AR 2019

A Message to Our Donors


The recent rise in political polarization has made 2019 a challenging year for the movement to end female genital mutilation (FGM), child and forced marriage, and honor violence in the U.S. Despite the setbacks, we are encouraged by the progress we have made and are deeply grateful to our loyal donors who made these accomplishments possible.

The fight to end FGM faced a stunning setback this year—at the end of the first federal prosecution of an alleged FGM practitioner, the survivors were robbed of justice, and the federal anti-FGM law was left in limbo. Much of the momentum for state anti-FGM legislation we have seen this year is a direct response to  disapointments at the federal level.

2019 Highlights


Upheld our position as the national leader in anti-FGM advocacy and played key roles in five of the seven states that passed FGM bans—the highest number of state-level FGM bans of any single year in U.S. history.


Compelled the release of governmental statistics revealing the number of marital visa approvals involving children.


Advised congressional leaders in developing a bill to close visa loopholes that enable child marriage in the U.S.


Conducted a seminar at Stanford University to connect ex-Muslims and Muslim reformers, bringing us one step further in amplifing their voices and activism against Islamism.


Organized 13 events defending free speech and promoting critical thinking and women’s rights at 14 colleges around the country.


Facilitated our Founder’s address to students at Pepperdine University School of Public Policy, one of her first events after facing repeated attempts at being silenced on college campuses.




Child marriage and FGM remain critical issues in the U.S. AHA Foundation is dedicated to protecting the freedom and security of those who face these abuses and our advocacy work is intended to spur lawmakers into action.




Female genital mutilation is not something that just goes away. It is something a person will carry with them every day in some way… If it’s never talked about, it’s not going to end. Silence keeps the practice going until it is exposed to the light.

From a U.S. survivor of female genital mutilation




ANTI-FGM EFFORTS  AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL: Bipartisan Cooperation is the Only Way Forward


In 2018, the presiding judge in United States v. Nargarwala, the first federal prosecution of an alleged FGM practitioner, deemed the federal anti-FGM law unconstitutional and key charges against the defendants were consequently dismissed. When the Department of Justice refused to defend the constitutionality of the federal law, it seemed the movement to combat FGM would be brought to its knees.



ANTI-FGM EFFORTS AT THE STATES LEVEL:  AHA at the Helm of the Nationwide Effort



This year, AHA Foundation saw record legislative achievements and an increased interest among state lawmakers in ending FGM in the U.S. The disappointments from Nagarwala drove much of the momentum behind state-level legislative initiatives and fueled the realization that no girl is  safe until this practice is banned in all 50 states.



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Ban FGM in The U.S. By 2020


Developments at the federal level have inspired AHA Foundation’s newest campaign: Ban FGM in the U.S. by 2020. Throughout the year, we laid the groundwork for this effort—one designed to pass laws in the remaining 15 states that have failed to criminalize FGM.



FEDERAL CHILD MARRIAGE EFFORTS: Revealing the Truth About the Child Marriage Loophole


AHA Foundation was the first to identify and alert authorities about loopholes in U.S. immigration law that have facilitated thousands of child marriages in the U.S.


Early in 2019, this effort culminated in the release of an investigative report by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that confirmed our suspicions: 8,686 petitions involving minors were approved, and girls were the younger party in 95% of such cases.


STATE-LEVEL CHILD MARRIAGE EFFORTS: An Uphill Battle Filled with Unease


AHA Foundation has been advocating for every state to set a baseline age of 18 for marriage. To date only two, Delaware and New Jersey, have outlawed marriage before 18 —this scant number is a testament to the uphill battle we still face. Though challenges lie ahead, we remain dedicated to ending child marriage in the U.S. by our 2030 goal.




[IMAGE]  After facing repeated attempts at being banned from speaking on U.S. college campuses, our founder was thrilled to address students at the Pepperdine School of Public Policy for an event titled The (Transformative) Power of Women. She described coming-of-age in a fundamentalist Muslim household, and stressed the importance of girls’ education. She also emphasized the need to confront ideas and cultures that continue to oppress women and girls.


