Events

Arizona Homicide Investigators Association Training

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Training ImageTuesday, February 18th, the AHA Foundation team had the pleasure of co-leading a training on honor violence and forced marriage for the Arizona Homicide Investigators Association.  The training was co-lead in partnership with AHA Foundation law-enforcement liaisons Detective Chris Boughey and Detective Jeff Balson of the Peoria, AZ, Police Department.

Detective Boughey began the morning by introducing the topics of honor violence and forced marriage to the crowd of 80 homicide investigators.  He explained that he and Detective Balson were initially exposed to the brutal reality of honor violence in the U.S. when being called to investigate the honor killing of Noor Almaleki in Peoria, AZ, in 2009.  Since then, the two detectives have become the nation’s leading law enforcement experts in the fields of honor violence and forced marriage.

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The AHA Foundation’s Communications Director, Amanda Parker, then spoke to the group about best practices for identifying and handling cases of honor violence and forced marriage.  She shared the unique challenges that are faced with these particular types of abuse and explained how understanding the nuances of and motivations behind these crimes is crucial in properly investigating these cases.

Next, the AHA Foundation’s Director of Special Projects discussed working with victims of forced marriage and honor violence.  She reviewed the importance of understanding the power dynamic between investigator and victim and how awareness of the way an investigator projects himself/herself can both facilitate a better interview as well as ensure that the victim is not further traumatized by the investigation itself.  Additionally, she discussed various challenges in victims seeking help and engaging with law enforcement due to cultural and linguistic factors, and promoted collaboration between law enforcement and trained NGO and social service partners.

As part of the day’s training, we were thrilled with the opportunity to screen Honor Diaries for the investigators present.  Honor Diaries is an award-winning film showcasing nine women who discuss abuses women face in the name of religion and culture.  Ayaan Hirsi Ali acts as an executive producer for this film that brings awareness to the issues of honor violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

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Following Honor Diaries, Detective Balson detailed recent, real-life cases of forced marriage and honor violence that he has worked in cooperation with the AHA Foundation.  During his presentation, he gave practical advice on complications that law enforcement officials are likely to encounter and tips on how to best handle them.

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To complete the day, Detective Boughey gave an in-depth case study of the Noor Almaleki honor killing investigation.  During his presentation of the case, he highlighted the various instances where the Almaleki homicide exemplified a “typical” case of honor violence.

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The AHA Foundation
 Third Annual Conference on Honor Violence, Forced Marriage, and Female Genital Mutilation

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On December 4th, 2013, the AHA Foundation, in partnership with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, held its third conference on honor violence, forced marriage, and female genital mutilation (FGM) in New York City.  The conference is an annual gathering of experts dedicated to exploring the complex criminal manifestations of, and best responses to, honor-based violence against women and girls. Speakers provided information on how to identify cases, best practices for investigating and prosecuting honor violence, as well as guidance on how to protect potential victims. The conference featured an international panel of experts addressing a room full of police officers, FBI agents, prosecutors, judges, social workers, domestic violence advocates, guidance counselors, and representatives from numerous other NGOs.

Ayaan_AHAconf2013Ayaan Hirsi Ali opened the conference with an explanation of the perilous circumstances of women in honor-based cultures. She shared her own story of escaping the oppression of a traditional honor-based culture, as documented in her best-selling memoir Infidel.  She characterized the conference as historic because, “Most Americans—who cherish safety for children and freedom for adults—are unfamiliar with tragic consequences of a warped regard for honor and purity. They need to be alerted to discover, criminalize, and put an end to these cruel practices.”

Boughey_AHAconf2013Chris Boughey and Jeffrey Balson, detectives in the Violent Crimes Unit of the Peoria, Arizona Police Department, shared profiles of recent honor violence and forced marriage cases that they have worked on, in cooperation with the AHA Foundation.  Detectives Boughey and Balson are acclaimed for their dedication to rescuing women and girls from honor violence situations as well as for investigating the honor killing of Noor Almaleki.

Balson_AHAconf2013Amber Hanson, a Country Officer with the Office of Overseas Citizens Services, American Citizens Services with the U.S. Department of State, discussed the forced marriage of U.S. citizens overseas and the Department of State’s work in identifying and addressing cases.

Hanson_AHAconf2013The keynote address was given by Gerard Laarhuis, Assistant Crown Attorney, Ontario, Canada, who profiled the Shafia murders, a horrendous, multi-victim honor killing in Canada.  He was chief prosecutor in the case in which, as he explained afterwards, a jury “found that four strong, vivacious and freedom-loving women were murdered by their own family.”  Explaining to an audience full of stakeholders, he said, “We failed them.  We are here today because we want to do better.”

