IHEU 2017 Freedom of Thought Report released

Published Fri, 08/12/2017 - 18:59

Council of Australian Humanist Societies (CAHS)

Media Release 08/12/17

Time to stop persecution of Humanists around the world - Humanists actively persecuted in seven countries in 2017 says new report from International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU).

  • New trends in seven countries show active persecution of atheists and humanists in 2017

  • 85 countries in total exhibit severe discrimination against non-religious individuals

  • IHEU warns of impunity for murder of atheists, and state-supported persecution of the non-religious

The IHEU’s recently released 2017 Freedom of Thought Report highlights seven countries that have actively persecuted non-religious people this year. The Report can be read at


The report emphasizes the murders of humanists and atheists in Pakistan, Maldives and India in the past 12 months. In Malaysia, a backlash against atheists was escalated to government levels, when officials threatened to “hunt down” apostates. An anti-atheist campaign in Pakistan saw several activists ‘disappeared’ or prosecuted for alleged “blasphemy”, with two men facing a possible death sentence. “Apostasy” cases in Mauritania, Saudi Arabia and Sudan are highlighted as part of the wider threat to those who speak out as “non-religious” or challenge religious power structures, in particular in Islamic countries where “apostasy” is often reviled. The report documents 12 countries where leaving or changing religion by “apostasy” is punishable by death.

Even these incidents are only “the most noticeable moving parts on the extensive machine of anti-non-religious discrimination” globally, according to the report. In total 55 countries are listed as having one or more elements of “severe discrimination”. Such elements include for example imprisonable “blasphemy” laws, fundamentalist proselytization in state-run schools, the derivation of state law from religious doctrine, and control over family and personal status law by religious courts.

President of the IHEU Andrew Copson said, “More and more people are coming to us in the humanist movement from Saudi Arabia, or Afghanistan, or Pakistan, and saying: ‘I am humanist’ or ‘I am atheist, and I cannot speak out, I cannot say what I need to, even online’. They are afraid they’re going to be attacked for it, maybe even killed.”

Copson continued, “This report shows that this is not an irrational fear. There have been extrajudicial killings occurring in multiple countries and near impunity for the killers. The international community cannot continue to placate states which criminalize leaving religion as a capital offence. We call on the international community to condemn the persecution of humanists and atheists, and to work with human rights defenders around the world to bring an end to this injustice. We also call on all those who are able to support our humanists at riskcrowdfunding campaign to help ensure that IHEU can continue to do our valuable advocacy work for the non-religious around the world.”

Council of Australian Humanist Societies (CAHS) President Lyndon Storey said “It is time to make very clear that freedom of conscience and expression includes freedom of conscience and expression for humanists and atheists. This report highlights the dangers faced by humanist around the world and the need to protect them. We strongly support the IHEU in its efforts to support humanists and atheists around the world and encourage interested people to read this report. The persecution of humanists and atheists is an issue which we must take seriously.”


Above is a media statement from the Council of Australian Humanist Societies 08/12/17

For further information contact:

Lyndon Storey: President, Council of Australian Humanist Societies

Ph: 0432 938 739

Email: President@humanist.org.au

Website: https://humanist.org.au

The Council of Australian Humanist Societies Inc. was established in 1965 as a national body to help coordinate the activities of Australia's humanist societies and advocate for Humanist views and concerns at a federal level. Humanists believe that meaning in life, ethics and community can be developed through human means rather than relying on God or other supernatural foundations. There is no need for religion. Humanism is a values based alternative to religion



  1. IHEU is the global representative body of the humanist movement, uniting a diversity of non-religious organizations and individuals. The IHEU works to build and represent the global Humanist movement that defends human rights and promotes Humanist values worldwide. The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization incorporated in New York, USA. And registered in England, number FC020642.

  2. The seven countries said to be “actively persecuting” the non-religious in 2017 are India, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan.

  3. The Freedom of Thought Report is published online at freethoughtreport.com with the full country index at freethoughtreport.com/countries/. Data including the full list of which boundary conditions are applied to each country is available via freethoughtreport.com/data..