2019 Annual Report

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 federal law, it seemed the movement to combat FGM would be defeated.

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 the Nagarwala case 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.

Collaboration with The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)


AHA Foundation is working with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a membership organization of state legislators and policy stakeholders, to promote our Ban FGM by 2020 campaign.

In cooperation with ALEC leadership, AHA Foundation has:

Secured the adoption of our model FGM bill as the basis of ALEC’s official model policy.

Conducted a seminar where legislators from all states that lack FGM laws were brought in for a hands-on, in-depth workshop, with the ultimate goal of passing our model bill during the 2020 legislative session.

Invited a U.S.-born FGM survivor to speak at the ALEC annual meeting. While there, she had the opportunity to share her story and call on lawmakers for urgent action to prevent this abuse from taking place in their respective states.



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, 95% of the time, girls were the younger party involved.

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 small 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.


This year, AHA Foundation was featured by a number of outlets including:


The Louisville Courier-Journal, Part of the USA Today Network

Called for an FGM ban in Kentucky by co-authoring an op-ed with Kentucky state Senator Julie Raque Adams and a survivor who resides in the state.

Every day I am reminded of the emotional and physical consequences of being cut. Though I can’t change what happened to me, there is something that drives my passion to get an anti-FGM bill passed in Kentucky: my daughters. Unfortunately, I have family members who still subscribe to this practice, and believe it must be performed to control the sexuality of women and girls. As long as there is no law banning FGM in Kentucky, my daughters remain at risk of being subjected to the trauma of this practice. –

Jenny, FGM Survivor

Wall Street Journal
In her op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, titled “Can Ilhan Omar Overcome Her Prejudice?”, our founder, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, addressed the problem of Islamist anti-Semitism.
In my experience it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to unlearn hate without coming to terms with how you learned to hate. Most Americans are familiar with the classic Western flavors of anti-Semitism: the Christian, European, white-supremacist and Communist types. But little attention has been paid to the special case of Muslim anti-Semitism. That is a pity because today it is anti-Semitism’s most zealous, most potent and most underestimated form.
NBC News
Alerted the public about child marriage in the U.S. on two separate occasions.
Just like most of America, legislators are surprised that child marriage is an issue in the U.S. and in their respective states,” said Amanda Parker, a senior policy expert at the AHA Foundation, a women’s rights group founded by activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali. “If they don’t realize that it’s something that it is happening in their state, they’re not going to focus on it.
Detroit News
Made a statement to the Detroit News regarding the groundbreaking trial United States v. Nagarwala.
The defendants in this case had the victims shipped from Minnesota to Michigan, and the only way of holding them accountable for FGM was the federal statute…[the court ruling] sends the message that the authorities are not serious about protecting girls, especially those in immigrant communities, from this form of abuse.
Wyoming Public Radio, NPR Affiliate
Discussed the uptick in FGM criminalization in the U.S. and the lack of protective laws among Western states.
According to the AHA Foundation which lobbies against the practice, 22 states do not have anti-female genital mutilation laws on the books. That includes Utah, Wyoming and Montana. AHA estimates there are 438 women at risk for female genital mutilation in Wyoming; 1,769 in Utah; 8,705 in Colorado; and 302 in Montana. 
Nightside with Dan Rea
Shared information about the child marriage visa loophole that has enabled thousands of child marriages in the U.S. and emphasized the urgent need for legislative action.
Unfortunately in the United States right now, there are only two states – Delaware and New Jersey – that have outlawed all marriage before the age of 18. Which is incredible, because this [child marriage] is something the U.S. government condemns, rightly so, as a human rights abuse overseas, but we’re allowing it and facilitating it on our own soil.
Good Morning Cleveland, ABC News 5
Featured in recognition of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
We need to get over that fear of saying things that are uncomfortable or of being afraid of calling out a practice that we think we might not have the right to say is harmful to someone else. Culture is a beautiful thing and traditions are a beautiful thing, but when we’re impacting the human rights of someone else, and in this case we’re talking about the human rights of a little girl, we need to stop because violence is violence and abuse is abuse, and we need to stand up and say this is wrong.
KUTV, CBS News Affiliate
Spoke about FGM and the effort by Utah state lawmakers to ban the practice within their borders.
Society can bear the cost, the victim can bear the cost, or we can make the perpetrator bear the cost…  

Former state Representative Ken Ivory, Utah

In-Sight Journal
Discussed the mental and physical health consequences of FGM, its prevalence across the globe, and the cultural facets of FGM.
The CDC estimates there are 513,000 women and girl in the US who have gone through FGM or who are at risk of the procedure. That is and should be shocking to most Americans. That there are half of a million women and girls in this country.
Womenace to Society Podcast
Appeared twice this year, once to alert about the dangers and reality of FGM in the U.S., and a second time to bring awareness to child marriage in the U.S.
We believe in liberty for all…We want women and girls to make their own decisions about their own lives, make decisions about their futures, and about their own bodies.


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 Berst



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!