Over the Last year and a half I provided financial support to these individuals forced into hiding for openly expressing themselves in ways that is considered taboo in their respective countries. All three have successfully made it out of their country to countries where they are able to express themselves without (or at least with out as many) death threats.

The views these individuals had to go into hiding over ranged from atheism to feminism.

Obviously anonymity is of utmost importance in situations like this, so I've sent proof to the mods.

Ask me Almost Anything. (Don't ask me to reveal the identity of these individuals or myself).

Reoccurring Questions Answered Here

COST: I have spent just under 1k USD helping these individuals. This covered the cost of living for the time it took them to get out of the country for 2 of them, and it covered 2 plane tickets to Europe.

HOW I GOT INVOLVED: I'm a big proponent of freedom of expression, so I joined some petition groups on Facebook for individuals facing punishment for expressing themselves. I started reading secularist blogs (what I could with google translate anyway), and before you know it an opportunity to help presented itself. A young adult was forced to flee his own home because of death threats (he was also beaten by his father), and helping him through it was the least I felt I could do. He is currently going through the asylum process in a European country. From there, this person's contacts in the blogging community allowed me to get in touch with the other two when they received death threats.

IS IT DANGEROUS TO HELP?: I don't feel as if I'm taking a risk by helping out these individuals

EDIT 1: Okay, this is blowing up really fast, and I need to take a break to shower and eat, I'll be back and I'll try to consolidate some of the redundant answers into an edit.

EDIT 2: Okay I'm back and I've added responses to repeated questions.

EDIT 3: Taking a Break again

EDIT 4: Back at it again

EDIT 5: Out for the night

EDIT 6: Still haven't gotten a response from the mods.

EDIT 7: I have contacted one of the people I helped and given a link to the mods with his Arabic blog email contact information. I've asked the mods to contact him so that they can confirm that I did indeed help, although since they have been entirely unresponsive I'm not holding my breath for it. This will be the last update unless I hear back from the mods. There is only so much I can do with mods who seem uninterested in doing the job they signed up for.

As far as proof goes, here is an update: I initially provided the mod with the following:

Links that verify the identity of the 3 ex-muslims and that they indeed faced prosecution and death threats.

Messages of correspondence with individuals thanking me for my help, and confirming the acceptance of money transfers

Passports of 2 of the individuals

Images of all 3 individuals showing that they are no longer in their home countries and now in europe.

The mods responded saying that it proved that I knew them but not that I rescued them.

I have responded to the mod saying that I never claimed that I rescued them, but that I helped in their attempts to leave their country.

I also sent an additional screen cap of an email confirming that a payment was made when it was not safe for these individuals to leave the house, and asking what exactly they were looking for that would constitute as proof.

The mods have not responded to me.

Comments: 833 • Responses: 45  • Date: 

benevolENTthief104 karma

1) How much did it cost to free them? 2) What were some of their view points that were controversial? 3) What happens to their families? 4) What countries are they from and where did they end up?

puddleperfect138 karma

1) I couldn't tell you the exact cost, as I'm not solely responsible for getting them out of their situation. I've spent a total of just under 1k which provided living expenses for 2 of the individuals until they were able to leave the country. I also provided the money for plane tickets for 2 of the individuals. The amount of money is really negligible and I consider it, by far, the best used money I've ever owned.

2) Overt atheism and being a proponent of secularizing the school system, criticizing the treatment of non-muslims by muslims in a way deemed inflammatory , and protesting against gender inequality in a way deemed too extreme for the country of origin.

3) Nothing happened to their families. They were all young and hadn't started their own, and their parents didn't advocate for this behavior, and in one case publically denounced their child and another beat their child.

4) I won't say the exact countries, but they went from North African to European countries.

Edited: for missing answer

DeathToPennies45 karma

So I suppose you can't tell us what happened to their families?

puddleperfect56 karma

Their families were not supportive of them, and their actions. In two cases their family took action against them, either by denouncing their actions publicly, or actually physically abusing their child.

I'm not sure what you're implying would happen to their family, the government didn't take any action against them, nor the population.

tdobson26 karma

I feel silly, but will you clarify the currency? The internet is international :)

puddleperfect25 karma

Yes USD, sorry.

