The AHA Foundation 2011 Annual Report
Dear AHA Supporter:
We are pleased to present the AHA Foundation 2011 Annual Report. We are very proud of our accomplishments this year and are delighted to share our ongoing initiatives with you.
Over the past year, the AHA Foundation has continued its crucial work defending women in the West from oppression and violence perpetrated in the name of religion and culture. Some highlights from our 2011 activities are as follows:
• In June, we hosted the first-ever U.S. conference on the topics of honor violence and forced marriages. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, joined by experts from around the world, discussed these important issues before an audience that included representatives from the NYPD, FBI, District Attorney’s Offices, Mayor Bloomberg’s office, and various advocacy organizations. The conference was widely publicized and participant feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
• The AHA Foundation has intensified its efforts to expand and strengthen federal and state legislation on issues such as female genital mutilation and domestic violence. We have drafted model legislation for states that have yet to specifically criminalize female genital mutilation and have also proposed an amendment to the federal Violence Against Women Act that would address honor violence.
• This fall, we initiated a substantial research project with The John Jay College of Criminal Justice that seeks to quantify the incidence of honor violence, forced marriages and female genital mutilation in the United States – something that has never before been done. Armed with the results of this study, the Foundation will be in a much stronger position to persuade government leaders to direct attention and resources to these issues.
• The AHA Foundation has improved its public presence by introducing a new website and logo and further employing social media to attract and engage supporters. We have worked to promote the Foundation through media spots and public appearances, and developed several exciting new fundraising initiatives, including the sale of HONOUR branded products.
As you can see, the AHA Foundation has had a busy and productive year. I would like to thank you for your support and encourage you to visit the AHA Foundation website for more information about our ongoing initiatives.
The AHA Foundation works to protect and defend the rights of women and girls in the West from violence and oppression justified by religion and culture. We focus on issues such as honor killings, honor violence, female genital mutilation, forced marriage and child marriage, and the acceptance of Sharia law into Western legal systems.
The AHA Foundation has had a very busy and exciting year continuing our crucial efforts to protect and defend women and girls in the West from oppression and violence committed in the name of religion and culture. We continue to divide our work into four categories: inform, influence, investigate, and intervene.
The AHA Foundation developed a number of projects and initiatives in 2011 to inform the public about violence and oppression of women in the U.S. justified by religion and culture. On June 6th, the AHA Foundation hosted the first-ever interdisciplinary conference on honor violence and forced marriages in the U.S. More than 100 people attended the conference, which was held at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, including representatives from the NYPD, FBI, District Attorney’s Offices, NYC Mayor’s Office, advocacy organizations, domestic violence shelters and direct services organizations. In addition to a keynote address by Ayaan, we brought in experts from around the world to educate our audience about these issues. Nazir Afzal OBE, Director of the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service, traveled from London to give the keynote at our conference. He discussed the UK’s response to honor crime, forced marriage and female genital mutilation. The next speaker was Laura Reckart, lead prosecutor in Arizona v. Almaleki, the first case in the U.S. where an honor violence theory was successfully used to obtain a conviction of a father who murdered his daughter, along with Detective Chris Boughey, who led the investigation into the murder. They spoke in detail about the challenges they experienced throughout the investigation and the trial, including their disappointment with the verdict. Finally, Sabatina James, a victim of forced marriage and founder of Sabatina EV, an award-winning German foundation set up to protect Muslim women from violence and oppression, told her story, including the problems she encountered when seeking help from shelters, police and government agencies. A short video of conference highlights is available online.
The resounding success of the conference was exemplified by one attendee, who stood up to say that she would do her job at the DA’s office differently the next day, thanks to the information and awareness she gained at the conference.
This is precisely the reason that we organized this conference and we are thrilled to have had such an impact on the law enforcement community in New York City. We have been contacted by the Basildon Women’s Aid, a leader on Honor Violence in the UK, and asked to help replicate this conference in 2012 on the west coast of the U.S.
We have also focused attention on informing the general public about our key issues. In July, we launched a new website showcasing the AHA Foundation’s updated logo and offering a more visually interesting and user-friendly destination for individuals to learn about our work and get involved. We have further increased our Internet presence though the use of social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter. Our followers on these sites have increased by 33% and 286%, respectively, over the last year. We also continue to regularly send our email newsletter to subscribers, whose number increased 42% in 2011.
We have directed particular attention to raising awareness among college students and energizing them to get involved. This year, we created an AHA Foundation campus handbook, which provides details on how to start a campus chapter of the Foundation. We have spoken with interested students at several colleges and expect to build a small network of college chapters over the next year.
One of the most important elements of our work is to educate government officials about the fact that human rights violations such as honor violence, forced marriages, and female genital mutilation are taking place in the U.S. We also work to persuade elected representatives and policymakers to prioritize the enforcement of existing laws that protect women’s rights and, where necessary, to create specific legislation to protect women from this violence.
The AHA Foundation significantly expanded our presence in Washington D.C. this year. In February, we had a table at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where we met many of Ayaan’s supporters, distributed materials about our signature issues, and networked with a number of young activists. We also held meetings in February with staff members from Senator Portman and Senator Kirk’s offices in which we introduced them to the Foundation and discussed our legislative priorities. In May, we met with staff members from the House Judiciary Committee and presented our proposal to amend the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to include honor violence. In July, we sent letters to the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee urging them to consider our VAWA proposal. We received an immediate response from one senator’s office, and have been working with her staff over the past several months on this proposal.
