Atheist Republic celebrates the recent release of Iranian atheist activist and blogger Soheil Arabi from prison! While Soheil is still facing legal hurdles before he can be truly freed from the stranglehold of the Islamic Republic of Iran, his recent release is a massive victory and relief for Iranian atheists and their allies.
On November 16th, 2021, Soheil’s lawyers announced that he was released from Rajaie Shahr prison after nearly eight years of incarceration. However, Iran imposed an additional two years of "internal exile" sentences. This time, Soheil will be held in Borazjan, a city in southern Iran, in what Reporters Without Borders calls an "illegal judicial and disciplinary harassment."
On Wednesday, November 17th, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released an article denouncing Iran's move to impose an additional two years of "internal exile" to Soheil Arabi. Reza Moini, head of RSF's Iran & Afghanistan division, calls Iran "one of the world's most repressive countries." Moini said Iran does not hesitate in "arresting and jailing its citizens arbitrarily,” adding that Iran also "gives them 'complementary sentences' to silence them forever."
Soheil's family condemns Iran's devious legal gymnastics to further his detention and his lawyer has appealed to the courts to have 285 days in which he was illegally imprisoned to be deducted from the duration of the internal exile.
The background of Soheil’s case:
Soheil was arrested in November 2013 by members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in his home in Iran's capital, Tehran. He was charged with “insulting the Prophet Muhammad” based on posts he made on Facebook.
A year after his detention, in August 2014, the Tehran Criminal Court sentenced Soheil to death. In June 2015, Iran's Supreme Court rejected Tehran's ruling and subsequently sentenced him to more than seven years in prison. The move to commute his death sentence was embraced by Amnesty International.
While detained, Soheil continued his peaceful resistance against Iran's draconian laws fueled by Islamic zealotry to suppress freedom of expression. He expanded his activism to fight for prisoner rights and undertook multiple hunger strikes demanding better conditions for his fellow inmates.
In 2017, Reporters Without Borders Awarded Soheil with the Press Freedom Prize.
Additional charges were made against Soheil between 2018 and 2021, which resulted in more detention time. On May 24th, Soheil was summoned to hear charges against him for "reporting on the prison situation, hunger strike in protest against the deprivation of the political prisoners from medical treatment. He was also charged for "publishing statements about November 2019 general protests in Iran."
Online campaigns to support Soheil and raise awareness of his plight became more intensive throughout the numerous years of his detention. Atheist Republic has campaigned tirelessly alongside an international coalition of atheist and secularist groups to monitor Soheil’s case, raise global awareness about his struggle, and pressure the Iranian regime to end their abusive behavior towards Soheil. These efforts would not have been possible without the participation of the Atheist Republic community across the globe, particularly Atheist Republic’s persian-language community Jomhooriehe Bi Khodayan, and collaborative efforts alongside the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and the Central Committee of Ex-Muslims in Scandinavia.