She challenged a life-threatening tradition.
She refused to be treated like a criminal, when all she sought was safety.
She transformed the world.
On June 13, 1996, the highest immigration court in the nation granted asylum to a teenager from Togo, paving the way for women the world over to pursue justice.
Twenty years later, Fauziya Kassindja’s legacy is more important than ever, and we are excited to invite you to celebrate it with us.
At the age of 17, Fauziya fled the only home she had ever known in West Africa and sought asylum in the United States to avoid a forced marriage to a man with three wives and a procedure that could kill her or bring her lifelong pain — female genital mutilation/cutting.
Fauziya barely made it out alive. But instead of receiving a hero’s welcome in the United States, Fauziya was imprisoned in maximum-security detention centers for nearly two years, where she was shackled, strip-searched, and held in isolation.
“I missed the outdoors so much — the air, the sights, and the natural light too,” Fauziya wrote about her time in detention.
A Case that Climbed to the Highest Court in the Nation
Layli Miller-Muro came across Fauziya’s case as a law student, and she couldn’t stand by. She helped bring Fauziya’s case to the highest immigration court in the nation, and Fauziya was granted asylum by the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals. The decision set national precedent and established gender-based persecution as grounds for asylum.
One year later, using proceeds from a book she co-wrote with Fauziya, Layli founded Tahirih Justice Center to respond to an outpouring of pleas for help from women like Fauziya in desperate need of free legal protection from human rights abuses.
Today, Tahirih Justice Center stands alone as the only national, multi-city, non-profit organization providing a broad range of direct legal services, policy advocacy, and community education to protect immigrant women and girls fleeing violence. In 2015 alone — thanks to an army of supporters like you — Tahirih was able to provide free legal services to more than 2,000 women and girls, and their family members, from over 90 countries. Since 1997, your support has brought justice to 19,000+ courageous individuals like Fauziya.
Twenty years later, more need than ever
Tragically, there is more need than ever for our lifesaving services. Worldwide displacement because of war, persecution, and conflict is at an all-time high, and women and children are bearing the brunt of the consequences. Right now, thousands of moms and their kids are locked up in U.S. detention centers, like Fauziya was. Their “crime”? Fleeing war-level violence in Central America.
But for every act of violence and injustice, there is also an act of incredible courage like Fauziya’s. Her bravery sparked a ripple effect, and FGM/C is now illegal in Togo, the United States, and dozens of other countries. Change is possible. But justice remains at bay for too many women.
This June, celebrate Fauziya’s courage with us. Celebrate the courage of women and girls around the world who are saying “no” to violence. Their strength and determination, coupled with your compassion and action, will transform the world. Because when she soars, we all soar.