AR 2019 3

Table of Contents


George Zarubin, Executive Director

George Zarubin, Executive Director

In one of my favorite films, Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams plays the role of a high school English poetry teacher who inspires his students with the Latin

phrase carpe diem, roughly translated as “seize the day,” and explains that “words and ideas can change the world.” At AHA Foundation, we firmly believe in the power of ideas and their potential to bring about immense change in the world. Throughout 2019, thanks to support from our donors, we seized the day through hardships and political discord that threatened the progress we made over the past decade.

This year began with a challenge to our work in passing legislation to ban female genital mutilation (FGM). A federal district court case found the federal anti-FGM statute to be unconstitutional, and that development propelled us into action. We played a leading role in nearly a dozen states to pass laws that ban FGM or improve existing legislation. We also had the opportunity to introduce our model legislation and train legislators from the remaining 15 states that lack anti-FGM bans. Ideas matter. Laws matter. And advocacy for both state and federal protections can improve the circumstances for hundreds of thousands of women and girls around the U.S.



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 15 events defending free speech and promoting critical thinking and women’s rights at 13 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.




Bipartisan Cooperation is the Only Way Forward

AHA Foundation Executive Director, George Zarubin (L), with Rep. Scott Perry at an event promoting anti-FGM policy in the U.S.

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.

Throughout the year, we supported efforts of congressional leaders attempting to restore the federal anti-FGM law and pushed for a bill that would fix its purported constitutional issues.

Despite barriers posed by political discord, we are determined to foster cooperation and consensus between members of both the Republican and Democratic parties. Our bipartisan approach comes with challenges, but we are confident that we can bridge the divide by stressing a joint responsibility to protect our girls from this human rights abuse.




AHA at the Helm of the Nationwide Effort

AHA Foundation Senior Director, Amanda Parker (white jacket), attending the ceremonial signing of one of the strongest anti-FGM bills in the country.

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.

AHA Foundation remains at the helm of this nationwide effort. We worked in five of the seven states that passed FGM bans in 2019 and assumed a critical role by providing testimony, informational briefings, and statutory consultation.

Two states, Utah and Arkansas, based their bills directly on our model bill and now have some of the strongest legislative defenses against FGM in the country. Likewise, Tennessee used our recommended provisions and as a result, significantly increased the strength of its FGM ban.



Free Girls – Stop The Cut


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.

To assist with this initiative, we developed a legislative toolkit that offers guidelines to lawmakers and advocates. It is a comprehensive resource for those who wish to strengthen existing legislation or pass anti-FGM bans in states that currently lack anti-FGM laws.



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.

Throughout this year, we actively advocated for legislation that will finally set a minimum age to sponsor or receive spousal or fiancé(e) immigration benefits.


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.


CTF fellows with AHA staff, and human rights activist, Masih Alenijad at the 2019 training.


Our college campus program Critical Thinking Fellowship (CTF) defends freedom of speech by promoting and encouraging critical thinking in higher education and amplifying the voices of ex-Muslims and Muslim reformers. Student fellows also use the fellowship to advocate for the rights of women and protections against FGM, honor violence, and child and forced marriage.



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.




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


Seminar attendees from our Coalescing Networks to Combat Islamist Ideologies Seminar in Palo Alto, California.

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.




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 320 individuals in need of support.

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

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.



Roelina Berst

Roelina Berst and her late husband Dr. 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



Lucas Prakke

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



In 2020, we must continue to seize the day! Fifteen states do not have legislation banning female genital mutilation (FGM). We want to see 2020 as the year when every state in the country bans this practice! Once laws are in place, we also need to continue our efforts to collect data on where these incidents are occurring. We must train institutional stakeholders nationwide—doctors, school nurses, child protective services, law enforcement, and prosecutors—on how to help survivors and protect girls at risk.

Similarly, we must continue to fight for the rights of girls and women from child marriages and forced marriages. Last year, the first two states, New Jersey and Delaware, passed laws banning child marriage. We need to combat the dangerous ideas that perpetuate these abuses and support the dignity of girls and young women in our communities. We hope that these practices of FGM and child and forced marriage in the U.S. will be a thing of the past 10 years from now.

Ideas matter. So in 2020, we hope to increase our efforts bringing activists to speak at North American campuses to promote the rights of girls and women. We also will continue to defend freedom of speech and work with proponents of Islamic reform.

These are huge goals for a small non-profit like the AHA Foundation. Your gifts makes these efforts possible. Carpe Diem!