Nigerian Man Held Against Will in Psych Ward Due to His Atheism

Yesterday, the International Humanist and Ethical Union confirmed a rumor that had been floating around for days: Mubarak Bala, a Nigerian atheist, was being held against his will at Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital.

Mubarak Bala, taking a hospital selfie with a smuggled smartphone

What put him in there?

Well, he’s an atheist… and… um… that’s it.

His Muslim family, upon finding out Bala didn’t believe in God, suggested he was mentally ill. A doctor said that wasn’t the case, so they asked a different doctor for an opinion. That doctor confirmed it, and Bala’s been in the hospital now for nearly two weeks:

Reaching activists online early last week, [Bala] explained that he had been detained at the hospital on the grounds of a “personality change” because, having been raised in a Muslim family, he is now an atheist.

He wrote: “And the biggest evidence of my mental illness was large blasphemies and denial of ‘history’ of Adam, and apostacy [sic], to which the doctor said was a personality change, that everyone needs a God, that even in Japan they have a God. And my brother added that all the atheists I see have had mental illness at some point in their life.”

According to an email he sent to blogger Godless Mom, how he got to the hospital was even more traumatizing:

After being beaten to pulp, and choked by the neck until I passed out, (asphyxia), by my Dad and 3 of his male brothers”, he woke up to find himself in a psychiatric ward at the hospital.

Again, it may seem hard to confirm all of this from a distance given Bala’s inaccessibility, but the IHEU’s Bob Churchill says they had a lawyer visit Bala in the hospital and up his case:

“We are joining with humanists and human rights advocates in Nigeria and the activists who have worked to highlight this case, in calling for an immediate re-evaluation of Mubarak’s case by a doctor who is entirely independent of the family, and for his swift release. We stress that holding naturalistic or atheistic views is a normal and reasonable position, that no one should be detained as a psychiatric patient for holding such beliefs, and that holding such beliefs is a human right under Article 18 of the relevant international treaties.

What can you do to help? Right now, the best thing may be to just raise awareness of what’s going on. You can do that via Twitter (#FreeMubarak) or by signing this petition. Will it help? No less than your prayers, anyway, but maybe as more people show interest in Bala’s plight, the pressure will build on the Nigerian government to take action.

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