After telling his father he no longer believed in God, Amed's father reported him to the police. He was imprisoned in solitary confinement, tortured by electric shock, until he was released on bail.
Amed Sherwan’s arrest took place in October 2013, when he was only fifteen years old. As an inquisitive young man living in Iraqi Kurdistan, he had read much outside of school, and from these readings, he came to the conclusion that there was no God and that all religion was mistaken. When he revealed this information to his father in an argument, however, the response was swift and terrible.
As Amed tells it, his furious father reported him to the police, who came to arrest him at night. He claims that, while in custody, “Three policemen hit me with belts, kicked me with jackboots and tortured me with electric shocks.” When he stood trial after 13 days in solitary confinement, his pleas to his judge about freedom of speech were met with derision and insults. According to Amed, nearly every authority figure met him with the same scorn, including a social worker who reminded him that Islamic law permitted his killing. When he went to the press with his story, nearly every outlet refused to publish it.
"I attended a trial, but the judge insulted me. I talked about the right to free speech, he replied shouting that there is no place on earth for disgraceful infidels like me." - Amed Sherwan
After Amed’s situation spiraled into such an ordeal, his family professed regret at having reported him to the authorities in the first place. Amed, his uncle said, was not reported to the police so that he could undergo trial and torture; it was merely intended to bring about a “healthy modification in his ideas.”
In 2015, Amed was granted asylum in Germany for his status as an atheist. But even there, he is not completely safe: in 2019, he became victim to a public assault which could have been fatal had he not been rushed to the hospital.
In Iraq, a de facto blasphemy law criminalizes “insults” to religious sects, their practices, and their beliefs with up to three years in prison and/or fines. Individuals must register their religion with the state, and Muslims may not change their religious designation by law. There are no laws explicitly criminalizing apostasy or atheism, but such individuals may face a risk of prosecution from the blasphemy law, if rarely. Purported blasphemers or apostates may also find themselves at risk of vigilante violence.