Instead of apologizing for who we are and what we’ve achieved, I think we should not only celebrate it but aggressively, and intensely, and assertively promote it. Even if that brings us accusations of racism, imperialism, Euro-centrism, whatever else, [these] are the tools that are used to shut us up. I just refuse to shut up.


Ayaan Hirsi Ali, AHA Foundation Founder




I would like to take a minute to thank the donors who provide financial support for the program. Thank you for allowing me to bring meaningful discussions to my college campuses. Also, thank you not only for showing me the potential I have to impact my community but also for allowing me to discover my true passions.


                    Adriana, American University, Fellow 2018 – 2019


I’ve always had a passion for human rights—especially women’s rights— and when I heard about FGM, it nauseated me to the point where I couldn’t sit back and do nothing.


Grace, Vassar College, Fellow 2017 – 2019


Without access to funds, vetted speakers, and support, it can be extremely difficult for students to invite quality speakers to campus. CTF is an amazing opportunity to access a full package of support from professionals. 


Andy, Portland State University, Fellow 2017 – 2018


I would like each donor to know that there is a dedicated group of students across North America working to help end harmful cultural practices, promoting civil dialogue and confronting extremism.


                Mohamed, University of Rochester, Fellow 2018 – Present


Each year, fellows like myself are taught about not only the importance of advocacy for enlightenment values, but how that advocacy can translate into physical change through anything from mobilization to legislative reform. 


                        Noam, York University, Fellow 2018 – Present


[IMAGE] In August, CTF hosted their annual summer training for student fellows in Washington, D.C. The training gathered 14 student fellows from top North American universities to hear from AHA Foundation staff and guest speakers, Dr. Muhammad Fraser-Rahim of Quilliam and human rights activist Masih Alinejad.




  • February 20, 2019: University of Michigan – Dr. Ellen Gruenbaum and F.A. Cole, “FGM Beyond Borders”


  • February 21, 2019: University of Cincinatti – Film Screening of “Islam and the Future of Tolerance”


  • February 22, 2019: Columbia University – Film Screening of ‘Islam and the Future of Tolerance’


  • February 26, 2019: Vassar College – Dr. Deborah Ottenheimer, “The Medical Side of Child Marriage and Human Trafficking”


  • March 21, 2019: University of Rochester – Panel on “Religious Extremism in the Middle East” with Graeme Wood, the Award-winning writer at the Atlantic, was joined by activist Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, author  and Ayn Rand fellow Elan Journo and Ahmadi Imam Adnan Ahmed, to seriously discuss issues of religious extremism.


  • March 28, 2019: York University – Nadine Strosse, “Social Justice and Free Speech: Dismantling Hate through Dialogue”


  • March 31, 2019: Stanford University – Nina Van Harn, Facing Forced Marriage in America


  • April 16, 2019: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – Senator Joyce Krawiec and Amanda Parker, Preventing FGM in the U.S. and North Carolina


  • April 23, 2019: University of Notre Dame – Nadine Strossen, HATE: Why We Should Combat It with Free Speech, Not Censorship


  • September 13, 2019: University of Texas at Austin – Faisal Saeed Al-Mutar, Books Not Bombs: Translating the Western Canon for the Islamic World


  • October 1, 2019: Pepperdine University – Ayaan Hirsi Ali, The (Transformative) Power of Women


  • November 5, 2019: Texas Tech University – F.A. Cole, Female Genital Mutilation: A Survivor’s Story


  • November 8, 2019: University of Minnesota – Joanna Vergoth, A Culturally Sanctioned Trauma: Female Genital Mutilation


  • November 14, 2019: University of Michigan – Dr. Muhammed Fraser-Rahim, Countering Extremism in an Age of Terror


  • November 14, 2019: Georgetown University – Prof. Samuel Abrams, Polarization and Partisanship in Academia


  • November 18, 2019: Columbia University – Masih Alienjad and Rafia Zakaria, Feminism and Effective Activism


  • December 5, 2019: University of Rochester – Dr. Muhammad Fraser-Rahim and Faisal Saeed Al-Mutar, The Road to Radicalization




After her bestselling book “Heretic” came out in 2015, Ayaan imagined making her vision a reality, one where voices of activists, Muslim reformers and ex-Muslims are connected and amplified in the fight against Islamism, a dangerous ideology that threatens the Western civilization.


