Updated: May 3
The Atheist Refugee Assistance Program (ARAP), a program of the Association of Atheism, an NGO based in Turkey, aims to provide help and vital services to persecuted and endangered atheists who flee from danger to Turkey. Most of our cases originate from predominantly hardline Islamic nations such as Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan. Those who reach out to us at ARAP live under relentless intimidation and fear; they endure constant threats of violence and death. It is the reason for ARAP’s existence.
Our program’s diverse range of support services includes help with finding safe places to live, good-paying jobs, legal aid, and logistical support, while also providing support letters and assistance with securing financial aid and grants from existing programs designed for human rights defenders.
ARAP was contacted by a man named Ahmed (an alias), who is a 35-year-old atheist at the epicenter of religious oppression in Iran. Ahmed was subjected to the draconian punishments associated with Sharia law before he fled to Turkey for safety. Before his departure he was the owner of a mobile phone workshop and stood in brave opposition to oppressive laws in Iran until 2013.
Ahmed was openly questioning oppressive religious practices and related government policies on his social media accounts, utilizing logical arguments and associated discourse while openly condemning Islamic practices in front of friends and customers alike. In due time, he began to receive direct threats against his life, including threats directed at his family. Radicals and government supporters sought to intimidate and silence Ahmed; then government entities sued him and accused him of being a spy for Israel. When the threats and lawsuits began to overwhelm, he decided to flee Turkey in 2013.
Since then he has been residing in numerous cities while seeking asylum and going through that arduous process. He received his UNHCR protection status in 2015 and became a member of Ateizm Dernegi as well. Recently he has begun to build a life for himself in Turkey without any of the dangers he was subjected to in his homeland.
However, in September 2020 the Turkish authorities decided to deport him. Ahmed turned to ARAP for urgent legal assistance, while simultaneously requesting our help with locating suitable employment. Our team jumped into action and collaborated with Ahmed for the sake of his future. First, we managed to put a stop to the deportation order, and then we found him a shop where he could restart his mobile-phone repair business. ARAP case managers were also able to connect Ahmed to a quality lawyer who is working on the appeal process.