zu Gast waren Dr. Lale Akgün, Autorin und MdB, a.D., die Bonner Professorin und Dipl. Psychologin Dr. Katja Mierke, die stellvertretend den Vortrag der 29-jährigen saudi-arabischen Menschenrechtsaktivistin Loujain Sultan verlas. Außerdem die Autorin und Menschenrechtsaktivistin Rana Ahmad sowie Stefan Paintner, beide Mitbegründer und Vorstandsmitglied der Säkularen Flüchtlingshilfe e.V. Continue reading “Press release: About the unsafe situation of non-religious refugees in Germany [Video]”

Apostasy in the Islamic Republic of Iran as a reason for flight

An article by Mohamad Hosein Tavasolli

Iran is one of 12 countries where apostasy from the Islamic faith is punishable by death. Mohamad Hosein Tavasolli had to flee the Islamic state of God because of this. However, his application for asylum was rejected and his deportation was only suspended.

An atheist at the age of 16 and thus a alien in the Islamic state of God Iran

Mohamad Hosein Tavasolli

I grew up in a well-off, open and liberal family in Shiraz, which was moderately religious. At the age of about 16 (2012) I realized for myself that I can no longer believe in a God and I am therefore an atheist. At the age of about 18 years (2014), I regularly attended meetings of a group of trustworthy like-minded atheists. After I found out by phone during a car trip that one of our group meeting places was searched by the Iranian security service Etelat, I immediately went into hiding and hid with friends in a distant city. Within 10 days a friend got a fake passport with visa for me, with which I could fly from the airport Khomenei in Teheran to Athens on 15.12.2015. From there I flew on to Düsseldorf and arrived in Germany the next day. Since then my asylum procedure has been in progress.

My escape from the Islamic Republic of Iran

The political group in which I was active has questioned the regime – the Iranian state is responding to this with all its rigour. We could not talk openly about it. We exchanged ideas on the Internet or in groups in which we felt safe. Those who risked too much were quickly put in prison with all the consequences.

In 2015, after some of my comrades-in-arms had been arrested, I realized that I had to escape. I had read a lot about Germany, especially about how liberal it is, how everyone could move freely, how everyone could accept the religion of their choice or simply believe in no God. I also could no longer “play as if”: as if I agreed with the regime and the religious rule and its representatives. So I fled to Germany. Here, unfortunately, I met again in the camp and in the collective accommodation my opponents from whom I had fled. So I had to be very careful. After a long search I came across a group of secular refugees. I can exchange with them; we are taking action to make citizens who are unaware of this situation aware of the situation of the apostates in Iran, but also in the whole Islamic world. I wish all people in the world the freedom that can be enjoyed in Germany. The protests in Iran have given me some hope again: Perhaps it can still come to a secular state. What is certain is that many people (especially the young) no longer want to live under the old regime and religious rule. Their private life should no longer be controlled and restricted.

I have been in Germany since 2015, learned German and integrated myself. I am still waiting for my asylum application to be granted. In Germany I have contacted the Central Council of Ex-Muslims to find like-minded people as an ex-Muslim. I have also been in contact with the aid organisation “Secular in Exile” since 2016. After an association “Secular Refugee Aid e.V. – Atheists help” was founded in Cologne, I am also in contact with it. There are also activities in Stuttgart that are of interest for ex-Muslims, e.g. lectures by Mina Ahadi (1st chairwoman of the Central Council of Ex-Muslims e.V.) organized by the gbs regional group Stuttgart and since 2018 also regular meetings of the group “Secular Refugee Aid Stuttgart”, where refugees from Syria, Iraq and Iran participate and we discuss problems and plan activities together.

I stand up for other refugee atheists and draw attention to the character of the Islamist regime and the threat to dissidents who are politically persecuted and executed in Iran.

From here I would also like to support the worldwide implementation of Article 18 of human rights (freedom of thought, conscience and religion): Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in teaching, practice, worship and observance. The Iranian state responds to apostasy with all severity. I would be threatened with 20 to 30 years in prison in Iran – if I were lucky – and possibly I would be executed immediately.

