The European Times reports: Over 100 Ahmadis at Turkish-Bulgarian frontier face imprisonment, or death if deported

Over 100 members of the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light are currently facing a humanitarian crisis in Turkey. News outlets, The European Times and The Sofia Globe published articles on May 27 highlighting the urgency of their case. The European Times article, entitled “Over 100 Ahmadis at Turkish-Bulgarian frontier face imprisonment, or death if deported” states, “More than one hundred members of The Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light, a persecuted religious minority, who presented themselves at the Turkish-Bulgarian border on May 24 requesting asylum face deportation within the next seven to ten days, a decision that will most likely subject them to imprisonment or the death penalty in their home countries, according to a statement issued by the religious group.” The same was reported by the Sofia Globe.

The fate of over 100 individuals hangs in the balance. Deportation is tantamount to a death sentence. Believers in the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light, particularly in Muslim nations, are systematically targeted because of their religious beliefs. Countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Malaysia, Morocco and Turkey have oppressed, imprisoned and tortured members of the faith based on the claim that they are “heretics” and “apostates of Islam.”

In June 2022, 21 members of the Ahmadi Religion in Algeria were charged with “participation in an unauthorized group” (Art. 46 Law on Associations) and “offending the Prophet” and “denigrating the creed and precepts of Islam” (Art.144 bis 2 APC). Three individuals were sentenced to one year in prison, with the remaining members receiving a 6-month prison sentence and additional fines.

A few months later, in December 2022, a group of 15 Ahmadi believers in Iran, including women and minors, were arrested and taken to Evin Prison. In prison, the believers were subject to coercive measures in order to force them to renounce their faith and sign defamatory statements about the religion. They were charged with offenses based on their opposition to “Wilayat Al Faqih” (The guardianship of Islamic Jurists), which authorizes the scholars and jurists to change or enforce the Sharia law in the country.

It is important to note that the believers in Iran and Algeria were arrested and charged en-masse despite only practicing their faith in the privacy of their own homes. They did not openly preach or practice their beliefs in public spaces. This means, their beliefs alone were trial. The situation is similarly grave for believers in Iraq, who have endured threats and violence at the hands of state-sponsored militias. People have had their homes and vehicles violently attacked on the basis that they are considered apostates of Islam.

Members of this faith are systematically persecuted due to the Ahmadi Religion’s core teachings which deviate from the traditional beliefs and practices of Islam. For example, the Ahmadi Religion teaches that the headscarf for women is not obligatory and that the consumption of alcoholic beverages is permissible. The religion teaches that the true Kaaba is not in Mecca but rather in Petra, Jordan and that the true month of Ramadan is in December. Believers in the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light are not required to perform the 5 daily ritual prayers of Islam. These and several other controversial teachings are found in “The Goal of the Wise,” the gospel of the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light, written by the leader of the faith, Abdullah Hashem Aba Al-Sadiq.

As explained in an open letter to the Bulgarian Authorities, issued on May 23,
“Members of the Ahmadi religion have been labelled as ‘heretics’ and ‘infidels’ in many countries due to their beliefs, a trend they report has worsened since the release of their gospel, ‘The Goal of the Wise’, in December 2022. Members of the faith report that a number of the claims written in the book are considered ‘heretical’ in that they are considered contrary to other religious beliefs. These views, the group state, have led to their persecution through accusations of ‘denigrating Islam’. In fact, in Algeria and Iran members have faced arrest and prison sentences for exactly this, being forbidden for exercising their rights to religious freedom, and in Iraq they have suffered gunned attacks on their homes by armed militias, and scholars have called for them to be killed.”

To deport these 100+ individuals would certainly lead to their imprisonment and/or death, simply because of their religious beliefs. The Sofia Globe article states, “Issuing deportation decisions for these families would be a clear violation on Türkiye’s behalf of the core principle of non-refoulement, which according to international refugee and human rights law, prohibits returning individuals to a country where they would face torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and other irreparable harm.”