In addition developing relationships with elected officials, we have also made a connection with the Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs on the issue of forced marriages. In November, we were one of a few NGOs invited to participate in a roundtable discussion at the Department of State on the topic of forced marriages of U.S. citizens.
At this meeting, we were presented with a Certificate of Appreciation from the Department of State in recognition of our work to combat the forced marriage of girls and women in the West.
We are also working to influence lawmakers on the state level. One of our most important legislative initiatives is a strategic plan to criminalize female genital mutilation in every state. Given the importance of denouncing and deterring this horrific practice, we find it shameful and unacceptable that only 19 states have made female genital mutilation (FGM) a specific criminal offence. We have drafted model FGM legislation and have identified the states with the highest number of girls at risk that do not currently have an FGM law. We have begun to engage state legislators, other elected officials, and advocacy groups in those states – beginning with New Jersey – as part of our campaign to enact FGM legislation in every state.
Only these 19 states currenly have laws against FGM.
Perhaps no facet of our work is more important than our efforts to investigate and document cases of honor violence, forced marriages, and female genital mutilation in the U.S. Because these crimes are not identified or tracked by any law enforcement agency, is it nearly impossible to assess the scope of these issues in the U.S.
We are therefore thrilled to report that we have partnered with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to conduct the first-ever study of the prevalence of honor violence, forced marriages, and female genital mutilation in the U.S.
We anticipate that this study will definitively establish the presence of these human rights violations in the U.S. With these results in hand, we will be in a much stronger position to persuade state and federal legislators to pass relevant legislation to protect women and girls and encourage government leaders to direct attention and resources to these issues. We have also begun to receive data on these crimes from other sources, including the Queens County District Attorney’s Office, the New York Asian Women’s Center, and the New York State Bureau of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance.
We have also commenced an academic research project exploring the harmful effects of Shariah law on women’s rights and attempts to institutionalize Shariah in the U.S. In early 2012, we will be publishing a report documenting this research and issuing recommendations on how to prevent the dissemination and use of Shariah law in the U.S.
Although the AHA Foundation is primarily an advocacy organization, we recognize our responsibility to help victims of these forms of violence when they reach out to us for assistance. To this end, we established a “help” email address and regularly advertise on social networking websites that we are available to guide at-risk women and girls to appropriate service providers. We are building a network of safe houses, social workers, attorneys, and organizations with experience assisting victims of abuse in the religious and cultural contexts.
In 2011, we were able to provide assistance and support to 13 individuals who reached out to us for help.
Our assistance included making referrals to emergency housing and services, providing information about legal options for addressing a particular issue, making referrals to local legal services and connecting individuals to appropriate government or law enforcement agencies.
This year we also enhanced our resource directory by including at least one direct service provider in every state and providing contact information for national law enforcement organizations.
In November, the AHA Foundation launched the HONOUR Fund, a project designed to raise money and awareness for the AHA Foundation as well as other key non-profit organizations that defend and protect women’s rights, promote women’s education, and are defining honor for women around the world. We are now selling the first HONOUR products – a series of Vineyard Vines ties and tote bags as well as a soy candle. The HONOUR brand has the potential to raise a substantial amount of money to support both the Foundation and other organizations that work to protect women’s honor around the world, as well as to raise awareness about the continued oppression of women and girls.
AHA IN THE NEWS
This year, the AHA Foundation made considerable progress raising awareness of our issues and enhancing our public profile. Our media contacts in 2011 indicate that the AHA Foundation is now a reputable and widely recognized player in the struggle to protect the rights of women and girls.
Early in the year, the Foundation’s publicity efforts were focused around the paperback book tour for Nomad. Highlights included mentions on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 and In the Arena, as well as MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports. In the spring, we worked towards publicizing our conference on honor violence and forced marriage through a press release distributed to hundreds of journalists and media outlets. Representatives from FOX, CBS and People magazine attended the conference. CBS has asked to use our footage from the conference and to interview Ayaan for an upcoming episode of 48 Hours that discusses the topic of honor violence and we are working with a major news magazine on a story about forced marriage in the U.S.
Increase in social networking
New media played an important role in the publicity of the Foundation and our efforts this year. Nicholas Kristof ‘retweeted’ one of the Foundation’s tweets to his 1.1 million followers, which led to an almost immediate 5% increase in our Twitter following. Sam Harris used his Twitter feed to promote our honor violence conference, and the FrumForum blog posted an interview with Ayaan highlighting the event. Additionally, we have been given a great opportunity by The Huffington Post Canada to highlight our issues by submitting blogs written by Ayaan, the first of which was published this fall.
Ayaan was also able to promote the Foundation at numerous speaking engagements this year. Appearances of note include the CPAC panel on Sharia law, a panel on France’s ban of the burka at the Daily Beast’s Women in the World Summit, and giving the opening address, “Honor Violence 101,” at the AHA Foundation’s conference on honor violence and forced marriages. Also this spring, Ayaan spoke at a Hearst Magazine management conference, which led to Ayaan being interviewed for an upcoming Redbook article on female genital mutilation.
The AHA Foundation’s latest Form 990 is publicly available. To review, please visit Guidestar.
Thank you for your support of the AHA Foundation and our important work. We encourage you to visit our website to learn more about what we do and what you can do to help.
The AHA Foundation 2011 Annual Report is also available for download.