• Courtney Heard

Honour Killing in The USA: Amira's Story

"How do I get food?"

That was the text my colleague got from an American woman who had grown up and resided in a major American city. She didn't know how to feed herself.

This woman, we'll call her Amira, had been raised by a fundamentalist Islamic family. She had not been allowed to leave her home without the company of a male household member. She was a grown woman, but her parents managed her bills and bank account. She was not allowed to get a job or go to university, or drive. She would remain a prisoner in her own home until her family found a suitable husband for her, and she got married. Then, she would be kept prisoner by him 'til death does them part.

However, living in America means that the culture seeps in, no matter how much you try to shelter your kids from it. Secular education leads to healthy questioning and critical thinking. Access to smartphones means access to the entire body of human knowledge at your fingertips. For Amira, this meant holes in the stories of the Quran. Eventually, she discovered she could no longer believe.

Her family didn't like that.

Her family threatened to kill her.

Her family was dead serious.

So, Amira fled. Without one iota of knowledge of the real world, she reached out to secular friends she met on the internet. They helped her get a few states away, and that's when her friends called International Association of Atheists.

One of our organization's core activities is our Secular Underground Network (SUN) program, which sets out to assist atheists in danger. Often, our cases come from Muslim-majority countries. Amira was our first American case.

We quickly did intake with Amira, which includes a great deal of vetting. Each of our cases is subject to intense background checks, social media sweeps and more so that we know that we're helping someone who truly needs our assistance. We began SUN with a private investigator setting up our vetting and now have a retired UK Intelligence Officer assisting. We take this part of our work very seriously. As you know, IAA was the only organization that did not take Nacer Amari's case. As well, when David Smalley recently set out to assist an atheist in danger and discovered that it was a fraudulent story, I recruited the woman who discovered the fraud. She is now on staff with IAA.

So, once Amira cleared vetting, we set to work. We put out the word that we needed accommodation for her in her new city. She stayed in a homeless shelter, but we wanted her to get her feet on the ground. A friend of one of our staff offered their vacation rental. We sent Amira some money so she could get around and start setting her life up. She had no idea how to do any of this, though. With both her bank account and cell phone being monitored by her family, she needed to close both and start fresh, but she hadn't the slightest clue how she might do it. We had to help her get her bank account set up and get her a new phone number.

She struggled with the basics. When we sent her money to get around, she had no idea how to take a cab or an Uber. She didn't know how to get ingredients to cook at home. She didn't know how to apply for a job or an apartment. We knew she wasn't going to make it out there alone. So, we arranged for her to have a mentor.

With your help, we sent her money, got her a new bank account, a new phone, a place to live and a mentor. We put her on a path to self-sufficiency in the safety of a new city.

The key phrase here is "with your help." We could not have sent her money without your donations and memberships. We could not have found her a place to live without the generosity of our supporters. We could not have found her a mentor without your willingness to help.

Right now, we have two cases that cannot be identified. We can't tell you where they are, where they came from or where they are fleeing. We can't tell you who hurt them or even explain the details of how they were hurt, though telling you that would indeed move you enough to give. All we can say to you is that each of them has been physically harmed to the extent that it gives me nightmares.

One of them was repeatedly sexually assaulted by authorities who had detained him for apostasy. He struggles daily with emotional anguish over his assaults and is on medication for his mental state. He remains in the place where this occurred. We can move him to a safer place but face the obstacle of lack of funds. To help him, no, to save his life, we desperately need your generosity. Even a $5 donation helps.

The other faces potential amputation of his leg due to the damage that was done by religious extremists in a grisly attack. His crime? Discussing beliefs with friends in a cafe. He is unable to work and is awaiting refugee status in the new country he fled to. He faces starvation or malnutrition if we can't get some funds to him as soon as possible. Even just a $5 donation can help this man.

We have thoroughly vetted both of these cases. We've seen hospital bills, government-issued IDs, photos and videos of the violence (this is the part of my job I loathe), we've cross-checked addresses, names, dates, places and other records, and it all checks out. We wish we could show you everything, tell you all the gory details because we know this would be a huge motivator to give. Our fundraising would be so much more successful if we could show you these things.

But we can't. We would be endangering our cases. It's as simple as that.

And so all we have left is to plead with you to give. Please help us save these two lives. Here's how:

Give directly to the fundraising campaign. Click here.

Become a member. Click here.

Volunteer with us. Click here.

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