New York, NY
Dear AHA Supporter:
We are pleased to present to you the AHA Foundation 2013 Annual Report. We are very proud of our accomplishments this year and are delighted to share our ongoing initiatives with you. Here are some highlights from our accomplishments in 2013:
• To date, the AHA Foundation has educated thousands of professionals on the issues of honor violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation. Our third annual conference on honor violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation was held this month in New York City. The conference featured international experts on these issues and was widely attended by professionals likely to encounter victims of these crimes. We expanded our in-person trainings and webinars this year, and forged connections with important new audiences — including a large network of high school guidance counselors.
• The AHA Foundation’s legislative outreach program continues to be a resounding success. The AHA Foundation consulted with Representative Joseph Crowley on the newly-enacted Transport for Female Genital Mutilation Act, which strengthens the federal FGM by adding an “extraterritoriality” component. The Foundation also recently consulted with Representative Frank Wolf about the serious problem of honor violence in the United States, and provided support for his efforts to address honor crimes through the federal appropriations bill. At the state level, we worked with Pennsylvania, Kansas and Massachusetts to advance state bans on FGM. In New Jersey, we provided written support for a legislative initiative that assists domestic violence victims by making it easier for them to obtain final restraining orders against their abusers.
• Our research projects with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice are close to completion with very promising preliminary findings. The John Jay research team has developed innovative methods for ascertaining the prevalence of honor violence in the United States and forced marriage in New York City, and their findings are both illuminating and disturbing. We look forward to publishing the results soon.
• In 2013, fifty-four individuals sought help from the AHA Foundation in escaping forced marriages or situations of honor violence. Drawing on our expertise and ever-expanding network of allied professionals, we were able to refer these individuals to appropriate services while helping them achieve safety. To date, we have helped 110 individuals.
2013 was a busy, productive and successful year for the AHA Foundation, and we are grateful to you for supporting our important initiatives. We invite you to visit our website to learn more about our ongoing initiatives and future endeavors: www.theahafoundation.org.
The AHA Foundation works to protect and defend the rights of women and girls in the United States from violence and oppression justified in the name of religion and culture, such as: honor killings, honor violence, female genital mutilation, forced marriage and child marriage.
The AHA Foundation is the first and only organization dedicated to understanding the scope and impact of honor violence, forced marriage, and female genital mutilation in the United States, and organizing intervention, support, enforcement, legislation, public awareness and diplomatic initiatives to protect the victims of these crimes.
The AHA Foundation has enjoyed great success this year in our mission to protect the rights of women and girls in the United States from oppression justified by religious and cultural traditions. We continue to divide our work into four categories: inform, investigate, influence and intervene.
Informing the public – in particular, professionals likely to encounter victims – is a priority for the AHA Foundation. We gained tremendous momentum this year in raising widespread awareness about crimes committed against women in the United States justified by religion and culture.
On December 4th, the AHA Foundation, in partnership with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, held its third conference on honor violence, forced marriage, and female genital mutilation (FGM) in New York City. The conference is an annual gathering of experts dedicated to exploring the complex criminal manifestations of, and best responses to, honor-based violence against women and girls. Speakers provided information on how to identify cases, best practices for investigating and prosecuting honor violence, as well as guidance on how to protect potential victims.The conference featured an international panel of experts addressing a room full of police officers, FBI agents, prosecutors, judges, social workers, domestic violence advocates, guidance counselors, and representatives from numerous other NGOs.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali opened the conference with an explanation of the perilous circumstances of women in honor-based cultures. She shared her own story of escaping the oppression of a traditional honor-based culture, as documented in her best-selling memoir Infidel. She characterized the conference as historic because, “Most Americans—who cherish safety for children and freedom for adults—are unfamiliar with tragic consequences of a warped regard for honor and purity. They need to be alerted to discover, criminalize, and put an end to these cruel practices.”
Chris Boughey and Jeffrey Balson, detectives in the Violent Crimes Unit of the Peoria, Arizona Police Department, shared profiles of recent honor violence and forced marriage cases that they have worked on, in cooperation with the AHA Foundation. Detectives Boughey and Balson are acclaimed for their dedication to rescuing women and girls from honor violence situations as well as for investigating the honor killing of Noor Almaleki.
Amber Hanson, a Country Officer with the Office of Overseas Citizens Services, American Citizens Services with the U.S. Department of State, discussed the forced marriage of U.S. citizens overseas and the Department of State’s work in identifying and addressing cases.
The keynote address was given by Gerard Laarhuis, Assistant Crown Attorney, Ontario, Canada, who profiled the Shafia murders, a horrendous, multi-victim honor killing in Canada. He was chief prosecutor in the case in which, as he explained afterwards, a jury “found that four strong, vivacious and freedom-loving women were murdered by their own family.” Explaining to an audience full of stakeholders, he said, “We failed them. We are here today because we want to do better.”