[deleted]10 karma

It may take $1k to move from US to Europe but for someone in a 3rd world country, the process is a lot more complicated. For example, for a student visa you need to show that you have around $50k-100k in savings. Which visa were they on when they left?

puddleperfect19 karma

I'm not sure of the details, but I believe one got out based on a scholarship given that would cover his expenses, the other I think was able to obtain a visa for travel and then apply for asylum once in the country.

ILL_Show_Myself_Out49 karma

I have heard the penalty for apostasy under Sharia law is death. Is this something you have had lot save people from? (Specifically the atheists?)

puddleperfect74 karma

From what I understand, that is the majority view among scholars in Sunni Islam. This would be a good question to ask over at the r/exmuslim and r/islam subreddits. There is a variety of views on the subject amongst muslims. I suggest you take a look at this pew poll. Of the muslim majority countries polled the support of the death penalty for apostates varies among Muslims from 5 to 86%

Thisapparatus38 karma

  1. What made you decide to act in such a noble way?
  2. Will these people ever be able to return home? Would they want to?
  3. Did any of them leave families behind?
  4. Does your family support you? (for fear you may be arrested or killed)

Thanks for being such a great person.

puddleperfect74 karma

  1. The opportunity presented itself, and the benefit to these individuals was so great, and my sacrifice was so small. I consider this the best usage of money in my life. Its like getting a gift for someone, and the gift is the ability to feel relatively safe expressing themselves, and it's on sale in the dollar store.
  2. I think that these people wanted very much to change their society for the better, and would love to return home. Whether they can or not? I'm not sure.
  3. They all left their families behind.
  4. My family doesn't know that I do this. I'm at no risk of being arrested or killed for this in the United States.

Sparky-Sparky25 karma

Can you save me? I have plans to leave but because of sever sanctions my budget gut cut in half. I would even appreciate advise. What kid of visa did you get for them? was it an asylum request? the process of of an asylum visa is really long in European countries and in the end they can just say no; how is it in the US? what can I do in case a war starts here ? do you know anyone who can help when a war happens? history has shown that our government actually uses a war to clear out all different thinkers. I'm shitting bricks man, reddit is filtered but we use proxies to use the internet even Facebook is filtered. any place where you can freely comment is off limits, but we know that the even the proxies are somehow watched so I really can't say anything clearer. any of you guys have something to say i'll be happy to read them thank you

puddleperfect8 karma

Unfortunately I'm not very knowledgeable of the asylum process, but PM me and once the ruckus dies down from the AMA, we can talk about your situation and I can see if there are any options available.

saratonin8421 karma

May we have some proof, please?

puddleperfect30 karma

Sent to the mods. I'm sorry but anonymity is important in this case. It is possible that one of these individuals would agree to allow me to release information, but I wouldn't feel comfortable releasing detailed information about them on my own. I might be able to talk to one into doing an AMA.

MalcolmY9 karma

I get why you are very protective about this. But I see no harm in saying which countries they came from and where they went. Give the story a little perspective. There are millions living in North African Arab countries and more millions in Europe. So they're safe anyway.

Boobzilla20 karma

I don't know...when there's a threat of death if the person is found out, even if it's a very slight chance they are, I think it's acceptable to not mention the specific countries.

MalcolmY7 karma

I'm very close to other Arab countries. I guess I'm just curious where this kind of bigotry (that makes Saudi Arabia look like heaven) exists.

puddleperfect11 karma

The penalty for defaming islam in many north african countries is quite severe. Hamza Kashgari is currently facing the possibility of being put to death by the Saudi government of defaming islam. From my experience, Saudi Arabia is much worse than many of these other countries. The penalty in other countries can involve over a year in prison, but there is also the threat of the general population taking action against these individuals, and the government generally doesn't take any pre-emptive measures against these sort of threats.

puddleperfect8 karma

You're probably right, it would probably be safe - but I don't feel it's my place to make that call. Saying North Africa is the most I'm willing to do without consent of these individuals.

