Mohammed fled from Iraq to Germany in 2015 and was granted refugee status in 2020. The Secular Refugee Aid Stuttgart asked him about his history.
Mohammed, for what reasons did you flee your homeland?
Since I am an atheist, my life was in danger. I had to expect to be killed.
How did you become an atheist?
I come from a religious family that belongs to an ancient Bedouin tribe. My parents have become more and more religious over the years. As a child and teenager, I was forced to visit the mosque and observe the Holy Month and Ramadan. Then I started to deal more intensively with questions of faith, and more and more critical questions came to me. After careful consideration, I decided at the age of 18 to leave Islam for good. The ubiquitous violence, the lack of freedom, the lack of critical faculties, the entanglement with the state, the understanding of marriage and the strict rules in general have deeply deterred me. I also found no answers to existential questions in Islam or in any other religion. For me, facts, realities and science became the basis of my thinking. The poet and free thinker Abu l-Ala al-Ma`arri, who lived 1000 years ago and was critical of religion, became a source of inspiration for me.
How was your atheism discovered, how did the threatening situation arise?
On 23 May 2020, Mahmudul Haque Munshi was unanimously elected as a new member of the board of directors at the general meeting of the Secular Refugee Aid Association. Munshi had fled to Germany in the autumn of 2015 after he was threatened as a religion-free and Islam-critical blogger in Bangladesh and survived assassination attempts, but lost several of his friends who were hacked to death with machetes in the street. The association’s board now consists of Rana Ahmad, Mahmudul Haque Munshi and Stefan Paintner. The non-profit association is thus a migrants’ self-organisation (MSO).
On 23 May 2020, Mahmudul Haque Munshi was unanimously elected as a new member of the board of directors at the general meeting of the Secular Refugee Aid Association. The board of directors now consists of Rana Ahmad, Mahmudul Haque Munshi and Stefan Paintner. Thus the non-profit association is a migrant self-organisation (MSO).
Authorities in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania began a large-scale wave of detentions of human rights defenders two months ago.
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.
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*.
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
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.
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
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.
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”