Archana Pyati, Deputy Director of the Immigration Intervention Project at Sanctuary for Families, addressed the topic of female genital mutilation in the United States. She discussed the phenomenon of “vacation cutting” and how her organization is helping survivors of female genital mutilation and those seeking asylum from FGM in their home countries.
Dr. Phyllis Chesler discussed honor killings in Western countries and, as author of “An American Bride in Kabul,” described her personal experience with honor-based violence.
The 2013 recipient of the annual AHA Foundation Honour Award was Dr. Elizabeth Gibson, a pediatrician from Pennsylvania. Dr. Gibson was given the award in recognition of her exemplary efforts to assist a young patient in a life-threatening situation. Dr. Gibson was not willing to accept the argument that the girl’s cultural background was more important than her safety, and worked tirelessly to ensure that the girl received protection and support.
In addition to our annual conference, the training of law enforcement professionals, child protective services and other service providers has been a top priority for the AHA Foundation this year. Our emphasis on live, in-person trainings increased in 2013. The AHA Foundation held trainings for the Administration for Children’s Services in New York City, the Department of Education guidance counselors in New York City, Child Welfare Offices in Alexandria, VA, Phoenix-area law enforcement officials in conjunction with the Peoria, AZ Police Department, and at a human trafficking conference at Carlos Albizu University in Miami, FL. In addition, our Executive Director spoke at a UNA-NCA Violence Against Women event in Washington, D.C. The AHA Foundation continues to work diligently with the New York City Board of Education to conduct trainings for senior staff and school guidance counselors.
Throughout the year, the AHA Foundation held live web-based training sessions for numerous agencies and guidance counselors across the United States. These web-based training sessions have also been posted to the AHA Foundation website for professionals to view at their convenience. We continue to work towards the goal of training all of the organizations listed in our Resource Directory, covering shelters in every single American state.
Through our annual conference, live trainings with child protective professions, law enforcement officials, and guidance counselors, online webinars, and our comprehensive training manual, we reached a huge audience this year. By training those who will likely have contact with victims, the AHA Foundation is helping to keep girls and women in the United States safe from honor violence and forced marriage.
As in previous years, our legislative outreach program experienced a great deal of exciting successes this year. The AHA Foundation has consistently advocated for the expansion of FGM legislation to include procedures performed abroad. In January 2013, the President significantly advanced those efforts when he signed into law the Transport for Female Genital Mutilation Act. While FGM has been illegal in the United States since 1996, this bill strengthened the existing federal FGM ban by adding an “extraterritoriality” component, making it illegal to knowingly transport a girl out of the country for the purpose of undergoing the procedure. The AHA Foundation’s founder, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and our Executive Director specifically consulted with Representative Crowley (NY), a key proponent of the bill, on the serious problem of “vacation cutting,” and lent our support for the language contained in the new bill.
Also on the federal level, the AHA Foundation consulted with Representative Frank Wolf (VA) about the serious problem of honor violence in the United States, and provided formal support for his efforts to address honor violence through the federal appropriations bill. Representative Wolf’s proposed bill acknowledges the reality of honor violence and directs the FBI and Justice Department to maintain statistics on its occurrence. This legislation represents a crucial step in the struggle to address honor violence in the United States by documenting the nature and frequency of these crimes.
In 2013, the AHA Foundation met with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s (NY) office to bring attention to the issues of honor violence, forced marriage and FGM, and to talk about possible ways to collaborate on legislation going forward.
We have also had major successes on the state level. In Pennsylvania, the AHA Foundation worked with Representative Thomas Murt to introduce an FGM bill in the Pennsylvania Assembly. Thanks to our efforts, H.B. 1658 was introduced in August 2013 and is now being considered in Committee. In February, the AHA Foundation drafted written testimony in support of Kansas’s FGM bill, which includes all the elements of our model FGM legislation. The bill was passed unanimously by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor on April 10th. In New Jersey, the AHA Foundation provided written testimony in support of Unchained At Last’s legislative initiative that assists domestic violence victims by making it easier for them to obtain final restraining orders against their abusers. The AHA Foundation has consulted with members of the Massachusetts Women’s Bar Association, which has started a task force to ban FGM in the state. We have provided the group with Massachusetts-specific materials that they can take to their legislators, along with our model legislation and other resources.
The introduction of these bills and the passage of these laws will have a significant deterrent effect and sends a strong message that such crimes will be punished in this country. We are confident that numerous girls have been saved from the trauma and physical torture of FGM because of our work.
We have devoted significant resources to the research projects that we began in 2011 with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Once completed, these projects will provide key data on the frequency of honor violence in the United States and forced marriage in New York City, which will aid the AHA Foundation as we work to convince legislators of the need to devote resources, enact laws and strengthen existing policies to address these issues. The data will also be a tool to show law enforcement, prosecutors, teachers, and other professionals the importance of taking these issues seriously.
