Soheil Arabi has been sentenced to death for something you do every day. Protesters are trying to save him and having to fight for their right to do so.
Imagine this: you get home from work, take off your shoes and sit down with your phone to catch up on Facebook posts. You see something you agree with and share it. A few days later, police show up and arrest you. They rip you from your family, take you jail and sentence you to die. Your offense? Sharing something that offended religious sentiments. If this sounds unbelievable, consider yourself lucky. Blasphemy laws in several Islamic countries make this scenario all too common.
Soheil Arabi, a 34-year-old Iranian blogger, father, husband and photographer is living this situation. In 2013, he was sentenced to death for sharing a Facebook post. The problem is that in Iran it’s illegal to insult Prophet Muhammad, which his post allegedly did. In 2015, the death sentence was commuted to two years of studying Islamic books and practices but they have not officially taken the death sentence off the table. The Iranian government has found creative ways to add years to his sentence and no one knows if he’ll ever be released. Arabi has been beaten terribly, his relatives harassed and recently, his mother was arrested for speaking out on his behalf.
Atheist Republic, a world-wide nonprofit organization, dedicated August 17th 2019 to Arabi and spreading his story. Protests took place in cities around the globe from Chicago to Melbourne. Atheists and free speech activists gathered together to march in front of Iranian Embassies, government buildings and even took to the streets with #FreeSoheil banners.
Armin Navabi, the founder of Atheist Republic, took part in a #FreeSoheil protest stationed in front of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in London. Navabi, along with several atheist activists, were met by police and asked to move away. After informing the officer that they have the right to protest at that location, the officer attempts on several occasions to obtain Navabi’s personal contact information. She even goes as far as to tell him he must answer her question by law, which is not true:
YouTube Video Courtesy of CosmicSkeptic
Soheil Arabi’s story needs attention and the government of Iran needs to see outrage over their blasphemy laws and sentencing practices. Navabi reminds people, in an interview with CosmicSkeptic, that protests work. He said, “the only reason why the death sentence was commuted in the first place was due to public outrage from other humanist organizations. Now that people have started ignoring Arabi, he’s being beaten in prison.”
If you’re fortunate enough to share Soheil Arabi’s story and not be imprisoned…do it.