Secular Rescue: Help us Help Omer
Secular Rescue is a program of the Center for Inquiry designed to provide emergency assistance to writers, bloggers, publishers, and activists who face threats due to their beliefs or expressions regarding religion.
Help Us Help Omer*
“Omer” is a 32-year-old Pakistani citizen ﬂeeing religious persecution in his native country. Omer escaped Pakistan with the assistance of the Center for Inquiry U.S. (CFI). He is currently reasonably safe and secure in another country in the region. His case has been reviewed and conﬁrmed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Omer hopes to come to Canada and has secured a Canadian sponsor under Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees program.
Centre for Inquiry Canada (CFIC) is raising funds to help Omer with living expenses in his current location, while his application for entrance to Canada is processed.
“Omer” was born into a Muslim family in Pakistan and grew up in a traditional Islamic culture. But he was inquisitive in his youth and frequently questioned the tenets of his faith with his parents, friends, and his Islamic teachers.
His inquisitiveness often put him at odds with his family, friends and his culture as he began his journey to becoming an atheist.
In 2011, at the age of 24, after a fairly heated debate about religion with a friend, Omer was abducted and beaten by five men. During this ordeal, his abductors sexually assaulted him, cut one of his fingers off and used a cigarette to burn the word “Tauba” (repent) onto his arm.
Omer managed to escape his captors, but reporting the abduction and assault to authorities was not an option. Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan. After he explained to his parents what had happened, they disowned him.
Omer then moved to Karachi and found work, and in his spare time he and a friend risked all to question the unquestionable. The two men began to post questions and controversial discussions about religion on social media.
In 2017, Pakistani law enforcement agencies initiated a targeted operation to arrest free thinkers. A warrant was registered against Omer, his friend and their social media sites. Omer’s friend Ahmad was arrested and tortured for 21 days. Another friend, outspoken atheist Ayaz Nizami, was arrested and placed in solitary confinement, and is still awaiting capital punishment. Details of police raids and abductions were in the news constantly.
When Omer received a phone call saying, “We know where you are,” and threatening to kill him for blasphemy, he threw away his phone, computer and passport. He deleted all his social media sites and went into hiding.
Omer was in hiding in Pakistan for over a year (April 2017 – August 2018). In 2018, with the assistance of other activists, he connected with representatives of the Center for Inquiry U.S. (CFI), who helped him escape from Pakistan.
On September 23, 2019, Omer received the good news that he had been recognized as a refugee by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. CFI then connected Omer with private sponsors in Canada, and the process of seeking asylum has begun.
Omer is close, but now he desperately needs our help. He is unable to work while waiting for his application to come to Canada to be processed. Please help us help Omer by donating to the CFIC Secular Rescue Fund. All donations to the CFIC Secular Rescue Fund are applied exclusively to Secular Rescue and cases like Omer’s.
* Omer is a pseudonym used for protection from potential reprisals.