Laarhuis_AHAconf2013Archana Pyati, Deputy Director of the Immigration Intervention Project at Sanctuary for Families, addressed the topic of female genital mutilation in the United States.  She discussed the phenomenon of “vacation cutting” and how her organization is helping survivors of female genital mutilation and those seeking asylum from FGM in their home countries.

Pyati_AHAconf2013Dr. Phyllis Chesler discussed honor killings in Western countries and, as author of “An American Bride in Kabul,” described her personal experience with honor-based violence.

Chesler_AHAconf2013The 2013 recipient of the annual AHA Foundation Honour Award was Dr. Elizabeth Gibson, a pediatrician from Pennsylvania.  Dr. Gibson was given the award in recognition of her exemplary efforts to assist a young patient in a life-threatening situation.  Dr. Gibson was not willing to accept the argument that the girl’s cultural background was more important than her safety, and worked tirelessly to ensure that the girl received protection and support.

HONOR Award 2013

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AHA Foundation On the Road – Peoria, AZ

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Peoria PD BadgeOn August 5th and 6th, 2013, the AHA Foundation Executive Director and Communications Director headed out west to Phoenix, Arizona, to attend a panel discussing the Noor Almaleki honor killing and to hold a training on honor violence and forced marriage in partnership with the Peoria Police Department.

The afternoon of the 5th, we had the pleasure of reuniting with old friends and fellow colleagues in the fight against honor violence, Detective Chris Boughey, lead detective in the Noor Almaleki honor killing case, his partner Detective Jeff Balson, and Laura Reckart, prosecutor in the Noor Almaleki murder trial, the first trial in the U.S. to use honor as the underlying motive in the case.  Both Detective Boughey and Reckart have been speakers at our annual conference.  The three of them were participating in a panel reviewing the Noor Almaleki case for a group of students at Phoenix School of Law.

Peoria Training - Honor Violence & Forced Marriage

Photo courtesy of Peoria Police Department

Tuesday morning, the 6th of August, in partnership with the Peoria Police Department, we held a training for local law enforcement and social service agencies.  Detective Boughey discussed specifics of the Almaleki honor killing including the complexities involved in investigating a crime that was committed in the name of honor.  Following Det. Boughey, the AHA Foundation Communications Director gave practical guidance on working with victims of honor violence and forced marriage as well as best practices for investigating cases.  This training was the first of its kind for professionals in the Phoenix area.

It was a fast but very productive trip.  We’re grateful for the hospitality shown by the Peoria Police Department and were impressed, as always, with the amazing work that Det. Boughey and Det. Balson are doing to protect women and girls nationwide from these abuses.

You can see related press articles from our training on the local CBS station and azfamily.com.

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The AHA Foundation
 Second Annual Conference on Honor Violence and Forced Marriage

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On October 4th, the AHA Foundation hosted its Second Annual Conference on Honor Violence and Forced Marriage at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.  Last year’s groundbreaking conference was the first of its kind in the United States. Building upon last year’s success, the 2012 Conference featured an impressive lineup of speakers addressing a room full of NYPD, FBI, criminal justice practitioners, domestic violence shelters and numerous other NGOs.

Opening the conference, founder of the AHA Foundation and award-winning humanitarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali spoke about the unique circumstances of women in honor-based cultures, drawing upon her own experiences growing up in Africa and the Middle East.  Ayaan gave the attendees specific tips and best practices for handling cases of honor violence and forced marriage.  She also spoke about the challenges facing service providers and law enforcement officials who encounter these issues, and the urgent need to address them in the United States.

Nazir Afzal OBE, Director of the UK’s Crown Prosecution Services, spoke about honor crimes and forced marriage in the UK, explaining to the audience that one of the main lessons to take away was the need to “park their prejudices at the door” and “believe the victim.”  Nazir discussed real life cases of honor violence and forced marriage in the UK to illustrate the unifying characteristics of these crimes.  He also discussed the recent move to criminalize forced marriage in the UK, and the political backlash that ensued.  Nazir closed his remarks by pointing out the importance of each audience member in helping to prevent these crimes and support the victims.

Our next speaker, Detective Chris Boughey, was presented with the first AHA Foundation Honour Award, for embodying the belief that women everywhere, of all cultures, merit access to education and basic human rights.  Detective Boughey has been a huge asset to the AHA Foundation in our work protecting women and girls who come to us seeking help escaping honor violence and forced marriage.  Detective Boughey was the lead investigator in the honor killing of Noor Almaleki.  Noor, a 20-year-old woman from Peoria, Arizona, was murdered by her father for being “too Western” and for refusing a forced marriage to her cousin in Iraq.  During his address to our audience, Detective Boughey reviewed specifics of the Almaleki investigation, putting the details in context with typical investigations, and discussed the aftermath of the case.

