The Atheist Refugee Assistance Program (A.R.A.P.) from the Association of Atheism in Turkey aims to provide help to persecuted and endangered atheists who flee to Turkey from predominantly hardline religious nations such as Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan. Most of those who reach out to A.R.A.P. live under relentless intimidation, and the constant threat of violence and death. A.R.A.P.’s diverse scope of support includes help with finding safe places to live, well-paying jobs, legal aid and support, while also providing support letters and assistance with securing financial aid and grants from existing programs designed for human rights defenders.
A.R.A.P. was recently contacted by a man named Ahmed (an alias), a 35-year-old atheist who has been at the epicenter of religious oppression in Iran; Ahmed was subjected to the draconian punishments of Sharia law before he fled to Turkey. Before his departure, he was the owner of a mobile phone workshop and stood in brave opposition to such laws in Iran until 2013.
Ahmed was regularly questioning oppressive religious practices and government policies on his social media accounts, utilizing logical arguments and related discourse while openly criticizing all Islamic practices in front of friends and customers alike. In due time, he began to receive direct threats, including threats directed at his family. Radicals and government supporters sought to intimidate Ahmed with threats to his life; then government entities sued him and accused Ahmed 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 the arduous process. He received his official residency in 2015 and became a member of Ateizm Dernegi as well. Now he dares to dream and 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 Turkish authorities decided to deport him as well as sue him before the immigration court. Ahmed turned to A.R.A.P. for legal assistance with the case, while simultaneously requesting A.R.A.P.’s help with locating a suitable employment option. Our team jumped to action and collaborated with Ahmed for the sake of his future, finding him a shop where he could restart his business, helping him to open a technical service center for mobile phone sales and repairs. A.R.A.P. was also able to connect Ahmed to a lawyer who is
working on the case against the immigration court.