SilvanestitheErudite17 karma

How did you get involved in this? Did you find it on the internet, did some group call you or what? I'm kinda skeptical at this point.

puddleperfect28 karma

This is how i got involved

I have sent proof to the mods, hopefully they will post something saying that I've been verified.

Basilosaurus16 karma

Was there any risk that something would happen to you if they were caught? If so, how did you feel about it?

puddleperfect33 karma

The closest I've ever been to being at risk in the situation was when one of these individuals received a phone call by an individual threatening to take his life and mentioned that he knew he was being wired money from his "friends in the US". This could have been a guy who really knew that I had in fact done this, or it could have been a wild conspiracy theory (The Israeli/american ties conspiracy is quite common). These individuals have enough balls to make a Krogan look like Lance Armstrong. There is really nothing too ballsy about what I did. I was just in a situation in which I could help, and I did.

SirQuibble15 karma

Is there any specific website we can use to contribute donations? If so, what percentage of the donations actually reach the people in need?

puddleperfect23 karma

I'm not aware of a website to donate. I know that the CEMB deals with some of the same issues, but I'm not sure how they are spending money etc, their might be info on their site. I have heard from ex-muslims that this is a good group because they also criticize some of the anti-islam rightwing extremists who may be right on some issues, but not necessarily for the right reasons.

soseeflare13 karma

  • I suppose they were mainly persecuted by government forces, also what were their feeling, as the obvious insiders they are/were, about the general population's concerns (or lack thereof) about free speech issues in those countries and within the muslim world as a whole ?

  • Do you think that such individuals are rather exceptions, or are about pioneering some kind of an upcoming "rule" ?

As for your deeds, anyway : congratulations.

puddleperfect33 karma

one of these individuals had previously served jail time for his views. Generally these governments have anti-blasphemy laws that they use to prosecute these individuals. Some of these laws are one sided (it's illegal to defame islam), others are all inclusive (it's illegal to defame religion), but in the countries where the law is all inclusive, it is generally only used against people who "defame" Islam. What is considered defamation is very vague, and I think that this law is also used as a political tool against secularist.

The popular view's in these countries, even among liberals, is that free speech has its limits. One of these individuals was actually denounced in their country by the liberal blogging community because they felt the line had been crossed.

I don't think that they are becoming a rule, maybe there is a slight nudge among the youth to support secularism, but I think there is no doubt that they are currently the exception.

dazhealy10 karma

What was the process of getting these people out of their respective countries? Was it a simple as organising flights and alerting emabssies that their was an asylum seeker coming or was it more of a "great escape" scenario?

puddleperfect17 karma

In nearly all countries, the asylum seeker needs to be in the country to apply for asylum. It is much easier to fly to the country on pretense of vacation or something, and then apply for asylum then to apply from out of country. In two of the cases the individuals were able to fly out of the country (although it was difficult for one of them because their family, who they were also hiding from at the time, had their travel documents). In the third case , where getting travel documents was not at all possible, the individual applied from their country of origin. Once in the country the asylum process can take over a year, and you are restricted from working and schooling during this time. The government gives a small living stipend to the asylum seeker as the process goes on. I am not an expert on immigration laws, so I don't provide any legal information beyond what i just wrote above.

hairy_tumor9 karma

Could you tell us how and about what they expressed themself about? (more in deepth)

Sorry about my bad english.

puddleperfect14 karma

One was a blogger who posted was a proponent of secularized education in his country. Once his activism and atheism became known he was assaulted by the faculty of the school and forced to leave, eventually forced into hiding, and then exile in a european country. Another blogger faced threats after posting comments critical of how muslims were treating non-muslims which were deemed inflammatory. The third was the result of protesting gender discrimination in a way that wasn't seen as culturally acceptable (too extreme).

baconhampalace9 karma

I'm still a bit skeptical about this post, but I'll give the OP the benefit of the doubt.

