I should have written sooner but we have been inundated with emails and calls from ex-Muslims, supporters and others. Here are just a few we have received:
Ali says: ‘I’m a closet apostate of Islam… Hearing of your movement gives me hope.’
Amal says ‘…it’s about time we ex-Muslims came together and had our voices heard.’
And they are not only joining from Britain but from Iran, Iraq, and Kuwait…
Imran from Saudi Arabia says: ‘I don’t find the words to express my joyful feelings about the council… today by chance, luckily I found the council. I saw the video of Maryam on youtube. It gave me courage and it gave me like a fresh breath of life…’
You can read more about why 25 of us began the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain by publishing our names and photographs. As I have said: ‘Yes, your religion or lack thereof is your business but not when you are killed for it. Then a public challenge becomes a form of resistance.’
Clearly, we have hit a nerve because in just seven months, with the support of countless people like you, we have managed to challenge political Islam in Britain and elsewhere, defend secularism and universal rights, and call for humanity without labels. But there is much more that we can and must do.
You can help us do more to break the taboo that comes with renouncing Islam and to push back religion’s adverse role in society at large by:
* Donating to our organisation. We need funds to cover everything from a campaign against the Sharia courts in Britain, a comprehensive resource centre about Islam, political Islam and ex-Muslims, a support system for ex-Muslims and Ex-Muslim TV programmes that can be broadcast across Europe and the Middle East.
* Participating in our events. On March 10, we are organising a seminar with Equal Rights Now in commemoration of International Women’s Day entitled Sexual Apartheid, Political Islam and Women’s Rights at Conway Hall in London from 6:30-9:30pm. The event is free. Speakers are Mina Ahadi, Spokesperson, Council of Ex-Muslims of Germany and Equal Rights Now; 2007 NSS Secularist of the Year; Louise Couling, Chair of Unison’s Regional Women’s Committee and member of the National Executive Council; Houzan Mahmoud, Spokesperson, Organisation for Women’s Freedom in Iraq; Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and Equal Rights Now, National Secular Society Honorary Associate; and Joan Smith, Novelist, columnist and human rights activist. The seminar is chaired by Hanne Stinson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association.
* Signing on to our campaigns and urgent actions. Right now we are gathering support to turn the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day into a day against sexual apartheid.
* Adding your name and statement to our list of members or supporters.
* Volunteering your time and expertise. We particularly need help in charity law, conference organising, researching, writing and broadcasting.
According to the writer and philosopher AC Grayling, our manifesto constitutes ‘a bill of rights which is absolutely necessary for everyone, non-religious and otherwise, to adopt and observe now that the world is again experiencing, with such bitterness, widespread religion-generated difficulties.’
Together, we can and will change all that.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Amnesty International Urgent Action
Fear of Imminent Execution
Shahrbano Nedam (f), aged 50
Tayebeh Hojjati (f)
Akram (f), aged 35
Soheila (f), aged 28] full names not known to Amnesty International
Zahra (f), aged 30]
According to the newspaper E’temad, at least two women are scheduled to be executed in Evin Prison in Tehran on 5 March. Three others are at risk of imminent execution. All five women were convicted of murdering their husbands and sentenced to qesas (retribution in kind). The Head of the Judiciary has the power to order a suspension of their executions at this stage Shahrbano Nedam was convicted of killing her husband 11 years ago. She denies killing him, but said she initially confessed to the murder, for fear that her son would be accused instead. Shahrbano Nedam claims her husband committed suicide. A forensic examination reportedly concluded that this was a possibility. Akram was accused of killing her 65-year-old husband five years ago. She stated that she was forced into the marriage by her family after her first marriage, to a drug addict, failed, and that she had not wanted to marry him. E’temad claims that another woman, Soheila, may also be at risk of execution on 5 March, although her name has not been confirmed by the judicial authorities. Soheila killed her five-day-old son. During her trial, E’temad states that she explained that her son was born as a result of a relationship outside marriage with a drug addict who had given her a refuge a year previously. As she refused to name the father, the complaint against her was made by the Tehran prosecutor, and she was sentenced to qesas. Two other women are also said to be at imminent risk of execution, as their death sentences have been passed to the Office for the Implementation of Verdicts, although no date is known to have been set. Tayebeh Hojjati has been held in Evin for the past eight years after conviction for the murder of her husband. Zahra, aged 30, was convicted of killing her 70-year-old husband after he returned home drunk in January 2006.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION In the Iranian Penal Code murder is punishable by qesas-e nafs, or death. Murder by someone with diminished responsibility may be punishable by the payment of diyeh, a form of compensation. In cases of premeditated murder, the family of the victim has the right to ask for their relative’s killer to be put to death. The family can also choose to forgive the culprit and accept payment of diyeh instead. Also in the Iranian legal system, there is a distinction between cases where the penalty is “execution” (hokm-e ‘edam) and qesas, although people sentenced to qesas are often reported in the media to have been sentenced to death. In Iranian law, murder is treated as a private dispute between two civil parties – the state’s role is to facilitate the resolution of the dispute through the judicial process. In this sense, the death penalty is regarded as being imposed by the state, whereas qesas is imposed by the family of the victim. As a result, sentences of qesas are not open to pardon or amnesty by the Supreme Leader, whereas most other death sentences can be reversed by the Supreme Leader. This is in contravention of Article 6 (4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a state party, which says that in the eyes of international law, Iran remains fully responsible for respecting and protecting the rights of those under its jurisdiction, irrespective of the role that private parties may play in the administration of justice. Amnesty International is also campaigning for an end to legislation which discriminates against women in Iran, including in areas such as marriage, divorce and child custody, which Iranian campaigners believe contributes in some circumstances to women committing violent crimes.
Call for an immediate halt to the executions of Shahrbano Nedam, Akram, and Soheila, who may all be scheduled for execution on 5 March, as well as the executions of Tayebeh Hojjati and Zahra, whose executions may also be imminent; that their death sentences be commuted; and an end to the death penalty.
You can write to:
Head of the Judiciary Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi
Howzeh Riyasat-e Qoveh Qazaiyeh / Office of the Head of the Judiciary
Pasteur St., Vali Asr Ave.
south of Serah-e Jomhouri
Leader of the Islamic Republic Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei
Office of the Supreme Leader
Islamic Republic Street
Shahid Keshvar Doust Street
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad