Atheist Republic is saddened to learn of the recent passing of two important leaders within the international Atheist Republic community; Silvia Gerger and Termeh Nashvan. In reaction to the heart-wrenching news, Atheist Republic’s President and CEO, Susanna McIntyre, stated, “The loss of both Silvia and Termeh has hit our community hard. These two women were outspoken and incredible leaders in our community. The energy and passion that they committed to the cause of protecting atheists, as well as the LGBT community, seemed endless. Their commitment to promoting freethought and civil freedoms inspired many to respond to their call to action and get involved. I hope that the memory of their lives and their activism will inspire people to honor their legacies by continuing the work that they loved so much.”
Termeh Nashvan was a subversive political activist, a passionate LGBT rights activist, and an atheist. Almost four years ago, along with Sam Gerami, proposed to Atheist Republic’s founder, Armin Navabi, to form a sectionof the organization dedicated to providing content and community to Persian speakers. Due to her efforts and of course those of many other friends, the Persian section began! The Persian wing of Atheist Republic has since become a thriving and influential community, with large followings on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Discord, and the voice-sharing social media site Clubhouse.
Until last year, when she voluntarily stopped her collaboration, she was in charge of coordinating various teams of volunteers in her role as the director of the Persian section of the Atheist Republic. At the same time, she acted as a co-host of the shows and live programming on the Atheist Republic Persian YouTube channel.
خاک، تو با او مهربان باش.
اگر زندگی، اگر مرگ با او مهربان نبود.
اگر انسان های دیگر با او مهربان نبودند، خاک، تو با او مهربان باش.#ترمه_نشوان#ترمه_آتئیست
مطمئنم وقتی #سهیل_عربی آزاد شد،شاد ترین لحظه زندگیش رو داشت . #freesoheil @arpersian1@AtheistRepublic @K4Kermetta pic.twitter.com/87rSyWu916
— (@babakdalivand) March 26, 2022
Termeh played a managerial and coordinating role in various activist campaigns; both those carried out exclusively by Atheist Republic and in collaboration with other groups. She was a notable coordinator of the 2019 international campaignto free Iranian atheist political prisoner and accused blasphemer Soheil Arabi, with her video speaking out against Arabi’s excessive sentencing and abuse by prison guards featured on Soheil Arabi’s Wikipedia page.
چه خبر ناراحت کنندهای، چند بار در برنامهتون با حضور ترمه عزیز بودم. یادش گرامی
— Sam Rajabi سام رجبی (@samrajabii) March 26, 2022
Eshan Sam-Rajabi, an atheist and award-winning exiled Iranian Judo athlete, reacted via Twitter to the announcement of Termeh’s death, stating, “What sad news, how many times I was in your show with the presence of dear Termeh. May her memory live on.” Ghasem, a moderator on the Atheist Republic Persian YouTube channel, said, “Termeh helped to enlighten the Persian-speaking community by helping to set up the Persian section of Atheist Republic. Personally, I owe it to her for the great changes that have been made to my beliefs and values with this [YouTube] channel. May her memory live on.”
Silvia Gerger was the consulate administrator and founder of the Atheist Republic Vienna Consulate. Silvia had a particular interest in the cause of assisting Ex-Muslims, and the AR Vienna consulate became a meeting place for many Ex-Muslims who had fled to Vienna from abroad in pursuit of freedom and safety. She passed away on March 23rd, 2022, also known as “Atheist Day.”
Silvia was also the founder of Atheist Refugees Austria, which offered specialized asylum services and consultations that were tailored to address the specific needs of atheist refugees, a very under-served group. Atheist Refugees Austria also participated in a joint effort alongside Atheistic Religious Society in Austria and Catholic theologians to certify refugees as atheists, an incredibly important step in the asylum-seeking process.
She was known for her passion for fighting for the LGBT community and prosecuted free-thinkers, and could frequently be seen at the weekly vigils in support of Saudi liberal blogger, Raif Badawi.
Dr. Andreas Gradert, a member of Atheist Republic Vienna and President of the Austrain Humanistic Association, said in a statement on the Austrain Humanistic Association website, “I've also lost a good friend in Silvia, with whom I kept talking about the current asylum status of the refugees she was caring for, and who was able to avert a lot of mischief as a result.” Her loss was also mourned by leaders of Atheists Austria, the Atheistic Religious Society in Austria, and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster Austria.
Members of the Atheist Republic Vienna consulate expressed their grief in reaction to this unfortunate news and shared memories of how they felt like Silvia was like a mother to them.
Sarker Mahmud, another leader of the Atheist Republic Vienna Consulate, shared this statement in memory of Silvia (edited for clarity):
I met Silvia online a number of years ago when the Atheist Republic Vienna consulate was just founded, and Atheist Republic (AR) was looking for some people to coordinate it. We met on a Friday morning in a weekly protest demonstration for the Freedom of Raif Badawi. I think she took part in the Free Badawi event many times before we met as she was already a well-known face among the regular demonstrators, and she did take part many times after I met her first in 2017/2018. Silvia and I became the coordinator for the Atheist Republic Vienna consulate.
Like many others, I was excited about the new AR initiative - despite this, I doubt anyone took it as seriously as Silvia did. She had frequent discussions with me on what we could do next for the promotion of our consulate event? Besides, she was especially concerned about the fate of the women in the Muslim world for their situation and the risk that ExMuslims face, including their successes and failures in the Austrian asylum process. She stood up for the right of the LGBTQ community, and she was particularly concerned about one of the members of our consulate who was still waiting for his asylum decision.
Silvia said that we should print out unique cards to advertise the Atheist Republic Vienna consulate. I loved the idea, and we designed the card as she wanted and printed them on special template papers that she bought. As an enthusiastic coordinator, she distributed AR cards among participants in many events during the following months to increase awareness of the AR Vienna Consulate. Because of her awareness campaign, our AR meetup participation number before the Covid crisis became larger and larger.
At one point, Silvia wanted to do something more productive and decided to set up Athiest Refugee Relief for Vienna. So she started communicating with the German organization, and we adopted their model and brand name to create "säkulare flüchtlingshilfe - österreich." She did not hesitate to contribute whatever was needed financially. She invited Saudi ex-Muslim author and activist Rana Ahmed and Ditmar Steiner.
I was just the helping hand with technical support and other things; Sivia was the one who was pushing us forward and keeping us active. She paid for the printing and handing out all the #FreeSoheil colorful leaflets, posters, and flyers during the international Free Soheil event organized by Atheist Republic. She punctually organized each meeting and called me to confirm the dates and online link during the covid lockdown online meetups.
With her death, I have lost a friend with whom I could easily call and discuss any issue whenever I wanted, whether something happened in Bangladesh or Pakistan, or any other part of the world, and any topic from euthanasia to circumcision. I never felt aware that she had children almost the same age as myself or that our exchange of ideas had any age gap. Silvia even ordered AR branded T-shirts for several members, including myself. She will remain an unforgettable part of my memory for as long as I live.
If you are struggling with the loss of Silvia, Termeh, or any other loved one, Grief Resource Network has complied a list of resources and hotlines that can support you in navigating your feelings of distress.