Mohamad Hosein Tavasolli was born in Iran in 1996. He has an education as a welder and an IT education and worked in Iran until he fled. He was politically active in an atheist group and had to flee into exile when the group was discovered by the Islamic regime. In Germany he completed several language courses. Currently he is fighting for the recognition of his reason for flight “atheist / apostasy”. His first asylum application has just been rejected, a new application is in preparation. The current status is “toleration” and “suspension of deportation”. Hosein Tavasolli has attended language courses and was also employed at times. The Duldung notice explicitly states that “gainful employment is not (no longer) permitted” – with the justification that a consolidation of the residence status should be prevented.

Pressemitteilung: Veranstaltung „Menschenrecht: Glaubens-Freiheit“

Die Säkulare Flüchtlingshilfe e.V. lädt Sie herzlich zur Veranstaltung Menschenrecht: Glaubens-Freiheit ein. Der Informationsabend mit spannenden Vorträgen und Gästen wie dem Journalisten Günter Wallraff und Dr. Lale Akgün, Autorin und MdB a.D., sowie Betroffenen findet statt am

Donnerstag, den 6. Februar 2020 um 18:30 Uhr, im
FORUM Volkshochschule im Museum am Neumarkt,
Cäcilienstr. 29-33, 50667 Köln. Continue reading “Pressemitteilung: Veranstaltung „Menschenrecht: Glaubens-Freiheit“”

Interview with Mina Ahadi on criticising Islam in Germany

Mina Ahadi, Chairwoman of the Council of Ex-Muslims Germany, was honored as one of five freedom heroes by the BILD newspaper in September 2019. The Atheist Refugee Relief took this opportunity to talk to Ms. Ahadi about the changed debate on Islam in Germany.

Mina Ahadi and Vitali Klitschko

Atheist Refugee Relief: Mrs. Ahadi, you were honoured this year on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the BILD newspaper together with the Klitschko brothers, Joshua Wong and Raed al-Saleh as a fighter for freedom. This is significant insofar as criticizing Islam used to be defamed with the politically instrumentalizing term “Islamophobia”. You yourself were often put in the political right corner. What has changed? Continue reading “Interview with Mina Ahadi on criticising Islam in Germany”

Secularists demonstrate in Iraq

A man sings a song that sounds similar to the religious chants that were also heard in IS videos. He is filming himself with his cell phone as he walks down a street in Baghdad where a demonstration had recently taken place. The demonstration was brutally suppressed. Thick smoke rises to the sky and car tires are still burning. But the man sings no religious song. He sings: “Oh world, I come to you to tell you that this is not a religious revolution, but a humanist revolution. They shot at us with guns and artillery, but the Enlightenment follows us revolutionaries.”
One of the triggers of the riots is the bad labor situation in the country. But this time, unlike in the past, according to the newspaper Al-Bayina Al-Jadida, there were no slogans or banners to be seen.  People no longer seem to follow the old religious or political groups. They seem to be looking for new ways beyond these.

The Islamic world is changing. After a long period of religious fundamentalism, the group of young people who long for a modern, enlightened society is growing. For example, in “The Arab world in seven charts: Are Arabs turning their backs on religion”, the BBC noted that atheism is spreading in the Islamic world. Atheist Refugee Relief is also experiencing a steady increase of 150% in requests from nonreligious people throughout the Islamic world in this year alone. Given this, it seems strange that so much consideration is given to religion in the integration process in Germany. Young people in the Middle East are already a lot ahead.

Secularists demonstrate in Iraq

A man sings a song that sounds similar to the religious chants that were also heard in IS videos. He is filming himself with his cell phone as he walks down a street in Baghdad where a demonstration had recently taken place. The demonstration was brutally suppressed. Thick smoke rises to the sky and car tires are still burning. But the man sings no religious song. He sings: “Oh world, I come to you to tell you that this is not a religious revolution, but a humanist revolution. They shot at us with guns and artillery, but the Enlightenment follows us revolutionaries.”
One of the triggers of the riots is the bad labor situation in the country. But this time, unlike in the past, according to the newspaper Al-Bayina Al-Jadida, there were no slogans or banners to be seen.  People no longer seem to follow the old religious or political groups. They seem to be looking for new ways beyond these.

