April 21, 1998 · Cavalier Daily

Bashir Discusses Gender Equality, Kasindja Case

International law attorney and human rights activist Layli Miller Bashir gives a speech about US policies of asylum for victims of female genitalia mutilation, sponsored by the National Organization for Women.


1998-04-21 Cavalier Daily Bashir Discusses Gender Equality, Kasindja Case.pdf
1998-04-21 Cavalier Daily Bashir Discusses Gender Equality, Kasindja Case (part 2).pdf
Nicola M. White
Cavalier Daily
Cavalier Daily
Bashir Discusses Gender Equality, Kasindja Case
Cavalier Daily Associate Editor
International law attorney, human rights activist and author Layli Miller Bashir addressed issues of women's rights during a speech before a crowd of about 40 in Ruffner Hall Saturday night. In the speech she emphasizing [sic] U.S. policies on asylum for victims of female genital mutilation
The talk was sponsored by the Baha'i Association and the National Organization for Women.
It concluded a week of events to commemorate women's rights. It including the Take Back the Night rally Thursday — that focused on problems facing women in society today.
Bashir "is definitely an example of a woman who’s struggled and has gotten to a position where she can voice her opinion candidly," said first-year College student Noshene Ranjabar.
The attorney won international fame because of her part in a groundbreaking case that transformed United States asylum laws.
In the case, a woman sought asylum after fleeing a polygamous marriage in Togo, Africa
Faunya Kasindja left Togo in 1994 because she also faced the ritual procedure of female circumcision – which many human rights advocates call genital mutilation.
There is a 15-20 percent mortality rate associated with the dangerous medical procedure as well as severe damage to the genital region, Bashir said.
For this reason, Kasindja felt that her "life and freedom were at stake," Bashir said.
Shortly after arriving in the U.S., Immigration and Naturalization Service officials refused then-17-year-old Kasindja asylum because her life was not in explicit danger.
But Bashir argued Kasindja suffered persecution in her home country solely because she was a woman.
In the maximum security prison in which INS officials placed her, she “suffered abuses, was beaten, tear-gassed during riots, and denied the right to pray before dawn,” Bashir said. “Unless you are a U.S. citizen, you do not enjoy the Bill of rights.”
After 16 months of this treatment and an abortive attempt to plead for sanctuary, extensive media attention brought Kasindja’s plight into the public eye and Bashir took the case.
The attorney helped Kasindja write a book about her experiences, entitled Do They Hear You When You Cry. Bashir said Kasindja deserved asylum because “female genital mutilation is persecution inflicted upon her because of her member ship in a particular social group – women.”
Her book was published in 1998.
Upon winning Kasindja’s case, Bashir founded the Tahirih Justice Center in Falls Church, Virginia, where she provides free legal service to women seeking asylum.
As a Baha’i, Bashir said her religion affected her work and quoted Baha’i writings when she read these words out loud for the crowd.
“Humanity is compared to a bird which has two wings,” she said. “One is male, one is female. Unless both wings are equally strong, the bird will not be able to soar.”
Audience members said they were impressed by Bashir’s speech since she captured the essence of female empowerment.
“It was inspirational,” fourty-year College student Nizam Missaghi said. “I especially thought that the spiritual aspect that was tied into the understanding of the rights of women was an issue that neede to be addressed.”
“jIt was a wonderful event,” Said Nafis Zebarjadi, third-year Engineering student and Baha’i Association chairman.
Zebarjadi said he hoped more people would have tended the speech.
“I wish that there were more people here. This is definitely a topic that the University needs to talk about and is sometimes overlooked. Overall I think it was a good start,” he said.
“I loved it,” first-year College student Bahie Rassekh said. “She spoke from the heart. She’s an example of someone working so hard toward equality. You can tell by the way she speaks out.”
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Date Added June 29, 2016
Date Modifed December 18, 2017
Collection Cavalier Daily: articles about gender discrimination

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