Somalia: Prof. Mahmoud Ahmed-Hamdi, a humanist, is safe outside the country

– HRWF (25.06.2020) – On 2 March 2020, Professor Mahmoud Jama Ahmed-Hamdi informed HRWF about alarming death threats targeting him in Somalia. HRWF and Humanists International helped him for his relocation in a safer country. As he was also a human rights defender, HRWF could get him a relief grant.

 

Professor Mahmoud Jama Ahmed-Hamdi was a university lecturer in Somalia until he was arrested on 21 March 2019 for a Facebook post that authorities deemed to be “blasphemy.” He was then sentenced on 30 April 2019 to 2 1/2 years in prison.

 

In the Facebook post that led to his conviction in April 2019, Professor Ahmed-Hamdi commented on the need to take a more proactive approach to recurring droughts in Somalia that have been devastating for individuals and the state as a whole. The current strategy to preventing and combatting these droughts is to pray. This was his Facebook post in response to that:

‘The advanced countries make rain but we are still praying to get rain, although despite our prayers we are still suffering every year from drought.

The advanced countries, those we are considering that they are unbelievers and God hates them, live in prosperity even if God hates them. It means that they overcame God by knowledge and using reason.

So, we should learn and base our life on reason and knowledge, not on Myths.’

 

After spending ten months and seven days in prison, Professor Ahmed-Hamdi received conditional presidential amnesty and was released on 27 January 2020. However, the conditions of his release entailed severe limitations on his freedom.

 

Threats of violence and death

 

Professor Ahmed-Hamdi had previously received death threats targeting both him and his wife due to his advocacy for human rights, but now that he has been convicted of blasphemy, he is at risk from both the state and non-state actors.

 

He had been banned from working as a professor and could not share his thoughts, beliefs or knowledge with anyone in any form; otherwise he risked more jailtime or even the death sentence.

 

After Professor Ahmed-Hamdi was arrested, an individual sent his wife an email saying: ‘once your husband leaves prison I will kill him.’

 

Furthermore, Professor Ahmed-Hamdi emailed HRWF on 2 March 2020 about another death threat, one that was of particular concern as it had the potential to incite an entire congregation to violence:

‘In the Friday [28 February 2020] prayer sermon, a preacher called Adam Sunnah spoke about me and demanded to kill me, as he denounced the prison sentence that I spent because he said that the legal ruling that I deserve is murder.

 

This preacher was imprisoned several times for terrorism, and he was released from prison only four months ago, as we were together in the same prison, but in two different blocks.

 

In this sermon he speaks in the first half of it about another Somali writer who is now residing in the West, and in the second section starting from minute 28 he starts talking about me in a very provocative way.’

 

You can find the recording of this sermon here: https://youtu.be/vQNRJS37fq8.

 

In 2019 and as of June 2020, HRWF’s Database of FoRB Prisoners in the world only contained one humanist in prison in Somalia: Professor Mahmoud Jama AHMED-HAMDI.

 

 

HRWF Comment: Prison sentences for humanists and atheists

 

Atheists suffer a wide range of penalties and discrimination in many countries today.

 

Egypt, which was ranked 185th out of 196 countries by the Freedom of Thought Report 2019 of Humanists International, has been the most dangerous place for humanists, atheists and the non-religious in the world as it is the main country where they have been sentenced to prison terms on blasphemy and contempt of religion charges in the last decade.

 

However, in 2019 and as of June 2020, no atheist or humanist was in prison in Egypt while there are still a Sunni and a Coptic Orthodox in detention.

 

In June 2014, an appeal court upheld a five-year sentence handed down in absentia to Karam Saber for his short story collection entitled “Where is God?”. The accusations against Saber included: Insulting the divine, writing short stories which call for atheism, defaming divinity, and inciting strife. In his defense, Saber claimed that: “[In the stories], I expose the fake religious discourse and detect the scale of contradictions in a patriarchal society that claims religiousness while it practices the opposite, especially in terms of oppressing women. I pose simple questions that seek God amid all this absurdity we are living in”.

 

He was said to have violated Article 98 of the Egyptian Penal Code which provides a sentence of six months to five years and a fine of 500 to 1,000 Egyptian pounds [approximately €25 to €50 Euro] for anyone who uses religion to propagate ‘extremist ideas’ to incite strife, insult a monotheistic religion, or damage national unity.

