Fears grow for Iranian atheist Soheil Arabi

Posted: Wed, 11th Jan 2023

Soheil Arabi

The National Secular Society has joined a campaign for the release of an atheist blogger arrested in Iran.

Soheil Arabi, a critic of Iran's Islamic republic, was reportedly arrested on 2 January. During his arrest, he was beaten so badly that he had a heart attack and was taken to hospital, according to the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB).

Arabi is being held in Greater Tehran Prison. CEMB has said his life "is at grave risk" in light of Iran's crackdown on dissenters since the uprisings sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini last year.

Iran has publicly executed four protesters and arrested over 19,000 people over anti-Islamic Republic demonstrations. Over 500 have been killed during protests.

Arabi has faced continuous persecution for his blogging and social media activities. In 2013 he was sentenced to death on charges of "insulting the Prophet of Islam" in Facebook posts that were critical of the Iranian state. Due to public pressure, the sentence was commuted to several years' imprisonment and two years of mandatory study of Islamic theology.

In 2021 he was sentenced to another two years in prison for "spreading propaganda with the intention of disturbing public opinion".

In 2017 Arabi won Reporters Without Borders's Press Freedom Prize. The prize honours courageous and independent journalists who have faced threats or imprisonment for their work and who have challenged the abuse of power.

NSS: "We join worldwide calls for Arabi's immediate and safe release"

The NSS has joined a coalition of over 40 human rights organisations, coordinated by CEMB, in calling for Arabi's release in a joint statement (below).

NSS chief executive Stephen Evans said: "We are extremely concerned about Soheil Arabi's wellbeing. It's clear his life is in grave danger.

"Iran's silencing of dissenters through threats of violence, imprisonment and execution must be condemned by everyone who values freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion or belief.

"We join worldwide calls for Arabi's immediate and safe release."

In 2021 the NSS joined over 200 organisations and individuals from around the world to pledge support for 'International Soheil Day' on 3 October.

Join statement from the campaign to #FreeSoheil

We, the undersigned ex-Muslim, atheist, secularist and freethought organisations, have joined together to politically sponsor the well-known Iranian atheist and ex-Muslim Soheil Arabi, who was re-arrested from his home on 2 January 2023 by the Islamic Republic of Iran's security forces.

Sources have informed us that he was violently beaten during the arrest, denied much-needed medicine and moved to an unknown location.

We are extremely concerned about his well-being given the increased risk of execution for many protestors and critics in an effort to quell the revolutionary uprising since the murder of Mahsa Jina Amini. As a long-term political prisoner previously on death row, Soheil's life is at grave risk.

A political sponsorship system has proven effective in protecting Iranian political prisoners. As Soheil Arabi's political sponsors, we will continue to advocate and mobilise support and solidarity for him and put pressure on the Islamic regime of Iran to free him immediately and unconditionally.

Atheist Republic | Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain | Ateizm Dernegi (Association of Atheism, Turkey) | Ateizm Dernegi International Foundation | Atheist Ireland | Atheist Refugee Relief | Bread and Roses TV | Center for Inquiry Canada | Center for Inquiry | Freedom From Religion Foundation | Central Committee of Ex-Muslims in Scandinavia | Centre for Civic Courage, Croatia | Council of Ex-Muslims of Germany | Council of Ex-Muslims of Singapore | Council of Ex-Muslims of Sri Lanka | Ex-Muslims of Netherlands | Ex-Muslims Of Norway | Ex-Muslims of Toronto | Faithless Hijabi | FEMEN | Freethought Lebanon | Giordano Bruno Foundation | Humanist Ottawa | Inara association of Tunisian atheists and freethinkers | Indian Rationalist Association | International League of Non-Religious and Atheists | Peter Tatchell Foundation | Kazimierz Lyszczynski Foundation | Kent Community Secular Alliance | Liberals Mauritania | Livonia Arabic Salon | Manaarah Initiative | Muslimish | Arab Humanists USA | National Secular Society | One Law for All | Quebec Humanist Association | Rationalist International | Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science | Secular Connexion Séculière | Secular Underground Network, a project of the Fix Foundation | Secularism is a Women's Issue | Southall Black Sisters

CEMB encourages supporters to take the following action to support Soheil Arabi:

  • Raise awareness on social media using the hashtags #WhereIsSoheilArabi #FreeSoheilArabi
  • Send a letter to your elected representative asking them to put pressure on the Islamic regime
  • Write to the embassy of Islamic Republic calling on them to release Soheil and all political prisoners

Tags: Free speech