Heather Heiman, Senior Policy Attorney for the Tahirih Justice Center, spoke about Taharih‘s forced marriage initiative, including the direct services they provide to victims and a national survey they conducted which found as many as 3,000 cases of forced marriage in the U.S. in the two years preceding the survey.  Heather discussed with the audience what she has learned through her own work with victims of forced marriage and the nuances that are sometimes present in these particular cases.  In addition, she pointed out legal remedies that she has used when handling difficult cases, such as the case of a minor who was being forced to marry.

Our final speaker was Professor Ric Curtis who is heading up the AHA Foundation’s research projects on honor killings in the U.S. and forced marriage and FGM in New York City.  Professor Curtis showed a short video of interview clips done with CUNY students discussing the forced marriages they have personally encountered in their lives and the attitudes their communities have towards marriage.

To close the conference, our speakers were joined by Archana Pyati, Deputy Director of the Immigration Intervention Project at Sanctuary for Families, in a panel discussion led by Professor Curtis.  This session reviewed what the panel members believed was the most important take away from the day, their feelings on the biggest obstacles faced by those working to help victims, and questions about what happens to victims after they have been brought into the system.

The AHA Foundation is profoundly grateful to all the speakers whose expertise made this conference such a success.  We know that, thanks to the information provided to our audience, this will be a day that saves lives.

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Second Annual Conference on Honor Violence & Forced Marriage

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The AHA Foundation, founded by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, is proud to host its second annual symposium on honor violence and forced marriage on October 4th, 2012, in New York City.

The Conference will bring together leading criminal justice professionals, first responders and domestic violence shelter staff members to focus on the emerging problems of honor violence and forced marriage in the United States.  Conference speakers will provide information on how to identify cases, best practices for investigating and prosecuting cases of honor violence and honor killings, as well as guidance on how to protect potential victims. In addition, there will be a discussion on the recent criminalization of forced marriage in the United Kingdom.

The need for this Conference is illustrated by a recent incident in the United States.  In October 2009, Faleh Almaleki murdered his 20-year-old daughter, Noor, by running her down with his vehicle because he believed that she had shamed the family by becoming too Western and refusing to marry a man he had selected for her in Iraq.  In 2011, Faleh became the first person convicted of murder in the United States by a prosecutor using an honor violence theory.

Last year, the AHA Foundation Conference on Honor Violence and Forced Marriage was groundbreaking as the first of its kind in the United States. Building upon last year’s success, the 2012 Conference features an impressive lineup of speakers including:

  • Ayaan Hirsi Ali, award-winning humanitarian and leading activist in women’s rights
  • Nazir Afzal OBE, Crown Prosecution Service Director, London
  • Detective Chris Boughey, lead investigator in the Noor Almaleki honor killing
  • Heather Heiman, Senior Public Policy Attorney at the Tahirih Justice Center

Also at this year’s conference, Ric Curtis, Professor and Chair of the Anthropology Department at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, will present the latest study findings highlighting the incidence of honor violence and forced marriage. The study, commissioned by the AHA Foundation, seeks to quantify the occurrence of honor violence in the United States and forced marriage in New York City, as no government agency currently tracks these statistics. 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.

About the AHA Foundation:

In response to ongoing abuses of women’s rights in the name of religion and culture, activist and academic Ayaan Hirsi Ali and her supporters established the AHA Foundation in 2007 as a charitable organization to help protect and defend the rights of women in the United States from oppression justified by religion and culture. The AHA Foundation is the only organization in the United States dedicated to understanding the scope and impact of honor violence, forced marriage, and female genital mutilation (FGM), and organizing effective intervention, support, enforcement, legislation, public awareness, and diplomatic initiatives to protect the victims of these crimes.

The AHA Foundation works to protect and reinforce the basic rights and freedoms of women and girls, including security and control of their own bodies, access to an education, the ability to work outside the home and control their own income, freedom of expression and association, and the myriad other basic civil rights defined under the laws of Western democracies and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Foundation is opposed to the adoption of dual legal systems to adjudicate family disputes in religious families and supports the separation of all religions and the State.

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HONOUR, International Women’s Day & Cocktails

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Chaz Akoshile, Joint Head of the UK's Forced Marriage Unit; Jasvinder Sanghera, founder of Karma Nirvana and Sabatina James, founder of Sabatina EV attend the AHA Foundation's International Women's Day and HONOUR Launch cocktail reception.

On Thursday, March 8, 2012, the AHA Foundation held a cocktail reception in New York City to celebrate International Women’s Day and launch our new HONOUR products.  To date, we have an HONOUR tote bag, tie, pink and white candles.

