Fauziya Kassindja

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Fauziya Kassindja

"Fauziya Kassindja was the teenage daughter of Togolese businessman who, contrary to local custom, protected his daughters from a tribal practice known as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), or female circumcision. When Ms. Kassindja's father died suddenly, her father's family forced the 17 year old girl into polygamous marriage with a man more than twice her age, and prepared her for the ritual of genital circumcision.

"In fear of the mutilation which lay before her, Ms. Kassindja fled Togo with the blessing of her mother and sister.Using a false passport, she traveled to Germany, and then to the United States. She presented the passport to an Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) officer on her arrival, explaining that it was not hers but that she had used it to flee her country. She asked for asylum and protection in the United States from the ritual cutting she would have to endure.

"Instead of receiving such protection, Ms. Kassindja was incarcerated in INS detention facilities for seventeen months and two weeks, while she awaited a final decision in her case. Her story came to the attention of student attorney Layli Miller-Muro, who argued Ms. Kassindja's case before an immigration judge who ultimately denied Ms. Kassindja's request for asylum. Two days later, Ms. Miller-Muro traveled to Beijing, China to attend the United Nations Women's Conference. There, she enlisted the support of Equality Now, the Bahá'í Community, and other human rights organizations, and upon her return to the United States, mobilized the International Human Rights Law Clinic at American University to take Fauziya's case on appeal.

"Ms. Kassindja's case was the occasion for intensive scrutiny of FGM by the international media. In particular, Celia Duggar, Anthony Lewis, and A.M. Rosenthal of the New York Times, as well as other journalists, were instrumental in bringing Ms. Kassindja's plight and FGM itself to the forefront of the public dialogue on international human rights abuses." [1]

"After she won her case at the BIA, book publishers clamored for her story. She eventually she received a $600,000 advance and produced, with a co-author, a highly engaging account of her life in Togo, her escape, detention, and eventual triumph in the legal process. Do They Hear You When You Cry". [2]


  • Fauziya Kassindja, Do They Hear You When You Cry? (Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1998).
  • Celia W. Dugger, "Roots of Exile: A Special Report: A Refugee’s Body is Intact but Her Family Is Torn", New York Times, Sept. 11, 1996.
  • Corinne A. Kratz, "Seeking Asylum, Debating Values, and Setting Precedents in the 1990s: The Cases of Kassindja dn Abankwah in the United States," In Ylva Hernlund and Bettina Shell-Duncan (eds.) Transcultural Bodies: Female Genital Cutting in Global Context (Rutgers University Press, 2007).


  • Linda Strong-Leek, Excising the Spirit: A Literary Analysis of Female Circumcision (Africa World Press, 2009).

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch articles


  1. FAUZIYA KASSINDJA'S STORY, Tahirih Justice Center, accessed November 14, 2008.
  2. Adelaide Abankwah, Fauziya Kasinga, and the Dilemmas of Political Asylum, Working Paper (2005), accessed November 15, 2008 (Adelaide Abankwah.
  3. Advisory Board=, Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, accessed November 14, 2008.