Powerful Message from a Persecuted Egyptian Atheist

Sherif Gaber lived a typical life as a university student in Egypt, studying sociology at the Suez Canal University in Ismailia. But his life would change because of an argument with a teacher and a few Facebook postings that got him into legal trouble.

Around a decade after that, Sherif Gaber became a vlogger and political activist, fighting for human rights in a country notorious for its human rights violations under its authoritarian government.

On March 20, he released a new video on his YouTube channel titled “Banned From Leaving - A Message from Sherif Gaber,” which briefly chronicled his ordeal at the hands of the Egyptian authorities and his plans for the future, especially now after the government prohibited him from leaving the country and took away his passport.

Gaber is no stranger to legal troubles. In 2013, he was arrested for his Facebook posts, which were forwarded by fellow students of the Suez Canal University to its rector. He was freed after paying 7,500 Egyptian pounds (equivalent to around $243.50 today) and allowed to continue his studies.

However, Gaber’s troubles with the Egyptian government continued, and two years after his first arrest, he was found guilty and sentenced to a year in prison. Gaber was given the option to appeal his case if he paid 1,000 Egyptian pounds. Gaber instead chose to go in hiding, and his location remains unknown.

Gaber found his passion in highlighting the many issues surrounding Islam and religion. He started a YouTube channel and uploaded his first video titled “Evolution and Religion are Incompatible.”

His channel soon gained traction and got 395,000 subscribers as of this article’s publication, making Gaber one of Egypt's most famous critics of religion. He managed to do this while hiding and continued updating his followers on his Instagram and Twitter accounts.

Gaber would be arrested again in 2018, and many media accounts connected his imprisonment to the many arrests that occurred during the re-election of Egyptian President El-Sisi. Among those imprisoned was Shady Abuzaid, who was arrested a week after Gaber.

Since his arrest in 2018, Gaber has made various attempts to leave Egypt. In his latest YouTube video, he recalled how he regretted not staying in Germany while he traveled to the country in 2016 and instead went back to Egypt.

He also recalled how he tried to raise funds to purchase citizenship and leave Egypt. But while Gaber raised a few thousand dollars since launching the crowdfunding campaign, it did not go as planned, and he even considered ending his life.

Nevertheless, many activists, such as Mina Ahadi of the Central Council of Ex-Muslims, called for solidarity and asked the German government to start negotiations to get Gaber out of Egypt and relocate him to Germany or somewhere in Europe.

By the end of his video, Gaber said that he wouldn’t upload any videos on YouTube until he had left Egypt. Still, he reassured his followers by saying he’ll continue to update them through his Instagram and Twitter accounts. As of March 31, Gaber’s latest video got 184,881 views.

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