 
The cocktail reception was a major success, particularly in the caliber of guests who attended.  In addition to friends and supporters, we were thrilled to host Jasvinder Sanghera, founder of Karma Nirvana; Chaz Akoshile, Joint Head of the UK’s Forced Marriage Unit; Phyllis Chesler, honor violence scholar; and Sabatina James, forced marriage survivor and founder of Sabatina EV.

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The AHA Foundation Receives Certificate of Appreciation from the U.S. State Department

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The U.S. State Department presents the AHA Foundation with a Certificate of Appreciation for assistance in combating the forced marriage of U.S. citizens.

We are pleased to announce that on November 17th, the AHA Foundation was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation from the U.S. State Department for our support and guidance in assisting victims of forced marriage.  The certificate was presented following a roundtable on forced marriage held by the State Department in Washington, DC.  In attendance from the AHA Foundation team were the Executive Director, the Research Director and the Legislative Counsel.

 

 

 

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Forced Marriage in the United States – 20th Anniversary of the Oneida County Domestic and Sexual Violence Coalition

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On October 13th, 2011, the Executive Director and Communications Director of the AHA Foundation attended Forced Marriage in the United States, a conference in Utica, NY on identifying cases of forced marriage, supporting victims and the collaborative community response necessary to address this abuse.  The conference was hosted by the Oneida County Domestic and Sexual Violence Coalition.

Featured speakers included:

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The AHA Foundation Honor Violence Symposium

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On June 6th, 2011, the AHA Foundation held the first ever conference on honor violence and forced marriage in the United States. By all accounts, it was a huge success and a day we know will save lives!

Group at The AHA Foundation Honor Violence Symposium

Ayaan addressed an audience full of NYPD, FBI, criminal justice practitioners, domestic violence shelters and service providers on Honor Violence 101. She spoke about the unique circumstances facing Muslim women and girls in an honor-based culture, the challenges facing law enforcement when confronting these cases, and the differences between honor violence and traditional Western domestic violence. She reviewed six cases of honor violence from Queens to illustrate that these crimes are happening on a local scale.

Nazir Afzal OBE, Director of the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service

Nazir Afzal OBE, Director of the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service

Our next keynote speaker was Nazir Afzal OBE, Director of the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service. He discussed the UK’s response to honor crime, forced marriage and female genital mutilation. During his lecture, he emphasized the need for everyone to believe victims who seek their help. When speaking of forced marriage, he pointed out that the forced marriage is often just the beginning of the abuse. In investigating and prosecuting honor killings, he said they should be handled like organized crime as often the entire family is involved. Finally, he spoke of the importance of educating everyone, starting with young children, on human rights, in order to stop the pattern of violence.

Laura Reckart, lead prosecutor in Arizona v. Almaleki

Laura Reckart, lead prosecutor in Arizona v. Almaleki

Following Nazir, we were extremely fortunate to be joined by 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 investigation, the challenges faced and the trial, including their disappointment with the verdict. Their belief is that Almaleki should have been convicted of first-degree murder rather than the lesser charge of second-degree murder as they clearly proved premeditation.

Sabatina James, founder of Sabatina EV

Sabatina James, founder of Sabatina EV

Sabatina James, founder of Sabatina EV, an award-winning German foundation set up to protect Muslim women from violence and oppression, and a victim of forced marriage, told her story, including problems she encountered when seeking help from shelters, police and government agencies. She discussed the fact that her father lied to social workers to ensure her return home and emphasized that people who immigrate to the U.S. do not leave their cultures at the airport.

Professor Ric Curtis of John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Professor Ric Curtis of John Jay College of Criminal Justice

We were all gratified when, during a panel discussion led by Professor Ric Curtis of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, one attendee stood up to say that she would do her job at the DA’s office differently the next day, thanks to information and awareness she gained at the conference.

Group at The AHA Foundation Honor Violence Symposium

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“Hidden in Plain Sight” Honor-Based Domestic Violence Conference, Basildon, England

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The Executive Director of the AHA Foundation took a trip across the pond to attend “Hidden in Plain Sight,” a conference hosted by Basildon Women’s Aid on honor-based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation.  The conference focused the victims of these crimes as well as the UK’s response. The UK is a model for how the US should handle these cases.  At the conference, the head of the UK’s Forced Marriage Unit spoke about their Forced Marriage Hotline and how effective it has been in rescuing girls.  While there, she was able to personally meet with one of the keynote speakers for the AHA Foundation Honor Violence Symposium, Nazir Afzal OBE, Director of the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service.  She also came back with several great ideas for projects and programming the AHA Foundation will be able to implement to further the mission of protecting the rights of girls and women in the West.

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