Date: April 5, 2022
Names: Wahid Ahmed* and Laiq Mahad*
Nationality: Pakistan. Fled to (current location): Republic of Georgia.
Plea for Help: Wahid Ahmed, a well-known atheist blogger and human rights activist from Pakistan,
and his cousin, Laiq Mahad, have been refused asylum in the Republic of Georgia despite many formal appeals. Wahid fled to Georgia with his cousin after he was kidnapped in 2017. They have been in the Republic of Georgia for nearly five years, trying to get international protection. Their asylum case has been rejected multiple times because, according to Georgian officials, “It is not in the best interests of the Georgian government as it may strain their relationship with Pakistan.” They have exhausted their appeals in Georgia and are going to try to launch an appeal with the European Council of Human Rights.
We URGENTLY need CFIC Halifax’s assistance to help Wahid and Laiq put together a constituent group in Halifax so their applications for private refugee resettlement to Canada can be submitted. This will stop them from being deported from Georgia back to Pakistan, if they can show that they have a Canadian application number. Secular Rescue (CFIC Transnational) has secured all the necessary funds. Sponsorship and applications have been taken care of, but we need 10 people who will be able to help Wahid and Laiq get resettled in Halifax. This is all we are needing at this time.
Center for Inquiry–Washington, D.C.
1012 14th St. NW, Suite 205
Washington, D.C. 20005
This constituent group will assist with the resettlement of the refugees during their first year in Canada. This will include help finding suitable housing, opening bank accounts, engaging ISANS for registration, acquiring health cards, advising them on how to use mass transit, finding local libraries, and moving about the city — basically everything they need to set up new lives in Canada. It is a requirement of the Canadian Government that privately sponsored refugees have a constituent group to help them get settled in.
We are requesting that CFIC Halifax members try to find any Canadian citizens in Halifax who could help us. If forced to return to Pakistan, where Wahid has already been subjected to numerous threats and torture, they both face further torture, prison, and other retribution from vigilante extremist groups.
Wahid has been active on social media for many years as a voice of reason, secularism, religious freedom, and an advocate for women and minority rights. He has denounced the Islamist terrorist organisations based in Pakistan, and this resulted in antagonizing the state. He criticized the violence against non-Muslim minorities and the sectarian killings of Pakistan’s Muslims. He has publicly expressed an atheist point of view on
social media platforms, which further endangered his life as this is thought of as “dangerous” and “blasphemous” in Muslim-dominant Pakistan.
His writings have emphasized the importance of free speech, secularism, rationalism, science, condemnation of terrorism and religious dogmas, as well as minority and women’s rights. In 2017, Wahid was abducted and tortured for 21 days by a state intelligence agency. After a huge international effort, he was released on January 28, 2017, and left Pakistan immediately. Once he was released, the state publicized this fact, which created further dangers from brutal vigilante gangs who frequently target persons such as Wahid. He left Pakistan with his cousin, Laiq Mahad, who is also an atheist, and is in danger for his association with Wahid.
Wahid has been a brave critic of religion and blasphemy laws, despite the numerous threats against his life. He merely seeks the freedom of speech and conscience that every human deserves. We hope you can assist them with putting together a constituent group so that Halifax will be the new home for these two brave atheist asylumseekers.
*Names have been changed to protect identities.
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NEWS & EVENTS
SECULARISM & HUMAN RIGHTS
February is Black History Month in Canada. This year’s theme is February and Forever: Celebrating Black History today and every day.
February is also Psychology Month.
Starting the month with a sad anniversary, February 1 marks 19 years since the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated as it reentered the atmosphere, killing all seven crew members.
February 11 is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This year’s theme: “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Water Unites Us”
February 11 is also Guitar Day.
Some happier astronomical anniversaries: Galileo Galilei was born on February 15, 1564. Almost a century earlier, astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus was born, on February 19, 1473. And 60 years ago, on February 20, 1962, astronaut John Glenn became the first American (and second human, after Yuri Gargarin) launched into orbit.
Take a stand against bullying: February 24 is Pink Shirt Day.
174 years ago, on February 26, 1848, The Communist Manifesto pamphlet was published by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.
If you celebrate any of these, or have suggestions for upcoming celebrations or observances, please drop us a line or send a picture to CriticalLinks@
On December 23, Humanist Canada organized Canada’s first HumanLight celebration, bringing together humanist organizations from across the country. Our efforts in 2021 to champion the values of reason, compassion, and secular values span more than any previous 12-month period for CFIC. Slowly, step by step, more and more Canadians, along with its laws and institutions, are coming around to embrace a humanist philosophy.
- June 2018: The Supreme Court ruled that discrimination is not a protected religious right. Trinity Western University wanted to open a law school and demanded that sexual intimacy be restricted to married couples, where marriage is defined as between one man and one woman. The Supreme Court decision stated that provincial law societies were permitted to refuse to allow graduates of the program to practice law in their province.
- In December 2018, Canada’s Blasphemy law was repealed, thanks to cooperation between CFIC, Humanist Canada, and Canadian Secular Alliance. One must be patient — we met with government about this two years earlier, in December 2016.
- In December 2019, a settlement was reached for the first time in Canada that secular sobriety programs — ones that do not invoke God — are equally valid to 12-step programs that do. CFIC and the British Columbia Humanist Association supported Byron Wood, who was directly affected by this restriction.
2021 was a busy year for CFIC. Check out our many virtual presentations, available to all for free:
- Secularism in Canada
- Fusion: The Ultimate Power Source
- The Untold Story of Mother Teresa
- How to Talk to a Science Denier
CFIC held two national virtual conferences, and hosted the third annual Protecting Blasphemers event. We continued to offer recurring events that all are welcome to join, including Living Without Religion, Secular Community Network, and a non-fiction book club — check out the CFIC Virtual Branch on Meetup.
Throughout 2021, CFIC published its Cost of Religion series of reports, which thoroughly analyzes the financial cost of a single government policy: allowing the advancement of religion to be a charitable goal. The price tag is astonishing: over five and a half BILLION dollars, every year. Canadians have been generally shocked at this enormous cost, and CFIC was in the media across the country throughout the year as a result of our findings.
Look for more from CFIC in 2022, including our new Podcast for Inquiry, available now wherever you get your podcasts. Here’s to a great 2022!