That said, I have misgivings about the efficacy of this approach. Religious persecution does occur in North Africa, although nowhere near the scale that it does in Iran or Saudi Arabia. Amnesty International has documented it and I've heard of it anecdotally in my own travels in the Middle East. Your money may have helped these individuals escape from their countries. During my time in Syria and Iran I myself provided people with assistance (filing papers, making phone calls) to people wishing to leave. But the overwhelming reality is that life as an 'apostate' or religious minority, a LGBT person, or even a woman or low-income Muslim in the Middle East is just plain hard. When you're engaged with someone face to face in their home country and you see thousands of others facing the same difficulties it becomes apparent (at least to me) that your best bet is to contribute your time and effort to a local organization that is working for change. It doesn't give you the self-righteous thrill of thinking you've helped some downtrodden Middle Easterner reach the promised land, but it will provide support to an organization that is on the ground helping to change the country from within.

TL;DR Don't try to be a hero. Get informed and support people on the ground engaged in their own fight.

puddleperfect5 karma

I agree with you. But I also want to point out that these people I helped are all activists that were and still are pushing for change - it helps no one if they are locked up or in jail.

I don't see myself as a hero, I see them as heroes, and if it were possible I would try to be more active in changing the systems that are oppressing them, but with a full time job and other obligations, the best I can do is to help others who are invested to continue to have a voice.

puddleperfect16 karma

absolutely. The reason I have helped ex-muslims is solely because my where my interests on the internet have taken me. I'm staunchly secular and am an advocate of free speech. My experiences of muslim's on the internet is the support for those things are tenuous (some do support it, I wan't to emphasize that muslims are anything but monolithic). Also, I would say that those monks are certainly not peaceful.

PirateLordBush7 karma

Are you still getting "death treats" now that you're (presumably) out of this country you're referring to?

Dammit, *threats not treats.

One more question: Did any of these people you helped out ever tried to return the favor in any way?

puddleperfect27 karma

I am not getting death threats. I never have. I live in the United States. Of the individuals I helped, all of them still receive death threats, but I can only confirm that one is receiving death threats from people inside his country of asylum. Most of the death threats are hollow, but its a scary situation. There were also facebook groups made calling for their government to put these people to death in some cases.

I really don't see myself as needing any favors done for me, but they are all extremely grateful for my help, and I'm sure they would do whatever they could.

larrykins6 karma

Have you ever, or would you ever help a ex-muslim Christian convert escape their respective country?

puddleperfect6 karma

yes, or an ex-christian muslim convert. I don't think anyone should have to live in fear for expressing their belief.

smartzie6 karma

How difficult is it to do this kind of thing? Is there a lot of paperwork and governmental red tape you have to go through? Or do you just front the money for them?

puddleperfect8 karma

I just front them the money. I have my set of rules that I use to determine legitimacy and need, but to be honest, the amount of money this cost me is so insignificant that there is no great loss if it is a con game.

v0rtex14 karma

What are the rules you use to determine legitimacy?

puddleperfect12 karma

I don't advertise as a service. If I do, I'm sure I'll get tons of cases of people who don't have a legitimate risk that have no problems taking advantage of kindness. I attempt to verify statements. Is this person in the news for their actions? Do they have blogs showing a long time support to those ideals they're being threatened for? When they tell me what they need money for, I research it and check to make sure the numbers match up with the cost of living in the area. Same with flights.

If these individuals were running a con game, they would have spent years of posting blogs, and seriously risked their life for a few hundred bucks. There's always the chance someone could do that, but I think it's highly unlikely.

I think the steps i take weed out a lot of the bad, but it's always a concern. From a money position, even if I did get conned, it would just be what I make in a day or two, so its no huge loss.

pi3r86 karma

How did you come across these people and their need of help? are they people you already knew or were you made aware of their plight by someone else?

puddleperfect24 karma

I'm a big proponent of freedom of expression, so I joined some petition groups on Facebook for individuals facing punishment for expressing themselves. I started reading secularist blogs, and before you know it an opportunity to help presented itself. A young adult was forced to flee his own home because of death threats (he was also beaten by his father), and helping him through it was the least I felt I could do. He is currently going through the asylum process in a European country. From there, this person's contacts in the blogging community allowed me to get in touch with the other two when they received death threats.

gingosaur5 karma

Are you in any danger yourself for helping these people out?

puddleperfect9 karma

I don't think that I am, but I would like to keep my anonymity just to be safe.

