Tunisian Atheists sentenced to seven and a half years of prison
“Problems started since university times, when a student from my dorm decided to throw me out the window, if not for my friend Atef Khawaja, , who held him back in the last moment , and that is because of a debate we had about Islam.”
With these words, the Tunisian young man Ghazi El Beji started telling me his story with the religious oppression that transformed his life to a terrifying nightmare. It made him live his days followed by Tunisian police and a group of citizens that assigned themselves the duty of protecting religion.
Ghazi spoke to me after he and his friend (about whom I will talk later) were sentenced in absentee to seven and a half years of prison and a fiscal penalty of 1200 Tunisian Dinars, by a court in Mahdia.
Ghazi El Beji graduated from university in 2007, he did not find a degree appropriate job, so worked as a ticket agent in the coast metro in Tunis. During his work, his colleagues have discovered his atheism, and started harassing him and calling him anathema until the news spread around to everyone in the agency. His fellow ticket agent kept him from getting on the train unless he states that he is Muslim in front of everyone, so Ghazi did in order to be left alone, but that did not prevent him getting fired from work due to the numerous accusations of heresy.
Afterwards, Ghazi started working in the alimentary dough factory in Sousse, and he was busted eating during the day in Ramadan. His colleagues started asking why he wasn’t fasting, so he answered that he was sick and cannot , but they insisted on bothering him and the problems started growing and questions rising :”why don’t you pray? Why don’t you read the Quran?” Until he could not stand it anymore, so he told them that he does not believe in what they worship, and that he is free in what he thinks , but no one understood his position and Ghazi became everyone’s worry in the factory, and they named him “Abu Lahab”. Afterwards the matter reached the administration so they called him and made him state that he was Muslim, and asked him various questions such as “who is your God?”… He told them that he came to the factory to work and that religion was not related to the efforts he makes for the factory. Nevertheless, this statement did not help, but rather worsened the matter: everyone started hating and avoiding him. He was ejected by all, and the factory director was glancing at him with scorn, and giving him non-innocent illusions thinking that he was homosexual, as his colleagues asked him about his opinions concerning sex and homosexuality, so he was eventually fired regardless his good performance.
After the Tunisian revolution, in Mars 2012, Ghazi had an operation on his knee and spent 4 months in the bed: he used them to write a book he called “The Illusion of Islam” and published it on the internet thinking he was in a new era and that the internet will provide him with a margin of freedom, after the edition houses refused to print his book.
The book spread on the net and was read by thousands of people on the “script” site. One of his friends, Jaber El Majri, English professor , also an atheist, wrote a second book and cursed the government, Islamists, Prophet Mohamed, drew a pig sleeping on the Kaaba , and expressed his hatred towards Arabs and his love to Israel and its prime minister Natanyaho, expressing his anger because he is unemployed and exploited when employed.
El Majri sent his book to several people, and then a Tunisian lawyer named Fouad Sheikh Zaoueli filed a law-suit in the primary court of Mahdia against El Majri. He also was subject to physical violence from a person names Wael Nairi, and he reported to the police, but the police disregarded the attack.
On March 5th, the police arrested Jaber El Majri with his laptop, and asked him under torture about his friend El Beji who they heard has also written a book anti-Islam, but before he confessed, Ghazi went to the police to ask about the reason his friend was arrested, so the police shouted in his face that: “you also are an atheist!”. Ghazi said that being an atheist was irrelevant and that he came to ask why was his friend arrested.
On March 9th, Ghazi went to the court to check the file of his friend and he learned that he is also accused in it. He fled to Libya but found the Islamist everywhere and the country in chaos, so he went back to Tunisia, where his family told him that the police broke into his house looking for his computer, from which he removed the memory before escaping to Libya..
Ghazi’s fears grew, and he went to the Tunisian Coalition of Protection of Human Rights branch in Mahdia, and spoke to Mr. Mohamed Hamza, who advised him to run from Tunisia to Algeria before the court sends his arrest sentence.
In Algeria, Ghazi contacted the UN but instead of offering him humanitarian help to his freedom of religion, thought and expression case, they gave him grief for his atheism and a second meeting time for him to come back on March 25th, three weeks after his first visit.
Ghazi says that his aunt living in France, advised him to run to Europe through Turkey because she did not trust the Algerian regime, after she sent him 500 euros.
He traveled afterwards to Turkey and crossed the Greek boarders illegally and is receiving bad news about the Salafis. Ghazi El Beji lives now in Athena after he illegally crossed the river boarder between Turkey and Greece swimming and he almost died drowning.
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