John Jay has compiled data that compares the United States to other Western countries with high rates of honor violence. In preliminary results, the John Jay research team estimates that, at a minimum, there are about 40 honor killings in the United States each year. More shockingly, though, is that they believe the most accurate estimate to be closer to 109 honor-motivated homicides of females in the United States each year.
Regarding the forced marriage study, the John Jay researchers have developed a creative and innovative approach to collecting data. Because forced marriage is very much a “hidden” problem, the John Jay team decided to use the student population at City University New York (CUNY) to build a knowledge base about (a) the communities affected by forced marriage; (b) the cultural and religious context in which forced marriages are taking place; and (c) the specific manner in which forced marriages are occurring in the United States.
To gather their data, the John Jay team interviewed 100 CUNY students from targeted communities about their knowledge, understanding of and experiences with forced marriage. These in-depth, qualitative interviews have provided the team with a deep understanding of the nuances and complexities of the problem, as well as insight into the specific neighborhoods and communities in New York City affected by forced marriage. The initial data coming from this research shows that 88% of students interviewed know of at least one person in their social circles who did not want to get married but did so anyway.
This year, the AHA Foundation created several resource documents for at-risk individuals to use in cases of emergency. Our “Safety Planning Tools” and “Safety Planning Tips” set out practical safety planning strategies for individuals who may be in danger. To help them spot dangerous situations in advance, we created “Red Flags and Tips on Responses.” In addition, we created “Obtaining Important Documents,” a reference guide for individuals whose documents have been lost or stolen in crisis situations.
We also continue to help individuals seeking assistance in fleeing situations of honor violence or forced marriage. We provide these individuals with interim direct services and refer them to the appropriate resources to help them achieve safety. In 2013, we had fifty-four individuals seek help from the AHA Foundation, an increase of 54% from 2012. This increase shows us that individuals in need are increasingly aware that the AHA Foundation is here to help. This year, our cases included a young woman whose family tricked her into returning to her family’s country of origin. Once there, her family began actively searching for a husband for the girl, and told her to forget about ever returning to the United States. The AHA Foundation reached out to the Department of State and coordinated with our law enforcement contacts. We shared our expertise with these colleagues as they assisted her in obtaining new travel documents, escaping from her family and returning safely back to the United States. The young woman has since re-enrolled in college and recently completed her fall semester. We continue to work with her to ensure she is receiving appropriate services and has transitioned back to life in the United States.
In 2013, the AHA Foundation enjoyed multiple opportunities to promote our work and our issues with both national and international audiences. Most recently, on December 4th, Ayaan Hirsi Ali opened the AHA Foundation’s annual conference on honor violence, forced marriage, and female genital mutilation in New York City. To bring further awareness to the fact that these crimes are taking place in the United States, she wrote a piece for The Daily Beast titled “Young, American, Forced to Wed.” The Daily Beast also reported on the content of the conference, interviewing several speakers and posting the article “America’s Honor Killing Epidemic.” Over the summer, Ayaan wrote a piece for TheSunday Times in the U.K., discussing the phenomenon of “vacation cutting” with her piece “School’s Out and the Knife Awaits.” Prior to that, in discussing the problem of enforcing laws on FGM, she told the London Evening Standard, “FGM was done to me at the age of five. Ten years later, even twenty … I would not have testified against my parents.”In an interview with Australian journalist Ruby Hamad in Daily Life, Ayaan calls on feminists to return to their core values and prioritize women’s safety first in a piece entitled “‘Women’s safety is the top priority.’” In Stockton, California, Ayaan delivered her global perspective on domestic violence in a focused, localized talk at the 33rd Annual Women’s Center – Youth and Family Services Luncheon.
A major opportunity to garner attention for our issues came this year in the form of the film Honor Diaries, which features nine courageous women’s rights advocates from Muslim-majority countries engaged in a dialogue about gender inequality. In addition to her role speaking out about her own personal experiences, Ayaan is an executive producer for the film. This film premiered at the Chicago Film Festival and was also featured at the St. Louis Film Festival where it was awarded the Interfaith Award for Best Documentary. The film aired on DirecTV to an audience greater than one million viewers throughout the month of December. Next spring, to coincide with International Women’s Day, groups around the world will screen Honor Diaries, bringing greater awareness to this issue on a global and local level.
The AHA Foundation’s latest Form 990 is publicly available. To review, please visit Guidestar: www.guidestar.org.
Thank you for your support of the AHA Foundation in 2013. We depend on the generosity of individual donors like you to do our life-saving work. We encourage you to visit our website to learn more about what we do and what you can do to help: www.theahafoundation.org