TruthyPam5 karma

What is different about these people that allows them to risk their lives for their beliefs. I'm not sure I could ever do that.

puddleperfect16 karma

It's also very difficult to live a life in which you constantly feel pressured into being dishonest. These people are all very brave, and a lot of times no longer can bare to feel smothered by the societies they live in. I think its a mix of the two. At least that's the impression I got from these individuals.

theegorrila5 karma

Now if only you could do it for a friend of mine.

puddleperfect7 karma

The problem when acting as an individual is that you don't have the resources to properly vet cases. It makes it much easier to be sure of a person's claims when you're finding them, and not being contacted for a service advertised. Send me a PM about your friend though, maybe there is some way to verify the situation.

theegorrila3 karma

I completely understand what you mean but it's a bit to late for her. I met her online obviously and she became one of my best friends. Still is. We made plans for her to run away cus she was pretty hated from some of the non-socially acceptable things she did. Plan was she would come here and i'd take care of her till she's on her feet. She even made it to le airport but her father caught her there. Her family keeps a 24 hour watch on her now. Now i'm sad again.

puddleperfect2 karma

Thats depressing as hell. Is it legal for them to do that to her in the country she's in?

hassani13875 karma

Ummm...there are no countries in the Mideast or North Africa which I am aware of, where people are not entirely free to get a visa and move to Europe or the US if they want. For example, people in Iran are perfectly free to leave if they want, as many have done. There's no need tp "escape".

puddleperfect4 karma

This isn't the case. If you have to drop out of secondary school because of threats on your life you're not going to just granted immigration to the united states. If it was just this easy to do so there wouldn't be individuals entering the US illegally.

dcaspy74 karma

1) what do you do in your day 2 day life? 2) are you an activist? 3) what do you do for a living?

puddleperfect4 karma

I work a 9-5 in advertising. I'm not really sure if doing this makes me an activist or not. I'm a supporter of freedom of expression and I spend a lot of time on the internet, and this is what happened.

As for my day to day life, I enjoy things like playing video games, reading books, spending time with my fiance etc - nothing to exciting.

jhrf4 karma

Is your username a reference to a metaphor used to explain the anthropic principle?

puddleperfect4 karma

Yes, specifically:

"Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, "This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!" This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise."

  • Douglas Adams

upvote for catching the reference.

mdw8254 karma

Just a couple questions:

Aside from writing a cheque or wiring money, what special actions did you take to facilitate their escape? Is this something that anyone with a decent budget could do? Do you originate from the countries from which you helped these individuals escape? Were any laws broken in the process?

puddleperfect7 karma

The main help was to offer money. I also offered my company, being holed up in fear for your life is a very stressful situation. When I wired money these individuals would always only give me the bare minimum number for what they needed to survive (I checked the numbers as a saftey precaution). I always added a bit of extra money for beer or something to make their situation a bit less dangerous. I am from the United States, and no laws were broken on my end, however these individuals were facing at least the possibility of legal action being taken against them by their government, and certainly no help from it. I think that anyone with a decent budget could do this, as I've said, I've spent just under 1k USD and was able to provide something really useful to these individuals. The main thing is that if you publicly offer a service, you will probably deal with individuals who will take advantage of you, so measures should be taken to avoid this. I do this by avoiding to offer a service publicly, among other things.

l3rN3 karma

I hate to be that guy, but has a mod confirmed this yet? Proof was supposed to have been sent off 5 hours ago.

puddleperfect4 karma

I got a response back from the mods saying that my proof showed I know these people but not rescued. I sent more information (conversations confirming money transfers, as well as an email showing that the money was being transferred because it was not safe for a person to go out). I also explained that I never claimed to have rescued anyone, only helped while they escaped. I have provided copies of their passports, as well as proof that they are all in european countries. I've linked them to articles showing that they were receiving death threats. I'm not sure what will be required to meet the burden of proof, but I've been trying to satisfy the mods. If all else fails I'll attempt to contact one of the people I helped and have him send them a message confirming I helped, I will also suggest to one to do an AMA himself if he is willing - that way he can disclose the information at his own discretion.

