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February 21, 2015

Kae survived an abusive stepfather and FGM/C as a child, and was threatened with violence when her family discovered she had converted to a different religion. Faced with this interplay of religious and patriarchal violence, Kae sought asylum. She was granted asylum in the United States and is now a permanent resident, ready to chart her own future.

Kae grew up in a house of violence and neglect. Her stepfather, a powerful man in the local government, was not only abusive to his children, but also to his three wives. His high status guarded him from any form of police intervention, and Kae knew early on that she could never ask for help. Her cries would fall on deaf ears.

When she was 10 years old, Kae’s stepfather required that she undergo female genital mutilation (FGM). She was taken to an old house where two women, who had no professional training, forcibly performed the surgery. She fell ill with an infection. To this day, Kae is haunted by what happened to her.

Despite her traumatic childhood, Kae did very well in her studies and was given the opportunity to continue her education in the United States. She moved to Houston, where she excelled in academics. She lived with her stepsister, and her stepfather paid for their rent, food, and tuition.

Suddenly, the arrangement changed. In 2011, her stepfather and mother came to visit and discovered that Kae had converted to another religion. Kae’s stepfather was outraged. He immediately returned home, had her stepsister move out, and cut off all communication and financial ties with Kae. A few months later, Kae’s mother called to tell her that she must marry a man in her home country. He was more than 20 years Kae’s senior and shared the same religion as her family, meaning that she would be forced to abandon her own faith. He already had one wife.

The forced marriage was the only way Kae would be accepted back into her family, but Kae had always been strongly opposed to polygamy and wanted to practice her own religion. She wanted a future free of violence for both herself and her children.

She wanted to choose her own path.

In 2012, with her money running out and her student status in jeopardy, Kae was connected to Tahirih’s services.

In order to qualify, asylum seekers endure an exceptionally arduous process of proving that they meet the definition of a refugee. They must demonstrate that they have a well-founded fear of persecution in their country of citizenship, and that their own governments are either persecuting them or cannot or will not protect them from persecution by a non-state actor.

Through her perseverance and with the help of her attorneys, Kae was granted asylum.

When Kae first started her asylum process, she had just lost everything. But even with her family ties severed and no resources at her disposal, she never lost hope. She relied on her faith to carry her through the difficult times.

Kae finally received her green card. She is now enjoying her newfound independence and is looking forward to graduating college with a degree in business administration. Tahirih is proud to have served her.

Names may have been changed to protect client privacy and safety. Photo may not depict actual client.

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