Over 200 secular activists and groups have called for today, Sunday 3 October, to be recognised as International #SoheilDay in solidarity with Soheil Arabi, an atheist political prisoner in Iran.
The campaign is run by Maryam Namazie and Jimmy Bangash of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. Jane Donnelly and I are among the signatories on behalf of Atheist Ireland.
Other signatories include philosopher AC Grayling, Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Zara Kay of Faithless Hijabi, Gulalai Ismail of Aware Girls, author Taslima Nasrin, and artist Victoria Gugenheim.
Who is Soheil Arabi?
Soheil is a 36-year-old Iranian blogger with a young daughter. He was arrested in 2013 for ‘insulting the Prophet of Islam’ in Facebook posts.
He was initially sentenced to death. Due to public pressure, his sentence was reduced but he continues to face multiple additional charges in attempts to silence him.
Soheil was originally sentenced to death, which was revised on appeal to seven and a half years in prison plus thirty lashes and two years of religious studies as well as a two-year ban from travelling abroad.
He then had another three years added to his sentence, because of his brave open letters highlighting injustice and torture, inhumane prison conditions including the denial of medical care, and the unlawful holding of political prisoners in a ward with inmates convicted of violent crimes.
In August of this year, his lawyer Tweeted that Soheil had been sentenced to yet another 2 years in prison for ‘spreading propaganda with the intention of disturbing public opinion,’ because of his outspoken advocacy for atheism and prisoner rights.
What can you do?
On this day, Sunday 3 October, we urge you to publicly highlight his plight, to contact your TDs and Senators, write protest letters, and Tweet #FreeSoheil #SoheilDay #SoheilArabi.
Please also send messages of solidarity to Soheil and his mother Farangis Mazloum who has been targeted for defending her detained son.
Two years ago Ireland removed our law against blasphemy, after a ten-year campaign led by Atheist Ireland and other secularists and human rights campaigners around the world.
The Islamic States at the United Nations used to point to the Irish law as an example of a western democracy having a law against blasphemy. They wanted the wording of our law to be introduced around the world.
The Irish law against blasphemy is now gone. Islamic States can no longer use it to bolster their abuses of human rights against their own people.
Soheil has a human right to freedom of thought, conscience, belief, and expression. He must be released immediately as must all political prisoners and those imprisoned because of their conscience and belief.
Video appeal from seven years ago
Here is a video appeal that Maryam Namazie and Fariborz Pooya recorded seven years ago, in December 2014, after Soheil was arrested.
Video appeal from last year
Here is a video appeal that I recorded last year, in April 2020, seeking support for Soheil.