[deleted]3 karma

Why have you been vague about what these views are that these three people have been expressing? Are they gay? Atheist? Christian?

The views these individuals had to go into hiding over ranged from atheism to feminism.

So two of them have been atheism and feminism. What is the other one?

puddleperfect8 karma

all three are atheists, two were facing threats due to statements they made deemed insulting to Islam, the other was mainly for fighting gender discrimination in a way that wasn't culturally acceptable in the country.

GoodMorningRedditt3 karma

How are these 3 individuals settling in their new home countries? How do they feel at their new freedoms? Are they overwhelmed by the secularism and blatant sexuality all around them? Is someone on hand to teach them how to live here, that they can ask questions, and mentor them? Is someone looking out for them to make sure no one takes advantage of them?

A friend of mine was a recent refugee from Afghanistan and came over with her extended family seeking asylum in 2005. A guy asked her on a date, and she went with him, thinking this is what American women do, this is how dating is done (according to movies she'd seen). Due to complete lack of experience, she didn't ask to meet him in a public place or get to know him before being alone in a car with him. He raped her. This sweet, naive girl had been in the country less than a month.

puddleperfect5 karma

I am close friends with one, and he is adjusting pretty well. Since he is undergoing the asylum process still he cannot work or go to school, this is tough, as he is relying on the government given stipend to live. He is making use of the free time by spending a lot of time with activism and writing a book. I also notice that every once in a while I'll see a facebook status update in which he was quite drunk in writing, so he's taking advantage of the booze. I would be surprised if he dedicated his life to anything other than his secular activism, and he does miss his home country. The countries that these individuals are from generally more westernized than afghanistan, and that is terrible that that happened to your friend. I hope they caught the guy and brought him to justice.

Rosiee3 karma

What do you think about Reddit's views on the mid-east?

puddleperfect26 karma

I was unaware that Skynet Reddit has become a sentient website capable of having views on the middle-east. I'm not sure what the Hive Mind Redditor's consensus is on the middle east.

Happybadger962 karma

Why did you personally choose to do this kind deed?

puddleperfect5 karma

To be honest I don't think I could have ignored it. A blogger I met because of mutual interests essentially had to leave his home because he was receiving death threats from people who knew the neighborhood he lived in.

[deleted]2 karma

Just want to say that what you did was really cool and brave in a way(though i know you would not be in any danger here in the usa). You have saved their lives and i'm sure they are very grateful. Will you ever meet them?

puddleperfect4 karma

I have an open invitation to visit one of them anytime. If me and my fiance end up going to Europe for our honeymoon, I'm sure we'll stop by and have a few drinks.

Macmee2 karma

Do you have to be rich to help / how could any one of us do the same?

puddleperfect2 karma

One of the ways that I am able to help is the difference of cost of living between our countries. For instance, a month of rent for me in the US is about a weeks worth of pay for me. In the countries I was involved with it was one or two days of work for an entire month of rent. I make slightly more than the average american, but I am by no means rich, middle class.

MrJekyll2 karma

Did it occur to you that those guys might have duped you in order to get a free tickets to Europe ?

puddleperfect4 karma

Yes I obviously thought of that. In order for this to be the case they would have spent a inordinate amount of time creating years worth of blog posts, etc, and still would have been risking their lives as there were facebook groups calling for their death, and one even spent time in jail.

rogerwil1 karma

Which country did they go to? (or continent at least if you don't want to be specific)

And how did they get a visa? Or they did they seek asylum? And if the latter did they get it? (in that case I'd really be interested in which country they went to=

puddleperfect2 karma

Europe. Two of them were able to get visa's one was apple to apply for asylum from their home country. The asylum process is long, and is still going on, but he documented all the threats against him very well, so I think he has a strong case, if he didn't have a strong case they probably wouldn't have accepted him from an out of country application. None have official acceptance in their country, but one isn't seeking it, as he was able to get a great scholarship from a university and will probably take that path to citizenship. I'm not an asylum expert though, so I generally don't give advice on it.