The Global Effort to Rescue Persecuted Atheists
Source: Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science/YouTube (September 2016)
With more than a dozen countries criminalizing atheistic expression and anti-atheist sentiment widespread even in purportedly secular countries, organizations have popped up around the globe to rescue persecuted atheists, lobby for civil rights, and promote community and security for atheists, agnostics, and other freethinkers. Secular Rescue was launched by the Center for Inquiry in 2016 in response to the recent spate of murders of secularist Bangladeshi writers and intellectuals, and its efforts have drawn attention to the plight of freethinkers living in the Global South in need of asylum. The Atlantic recently profiled the organization as well as the conditions contributing to the greater visibility of atheists in regions conventionally assumed to be inhospitable to the growth of secularism and freethought.
“The ‘Underground Railroad’ To Save Atheists” (The Atlantic | January 2018)
“Center for Inquiry Launches ‘Secular Rescue’ to Save Lives of Threatened Activists” (The Center for Inquiry | September 2016)
Atheist Asylum Program
U.A.E. airline issues travel ban on Tunisian women
- Emirates, the U.A.E.’s national airline, barred Tunisian women from its flights, necessitating Tunisian government intervention to help stranded passengers.
- A presidential spokesperson indicated that the Emirati government had issued the directive in response to information indicating women with a Tunisian passport would attempt a terrorist attack.
- In response, Tunisia banned Emirates from landing in its capital, Tunis.
“Attack fears prompted UAE-Tunisia female passenger row” (BBC News | December 2017)
“UAE has information Tunisian women may commit ‘terrorist acts’, Tunisia says” (Reuters | December 2017)
“Tunisia suspends Emirates flights over security measures targeting women” (Agence France-Presse, via The Guardian | December 2017)
Bahrain strips Shiite leader of citizenship as anti-dissident campaign continues
- The Interior Ministry stripped Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim, a prominent Shiite cleric, of Bahraini citizenship, stirring protest among the Gulf country’s Shiite majority.
- The denaturalization took place soon after a court ordered the suspension of Bahrain’s main opposition group, Al-Wefaq, which has led pro-democracy protests in the country since 2011.
- The Sunni-led government has accused Shiite leaders of promoting foreign interests (namely Iran’s) and fomenting sectarian division and extremism in the country, leading to their denaturalization and expulsion.
“Bahrain strips Sheikh Isa Qassim of nationality” (Al Jazeera)
“Bahrain’s Sunni Rulers Revoke Citizenship of Top Shiite Cleric” (The New York Times)
“Bahrain strips top Shi’ite Muslim cleric of citizenship” (Reuters)
(Image Credit: AP via Al Jazeera)
Indonesian women continue migrating to Middle East for work despite government ban
- A new report from Migrant Care has found that more than 1,000 women have traveled to the Middle East for domestic work despite government moratorium.
- The Indonesian government announced a ban on any new labor-based migration to the Middle East in May 2015 after several high-profile reports of abuse.
- The revelation comes amidst ongoing efforts by the government to formalize labor practices in the domestic services industry both at home and abroad, with an estimated 2.3 million Indonesian domestic workers abroad and an additional undocumented population.
“Indonesian women defy ban to work as maids in Middle East: survey” (The Thomson Reuters Foundation)
“Indonesia plans to stop sending new live-in maids abroad” (The Straits Times)
“Six Gulf countries informed of Indonesia domestic workers ban” (Gulf News)
UAE acquits Libyan-Americans and Libyan-Canadian of militancy charges
- Two Libyan-Americans and a Libyan-Canadian have been detained in the country since their 2014 arrests carried out in the wake of the passage of the UAE’s Anti-Terrorism Law, initially accused of supporting Libyan terrorist groups.
- The men had been held in secret for months, with reports indicating torture and deteriorating health during their more than 500 days of detention without a trial.
- The three businessmen had reportedly traveled in and out of the UAE without incident for decades, but the UAE’s zero-tolerance policy towards extremism has made many with even tenuous connections to countries with designated terrorist groups vulnerable.
“Two American businessmen acquitted in the United Arab Emirates of supporting militants” (The Washington Post)
“UAE acquits two Libyan-Americans and Canadian of militancy charges” (Reuters)
“‘Nowhere close to a fair trial’: pressure to aid Americans and Canadian in UAE” (The Guardian)
(Image Credit: Family photo, via The Washington Post)
Iranian pilgrims denied travel rights as diplomatic row between Iran and Saudi Arabia continues
- Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization announced that Iranians would not be allowed to make the annual trek to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
- Relations between the regional rivals have deteriorated in the wake of Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Shiite cleric, which led to violent protests at the Saudi embassy in Tehran and Riyadh’s severance of diplomatic ties.
- In September 2015, hundreds of Iranians were among the thousands killed in a stampede in Mecca, and the continued absence of an official Saudi report has exacerbated tensions between the two countries.
“Iran says its pilgrims will not attend haj in Saudi” (Reuters)
“Iran pilgrims to miss Hajj amid row with Saudi Arabia” (BBC)
“Iranians will not perform Haj this year” (Gulf News)
(Image Credit: Ahmad Masood/Reuters)
Lebanese immigrants in the Gulf fear deportation as GCC-Lebanon relations deteriorate
- Relations between Lebanon and the Gulf Cooperation Council have deteriorated after Lebanon refused to condemn attacks on a Saudi ambassador in Iran.
- Sunni Gulf countries have targeted those viewed as sympathetic or connected to Shiite group Hezbollah in Lebanon, though Lebanese immigrants fear what constitutes “sympathy” or “connection” may be broad and arbitrary.
- To date, Bahrain and Kuwait have deported Lebanese on the basis of Hezbollah sympathy, and Lebanese in other Gulf countries fear their visa-renewal process.
“Lebanese expats fearful as Gulf expels dozens accused of Hezbollah links” (Reuters)
“Bahrain sends home Lebanese citizens” (The National)
“Saudi Arabia’s bitter Lebanese divorce” (Reuters)
(Image Credit: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)