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.
Engaged in ongoing discussions with House Judiciary Committee staff, members of Congress, and political advocacy organizations to secure bipartisan support for a bill that would uphold the constitutionality of the federal anti-FGM law.
Consulted with our pro bono attorney at White & Case, LLP regarding amendments needed to strengthen the federal anti-FGM law and offered recommendations to the House Judiciary Committee.
Met with Sen. Joni Ernst, who led the 2019 Violence Against Women Act reauthorization effort for the Senate majority, to provide a briefing on FGM in the U.S. and recommend language for the reauthorization bill. This landmark legislation, which must be reauthorized every five years, criminalizes violence against women but does not yet include FGM.
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.
Spearheaded a legislative initiative with state Senator Breanne Davis, which resulted in the passage of one of the most comprehensive anti-FGM bills in the U.S.
Collaborated with former state representative Ken Ivory to lead the charge in criminalizing FGM; Utah now joins Arkansas, Tennessee, and Michigan in having one the strongest bans in the country.
Engaged in educational outreach and legislative advocacy, which supported the successful passage of the state’s anti-FGM law.
Partnered with Representative Thomas Murt every year since 2013 to pass an anti-FGM bill; a ban was finally passed this year.
Addressed audiences at the Zonta International 100th anniversary to discuss FGM in the U.S. and celebrate the organization’s history of empowering women and children worldwide.
Advised Senator Joyce Krawiec throughout the legislative process for the state’s newly passed anti-FGM law.
Secured sponsorship for a 2020 anti-FGM bill from state Senator Julie Raque Adams; we also reached out to dozens of lawmakers and met with key members of legislative leadership to raise awareness and galvanize support.
Facilitated in-person testimony from a local FGM survivor and addressed lawmakers at preliminary hearings with the Interim Joint Committee on Health, Welfare, and Family Services and the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary to discuss FGM criminalization.
Helped strengthen amendments to existing legislation: state legislators passed a bill to strengthen their anti-FGM law that was based on the AHA Foundation’s state-by-state grading assessment and model bill.
Provided legislative consultation and discussed criminalization efforts with the lead policy advisor for an anti-FGM bill.
SUBMITTED WRITTEN TESTIMONY FOR ANTI-FGM BILLS IN THE FOLLOWING STATES: Iowa, Massachusetts, Virginia
I reached out to the AHA Foundation and they have helped come along side me and support me as far as meeting with legislators and raising awareness of what this is and what our goal is: to end this all together.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Provided in-person and written testimony in support of SB 231 and written testimony for the partner bill, HB 855; both bills would outlaw child marriage in the state.
Met with dozens of lawmakers and provided written testimony to encourage support of a child marriage ban. The bill passed in the Senate and awaits a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee to continue its progress towards passage.
Participated in a press conference and protest held by our sister organization, Unchained at Last, in support of bills HB360 and SB81 that would ban child marriage in the state of Pennsylvania. Both the House and Senate unanimously voted to pass their respective versions of the same bill, and one of the chambers must now act for this legislation to move forward.
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.
Dr. Ellen Gruenbaum and F.A. Cole, “FGM Beyond Borders” – February 20, 2019
Film Screening of “Islam and the Future of Tolerance” – February 21, 2019
Film Screening of ‘Islam and the Future of Tolerance’ – February 22, 2019
Dr. Deborah Ottenheimer, “The Medical Side of Child Marriage and Human Trafficking” – February 26, 2019
Graeme Wood, Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, Elan Journo and Ahmadi Imam Adnan Ahmed, “Panel on Religious Extremism in the Middle East” – March 21, 2019
Nadine Strosse, “Social Justice and Free Speech: Dismantling Hate through Dialogue” – March 28, 2019
Nina Van Harn, “Facing Forced Marriage in America” – March 31, 2019
Senator Joyce Krawiec and Amanda Parker, “Preventing FGM in the U.S. and North Carolina” – April 16, 2019
Nadine Strossen, “HATE: Why We Should Combat It with Free Speech, Not Censorship” – April 23, 2019
Faisal Saeed Al-Mutar, “Books Not Bombs: Translating the Western Canon for the Islamic World” – September 13, 2019
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, “The (Transformative) Power of Women” – October 1, 2019
F.A. Cole, “Female Genital Mutilation: A Survivor’s Story” – November 5, 2019
Joanna Vergoth, “A Culturally Sanctioned Trauma: Female Genital Mutilation” – November 8, 2019
Dr. Muhammed Fraser-Rahim, “Countering Extremism in an Age of Terror” – November 14, 2019
Prof. Samuel Abrams, “Polarization and Partisanship in Academia” – November 14, 2019
Masih Alienjad and Rafia Zakaria, “Feminism and Effective Activism” – November 18, 2019
Dr. Muhammad Fraser-Rahim and Faisal Saeed Al-Mutar, “The Road to Radicalization” – December 5, 2019
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.
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.
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. –
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Society can bear the cost, the victim can bear the cost, or we can make the perpetrator bear the cost…
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.
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.
Traveled to Boise, Idaho to train, educate, and advocate for laws banning FGM and child marriage. We gave three presentations to frontline professionals and influential residents of Boise at the Faces of Hope Victim Center, including the Lt. Governor and the First Lady of Idaho.
Provided FGM education to over 200 medical professionals with the Central District Health Department and the Family Medicine Residency of Idaho.
Called for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment and condemned the Department of Justice’s refusal to defend the federal FGM ban alongside activists and elected officials at a press conference with U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney.
Participated in the 3D International Expert Meeting on Management and Prevention of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting where experts from around the globe shared their expertise, research, and best practices approach to FGM.
Educated a group of 100 young women from around the world about FGM and other gender-based abuses at the Women2Women International Leadership Program.
Trained therapists, school psychologists, and other professionals likely to encounter women and girls at risk of FGM at the Institute on Violence, Trauma and Abuse annual conference.
Called for bipartisan cooperation to end child and forced marriage and FGM on a bipartisan panel for International Women’s Day on Capitol Hill hosted by Concerned Women for America.
Educated attendees at a World Bank luncheon to encourage the use of the international financial institution’s influence to combat child marriage.
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.
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.
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!