The Islamic world is changing. After a long period of religious fundamentalism, the group of young people who long for a modern, enlightened society is growing. For example, in “The Arab world in seven charts: Are Arabs turning their backs on religion”, the BBC noted that atheism is spreading in the Islamic world. Atheist Refugee Relief is also experiencing a steady increase of 150% in requests from nonreligious people throughout the Islamic world in this year alone. Given this, it seems strange that so much consideration is given to religion in the integration process in Germany. Young people in the Middle East are already a lot ahead.

Violence against ex-Muslim on open street in Flensburg

Amed Sherwan (Photo: private)

Even in non-Muslim countries threats and violence against ex-Muslims are unfortunately not uncommon. A recent case from northern Germany bears witness to this.

Flensburg. The confessed ex-Muslim and secular activist Amed Sherwan just came out of a house entrance when he was hit on the head and feet from behind and was beaten and kicked lying on the floor. This incident took place in broad daylight in the presence of numerous people in the center of Flensburg. After the police and ambulance were alerted quickly, the worst could be averted.
This was preceded by an argument between the perpetrator and Sherwan two days earlier at a street festival in the idyllic port city. The perpetrator had obviously recognized Sherwan and at first only verbally attacked him. When Sherwan pulled his mobile phone out of his pocket shortly afterwards to take pictures at the party, the perpetrator again insulted Sherwan and accused him of having taken a picture of his wife. The woman spat at Sherwan and the man threatened Sherwan. Two days later he then carried out the threat. Continue reading “Violence against ex-Muslim on open street in Flensburg”

How Islamist networks silence critical voices on Facebook

It is 13 July 2019 when Aida (name changed) calls me and says: “Facebook has blocked my page again. I don’t have access anymore”. It is now already the twentieth time that this happened to her. This time it’s about the accusation of hate speech and nudity. The entire Facebook page is now no longer accessible. Not even for her. Everything is gone. All her work, the critical discussions with the subscribers. Everything lost.

Many bloggers who are critical of Islam and the misanthropic culture in their home countries are like her. They stand up for the rights of women, homosexuals, atheists or other minorities who have to live in constant fear in this social system. They also fight for the modernisation of their home countries and the banishment of religion from public life and above all from the state.

Aida fights mainly for feminism and against religion. She displays the violence that society in Islamic countries is using against women on Facebook and has thus achieved growing popularity in the Arab community. She is part of a liberal network that discusses on Facebook how to improve the situation in the home countries. Her site was an important part of it. She had about 7000 followers and the number grew every day.

All this is now taken off the net because a post was reported as hate speech. There were also reports of nudity being displayed. Triggers were pictures of a child who was exposed to massive violence by the family. Aida had published it to point out that this child is not protected from this abuse by the Iraqi state. She herself knows the everyday nature of violence against children from her own experience. She still suffers from the consequences today. In her home country, the right of parents to their children is seen as more important than the rights of children. Aida mainly blames religion for this.

What followed this post was something all too familiar to all critical bloggers. There follows a wave of reports to Facebook. These described her post as “hate speech”, “inciting the people” or “immorality (Nudity)”. When a certain amount of reports are made, the facebook page is automatically blocked. This method is very effective. Even well-known sites like Atheist Republic have been exposed to such actions.

But who is behind these Islamist networks?

Islamist net activist Abdullah A.

It’s mostly Islamists like in this case Abdullah A., who is supposed to work for the Iraqi embassy in India, who incite these reports. He has 21.000 followers on Facebook and has therefore a big influence. The 20-year-old talks openly about “his army”. He called through this channel to block the side of Aida. What followed were over 600 reports to Facebook – the site was completely blocked because complaints about other posts had already been received before. When the page was off the net, you could see on Mr. A.’s page how they congratulated each other that another critic was silenced.

This story happens every day with many critics. It is an unequal struggle. Because when Aida had received threats over Facebook and she reported them, she got as a reply that it wouldn’t violate the Facebook guidelines. Maybe it was only because she submitted the complaint on her own and could not activate an “army”.