Adel is a refugee from Iraq. He writes about the beginning of the Atheist Refugee Relief Stuttgart and his new life in Germany.
Adel, why and how did you come to Germany?
Even as a youth in Iraq I had my doubts about religion or let’s say I had questions, but in the Muslim world one must not question religion and certainly not criticize it. I found it strange that we should worship a God who always threatened us with hell. Everything revolved around Allah. He also dominated our private lives. By the time I started studying medicine, faith clashed with the theory of evolution. I had the opportunity to go on the Internet and then read about evolution and human rights. I had to hide my thoughts, because there were a few people with whom one exchanged ideas, but always under aliases. The vice squad was watching out, and I was aware that I was playing with fire.
Social control is already very strong in all Muslim countries. Again and again I toyed with the idea of fleeing to a country that respects human rights, because it was becoming increasingly difficult to suppress my secular thoughts. But you don’t leave your family and friends just like that. I knew I had to leave my old life, 26 years old, behind and start a completely new life. I did not know how it would be. I had never experienced living in a free country before.
Due to the lockdown, we unfortunately had to interrupt our activities in the Atheist Refugee Relief here in Stuttgart. In cooperation with the lpb we had planned the book presentation “Frauen dürfen hier nicht träumen – mein Ausbruch aus Saudi-Arabien” (Women must not dream here – my escape from Saudi Arabia). The presentation was to be held with the author Rana Ahmad, co-founder of the Atheist Refugee Relief e.V. together with our representation here in Stuttgart. We were naturally disappointed that the project now had to be postponed until 2021. Although we kept in touch with our individual members via WhatsApp at that time and also held a video conference, it was clear to us that the group had the desire to meet again “analogue”. Since the group is spread over Ludwigsburg and Stuttgart from Bad-Wimpfen to Esslingen, the need to meet is great.
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.