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Escaping Religious Persecution: A Brave Atheist's Journey from Afghanistan to Safety

Sardar was being indoctrinated to become a mullah or imam during his formative years in Afghanistan. Problems started to occur in school and at home; his teachers were trying to put a stop to Sardar’s curiosity, as kids are prone to have in abundance. He had a tendency to ask questions about religion that made his teacher uncomfortable and angry; the school warned his family that they needed to control their child since, in their view, he was a bad example to other students. As a consequence of his curious nature Sardar was routinely beaten by his father as well as his teacher.

As he grew up, he and his family began to receive death threats from Hezbollah, the Shia Islamist political party and militant group based in Lebanon, which controls nearly everything in Afghanistan. The social and cultural pressures, along with that of Hezbollah, frightened his father to the point that he warned son that he would kill him with his own hands. Through this murderous act he would be able to declare to Hezbollah and the local community that his family were good Muslims and would follow the edicts of Islam.

When Sardar turned 20, Hezbollah representatives and Sardar’s male family members gathered together and began to argue about Sardar’s life. At this time he was locked inside an empty room for three days without food and water. After those very difficult three days and nights, the congregation decided to ask Sardar if he intended to behave, and would he accept admission into a mental hospital to get treatment for his “ailments,” and if so, they would allow him to live. Sardar succumbed to their demands out of fear for his life.

However, Sardar decided to run away from the mental health institution where doctors were treating his so-called “mental illness.” He fled to Turkey by crossing the border illegally; upon learning of this development Hezbollah declared that whoever killed him in the name of God will earn the right of paradise.

Sardar has been living safely in Turkey now for more than four years, yet without residency or a working permit. He applied to ARAP for help in finding accommodation and legal aid. We have since tried to help Sardar and his family to submit their asylum applications at a few different immigration offices in Turkey. Our initial attempts were unsuccessful because most immigration officers in Turkey do not process atheist/nonbeliever applications from endangered secularists because of their inherent bias or fear of demotion by superiors. Most recently, though, Sardar managed to relocate to a country in Europe (by his own capacity) and has since applied for political asylum. Our ARAP program remains in contact with Sardar, providing him with support while he endures the lengthy asylum-review process, as well as providing him with legal documents and letters that will assist him with his objectives.


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