Category Archives: WANA

AAT’s Atheist Refugees Assistance Program

In our search for interesting, challenging and critical perspectives on contemporary humanism, we occasionally find articles published via other venues that we think HumanistFreedoms.com readers may enjoy. The following article was located on Bianet.org on June 1, 2022.

By: Melin Durmaz

İstanbul – BIA News Desk – 26 May 2022

The Atheism Association in Turkey is running several projects, most notably the Atheist Refugees Assistance Program (ARAP).

As part of the ARAP project, 13 people were provided with housing, nine people were provided with jobs, 25 people were provided with legal assistance and reference letters were provided for 22 files in two years. Also, 20 people were provided with psychological, financial or educational counseling.

The ARAP project has three partners: The Atheist Alliance International, the Center for Inquiry and the Ex Muslims of North America.

Summarizing their work, Süleyman Karan, the chair of the association, said, “With the ARAP Project, the association carries out integration work for people who had to migrate due to religion. The association provides translation support in addition to legal support for refugees’ questions, such as ‘How to find a home? How to get a residence permit? How to access education?'”

“At least 3 percent of Turkey are atheists”According to the official data, at least 3 percent of the people in Turkey are atheists. Atheism is divided within itself and the association forms an umbrella, said Karan.”The reason for the existence of the Atheism Association is to show that different atheists exist in this country as a community of at least 3 percent [of the country]. Currently, deism has the highest share; it is followed by agnostics.”Deism and agnosticism have a manageable comfort in the public. For an atomized individual, to feel is super comfortable. Saying that a creator exists facilitates one’s existence in society. Agnostic atheism, however, says positioning ourselves on a thing that we can never know whether it exists or not is not right.”

Karan also talked about the stories of the people who applied to them:

“Atheists refugees are under threat”

“People are coming from Iran, Afghanistan. There are many refugees whose families are taken prisoner in Iran. We had atheist friends who lost one eye because of torture in their own countries. An activist in Afghanistan is currently trying to survive by changing hotels every day.

“In this region, there is a considerable number of secular, atheist and deist people. Refugee people are under double oppression. They are both displaced from their homeland and they are subjected to discrimination and threats within their communities because they are atheists. For example, a Syrian atheist is under serious threat in terms of mental health and life safety within their refugee community.”

The ARAP project is carried out with two employees who speak Persian and Arabic. The association is also looking for lawyers because their services in migration law are weak, said Karan.

“We are the pole star in the region”

Noting that they are the only atheism association in Turkey that is accredited by the European Union and the United Nations, Kata said, “Along with being the only atheist and humanist association in the region, we are in a transit location for migrants.”

“Even though there is an association in Nigeria with the name of the Nigerian Humanism Association, its chairperson Mubarak Bala was sentenced to prison. Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes for writing blog posts criticizing religious regulations. In this context, we are a little pole star that the countries in the region can look at.”

Campaign against high azan volume

The Atheism Association is also running campaigns about the compulsory religion class, high volume of azan, the Muslim call for prayers, and removal of the “religion” section from ID cards.

“[Lawyer] Tuba Torun brought the compulsory religion class issue to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and won. We also provide legal support in this regard.

“Another issue is the campaign to remove religion from identity. The ‘Take five minutes to get rid of this’ campaign. This is also child abuse. Your family cannot assign you a religion before you can make up your mind. This is a successful campaign that we run, saying, ‘Show courage and give the right answer to one of the most fundamental problems of existence.’

“In Rize, someone told the civil registry directorate that they wanted to erase the religion section and the official told them that ‘They will kill you.’ The boy came to the Beşiktaş Civil Registry Directorate [İstanbul] and had it erased.

“Another campaign of ours is the high volume of azan, which we consider to be environmental and noise pollution. The [Presidency of] Religious Affairs is responsible for the volume not exceeding a certain level. But, while the azan would not be heard in Teşvkiye and Muradiye Mosques in the past, it is now very disturbing in Şişli. We provide legal support for this.”

Humanist perspective

The association puts the humanist perspective at the center of atheism. Karan is of the opinion that refugee policies in Turkey should also be addressed within this framework.

“Refugees come to Turkey from different countries and regions. Integration policies should be developed by protecting the freedoms and rights of refugees within the framework of human rights, starting from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We have to support refugees. This is the case from a humanist perspective.

“When I say humanist, I’m not talking about loving humans, I mean being human-centered. I mean the likes of Thomas More and David Hume.

Humanism is the basic proposition behind the universal declaration of human rights, the rule of law, and secularism. The main effort of humanism is to take the power from there and bring it here. Humanism is people putting themselves before God.” (MD/AÖ/VK)


Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Feature Image Courtesy: https://www.atheistrefugeesturkey.com/post/jana-s-story
  2. https://bianet.org/english/migration/262402-turkey-s-atheism-association-is-helping-atheist-refugees-faced-with-double-oppression
  3. https://www.atheistrefugeesturkey.com/about-us#:~:text=WHAT%20IS%20ASSOCIATION%20OF%20ATHEISM%2C%20TURKEY%3F%20The%20Association,Republic%20of%20Turkey%2C%20European%20Union%20and%20United%20Nations.
  4. http://turkishatheist.net/
  5. https://www.atheistrepublic.com/news/turkish-atheism-association-shuts-down-due-pressure

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