AHA Foundation took the first leap toward this vision by hosting the Coalescing Networks to Combat Islamist Ideologies Seminar with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in October this year. At the conclusion of the seminar, attendees felt like they were no longer lone voices, shouting into the wind, but rather, more connected to each other, focusing not on their differences, but on their shared goals and values. This affirmation will propel these brave visionaries to stand arm in arm to raise their voices together, even louder, to promote human rights and modern ideas.[IMAGE]


Add a quote from Ayaan here from the event:

These activists (Muslim reformers and ex-Muslims) …these people are all shouting at the wind and the idea was, how do we bring them together? ….[W]e are threatened, we have financial constraints, we have personal constraints, we are usually deplatformed, so we are not only speaking to the vision that we want to realize but we are also speaking to the experiences we’ve had…

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, at the Coalescing Networks to Combat Islamist Ideologies Seminar




AHA Foundation is dedicated to shedding light on human rights abuses by bringing the stories of survivors and at-risk individuals to the forefront of public awareness. Alerting the general public through media engagement is pivotal in making progress and breathing life into the ideas that our founder has fought so tenaciously to defend. Through our outreach, hundreds of thousands across the globe have been informed on the issues of FGM, child and forced marriage, and the need to defend Western values.





Our direct aid services to at-risk individuals remains one of the most crucial aspects of AHA Foundation’s work.


In 2019, through our helpline, our team offered support to 38 women and girls seeking assistance. Most cases involved individuals facing the threat of forced marriage, FGM, or honor violence. By the end of 2019, our organization will have helped up to 350 individuals in need of support.


These numbers represent only a tiny fraction of those still living in fear of these practices.


“What do I say to girls who find themselves in a context where they do not have control? I would develop the strength of mind that you get up every morning, pull yourself by your bootstraps every morning; you have to think life is worth living; what you are developing with a strength of mind is a strength of character, because for those of us who are lucky to overcome that adversity we then have to come to the conclusion not to think of ourselves as victims but to think of ourselves as victors.


Ayaan Hirsi Ali, speaking about transformative power of women at Pepperdine University


Women and girls deserve to live lives of dignity and affirmation, free from fear of abuse. This year, we empowered medical staff, psychologists, police officers, and other professionals likely to encounter women and girls in danger with the information they need for culturally competent and effective responses.


“I think the real issue for survivors of FGC in the U.S. is that medical professionals are not familiar with the practice and its consequences. Women often feel judged and shamed by American practitioners’ reactions to and ignorance about FGC.”

  • Dr. Deborah Ottenheimer, Physician and anti-FGM advocate



Roelina Berst and her late husband Charles Berst of Los Angeles, California, have been supporting the work of AHA Foundation and its founder, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, for almost ten years now. Together, they attended a book signing where they met Ayaan. After Charles passed this year, Roelina made a gift to AHA in loving memory of her husband.


Having roots in the Netherlands, Roelina felt connected to Ayaan and has admired her bravery to speak out against harmful cultural practices.


If I had to describe Ayaan in a few words they would be: brilliant, brave, and fearless. I am captivated by her mind and soul and her courage to speak up even when it’s difficult. Her bravery to speak out against these harmful practices like FGM and child marriage, even in her youth, is riveting and inspiring to all. I am so proud to support her Foundation and their mission to end these practices in the U.S., and look forward to supporting them for many years to come.   

Roelina Burst






Ever since Ayaan Hirsi Ali appeared on the political scene in Holland all these years ago she was daily in the [Dutch] news. I was astonished by the single-minded determination with which she pursued her agenda…. People like Ayaan don’t fit in normal patterns but there have to be people like that.

I read several of her books, realized all that she has been through and hugely admired her courage. About seven years ago I decided to donate [each] year for the rest of my days. I am now 82 years old but I hope to be able to continue my contribution for a few more years.

Lucas Prakke


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