Turkey blocks website of its first atheist association

It took less than a year for a Turkish court to block the website of the country’s first official atheism association.

According to News.AZ, the Atheism Association, the first of its kind in any Muslim-majority country, was officially founded in Istanbul’s Asian-side neighborhood of Kadıköy in April 2014, Hurriyet Daily reports. However, the Gölbaşı 2nd Civil Court of Peace in Ankara has finally moved to block the association’s website, according to the group’s statement on March 3, 2015.

As of March 4, Turkish internet users could not access www.ateizmdernegi.org without using tools to bypass blockings, such as a VPN.

The court ruling cites Article 216 of the Turkish Penal Law, which forbids “provoking the people for hate and enmity or degrading them.”


Egyptian student given prison sentence for atheist Facebook posts

Suez Canal University President personally filed legal case against student Sherif Gaber, who claims he was tortured in custody

According to Daily News Egypt, A student from Ismailia was given a one year prison sentence by a court Monday for contempt of religion relating to activities on campus and atheist statements online.

Sherif Gaber, 22, was studying at Suez Canal University in 2013, when teaching staff and fellow students reported him via a petition to the institution’s President. They said he had made posts supporting atheism on Facebook, and suspected him of being behind a page called ‘The Atheists’.

Subsequently, the university’s then-president Mohamed A. Mohamedein personally filed a legal complaint against the student to the local prosecution on the grounds of contempt of religion. Monday’s verdict on the case allows Gaber to avoid the prison sentence on a bail of EGP 1,000. However, a retrial that could increase the sentence to over two years is due to take place in the coming weeks.


Turkey Rolls Back Secular Education To Raise 'Pious Generation'

According to Huffington Post, the ruling Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party insists it is simply heeding the demands of a conservative and pious majority. It says the education measures aim to undo restrictions on religious education that were imposed following Turkey's so-called "soft military coup" of 1997, when the then-powerful military -- which saw itself as the guardian of Ataturk's secular principles -- pressured an Islamic-led government out of power and moved to close down vocational religious middle schools.


Saudi academic claims women drive because ‘they don’t care if they are raped’

According to Raw Story, during an interview (See video on YouTube with English subtitle) on the Saudi news show Rotana Khalijiyya in January, historian Saleh Al-Saadoon explained that there was a difference between riding camels and driving cars.

He defended his country’s prohibition against female drivers by saying that women who drove “don’t care if they are raped on the roadside.”

 “Women used to ride camels, so one might ask what prevents them from driving cars,” Al-Saadoon told the host, according to a translation provided by The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).


In Egypt, atheists considered a 'dangerous development'

According to USA Today, in Egypt, there is seemingly no place where atheists or those thought to be non-believers are safe.

They've been targeted at cafes, harassed on the streets and fired as part of a broader backlash by society and the state against atheism and blasphemy.

"I have to keep my mouth shut when it comes to any criticism or satire about religion," said atheist Amr Mohammed. "If I wish to make a remark about religion or practice of religion regarding my own beliefs, I keep it to myself."

Dar al-Ifta, a government wing that issues religious edicts, released a survey in December claiming Egypt was home to exactly 866 atheists — a number deemed "a dangerous development." Days later, a Cairo coffeehouse described as an atheists' cafe was closed, media reported.


Killing of Protester Prompts Rare Criticism From Egyptian State Newspaper

According to New York Times, The killing of Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, a peaceful protester whose body wasriddled with shotgun pellets on Saturday in Cairo, was condemned in an unusually frank editorial published Monday on the front page of Al Ahram, the flagship state newspaper in Egypt, and signed by its chairman, Ahmed Sayed el-Naggar.

Ms. Sabbagh was shot in front of witnesses and the cameras of several journalists when police officers suddenly fired at marchers carrying flowers to Tahrir Square to mark the fourth anniversary of Egypt’s Arab Spring uprising. Images of the attack on the protest, and of Ms. Sabbagh’s colleagues trying to evade arrest to save her, reverberated online, transforming the 32-year-old mother’s death into a new symbol of police impunity.


Egypt’s War on Atheism

According to New York Times, It took one session on Jan. 10 for a court in the Nile Delta province of Beheira to sentence Karim al-Banna, a 21-year-old student, to three years in prison for saying on Facebook that he was an atheist. The student’s lawyer complained that he was denied the right even to present a defense, but an equally chilling aspect of Mr. Banna’s case is that his father testified against him.

Also telling is that Mr. Banna was originally arrested, in November, when he went to the police to complain that his neighbors were harassing him. This was after his name had appeared in a local newspaper on a list of known atheists. Instead of protecting him, the police accused him of insulting Islam.