 

In 2016, Mustafa Abdel-Nabi was charged with blasphemy for postings about atheism on his Facebook page and was ultimately sentenced in absentia to three years in prison.

 




SOMALIA: Conditional presidential amnesty for a professor jailed for blasphemy

On 29 January, two days after his release, Prof. Mahmoud Jama Ahmed-Hamdi called HRWF for help after spending ten months and seven days in prison

On 30 April 2019, Mahmoud Jama Ahmed-Hamdi, a university lecturer in the Northern Somali city of Hargesia, capital of the breakaway-region of Somaliland in Somalia, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for a Facebook post that authorities in Somaliland called “blasphemy.” He had been arrested on 21 March 2019.

In that Facebook post, Ahmed-Hamdi criticized the apathetic approach taken to drought in Somalia, where people pray to God instead of taking proactive steps to resolve recurring droughts. Ahmed-Hamdi said Somalis should learn from “advanced societies” such as in the United States and Europe and address drought by “making rain.”

Somaliland and large parts of Somalia have suffered from repeated droughts in recent years, a phenomenon many have connected to climate change. The droughts have killed millions of livestock in an economy dependent on livestock-exports, and have caused millions of people to be displaced and hungry. The United Nations has called for $1.6 billion dollars in international aid (https://bit.ly/2vkl6Cs) to prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths. As of 2017, there were 1.2 million malnourished children in Somalia. (Source: Samaynta News: https://bit.ly/3bmRPYs)

Posting on Facebook

“The advanced countries make rain but we are still praying to get rain, although despite our prayers we are still suffering every year from drought.

The advanced countries, those we are considering that they are unbelievers and God hates them, live in prosperity even if God hates them. It means that they overcame God by knowledge and using reason.

So, we should learn and base our life on reason and knowledge, not on Myths”.

Prof. Mahmoud Jama Ahmed-Hamdi, a secular Muslim

Prof. Ahmed-Hamdi told HRWF:

“I am a secular Muslim. It  means I am fighting to keep religion in the private sphere and the state away from the beliefs of its citizens.

I believe in the Quran, but that doesn’t make sense, because no Somali can be a non-Muslim inside Somalia, so the religion of someone became important just when he can choose it.

I fully support freedom of religion and belief, including for the atheists.”

His story was first published by Horn Cable TV (https://bit.ly/3boRrIX):

A court in the region of Maroodi Jeex sentenced today (April 30 2019) to two years and six months in prison instructor Mahmoud Jama Ahmed, nicknamed “Hamdi.” He was found guilty of the crime of blaspheming the Islamic religion, as was confirmed to Horn Cable Tv by the judge of the Maroodi Jeex court who reached the verdict. The citizen who was found guilty spread these blasphemous writings on social media, particularly Facebook. Mahmoud Jama Ahmed Hamdi taught at one of the universities in Hargiesa. In 2012, he ran as a candidate from the opposition Wadani party in municipal city council elections, although he did not win. Hamdi appealed his prison sentence, as was stated by the judge who gave the verdict. Hasan Galaydh, Horn Cable reporter, Hargiesa.

Prof. Mahmoud Jama Ahmed-Hamdi is under house surveillance.

In the name of religion or belief, he needs the assistance of secularists and believers of all faiths.

His email address is: abuabdala15@gmail.com 




SUDAN: A desperate call for help from a Sudanese ex-Muslim atheist

– HRWF (17.10.2019) – Hamo Azhari has been trapped in Istanbul airport where he is at risk of being deported back to Sudan due to a transit visa issue.
Hamo is an ex-Muslim who fled from his home country (Sudan), where the penalty for apostasy is death. His life was also threatened by his family who wanted to kill him because he had recanted Islam. They attacked him on three occasions, the last aggression resulting in hospitalization from a knife wound in his stomach. He arrived in Egypt in October 2018 and from there went to Turkey where he had hoped to reach a visa-free country.
Hamo left many messages on Twitter, including a short video:
https://twitter.com/hashtag/SaveHamo?src=hashtag_click 
https://twitter.com/hashtag/Atheist?src=hashtag_click