Do They Hear You When You Cry?

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Fauziya Kassindja's harrowing story begins in Togo, Africa, where she enjoyed a sheltered childhood, shielded by her progressive father from the tribal practice of polygamy and genital mutilation. But when her father died in , Fauziya's life changed dramatically. At the age of seventeen, she was forced to marry a man she barely knew who already had three wives, and prepare for the tribal ritual practice of genital mutilation - a practice that is performed without painkillers or antibiotics.

But hours before the ritual was to take place, Fauziya's sister helped her escape to Germany, and from there she travelled to the United States seeking asylum - and freedom. Instead she was stripped, shackled and imprisoned for sixteen months by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Enter Layli Miller Bashir, a twenty-three-year-old law student who took on Fauziya's case. When the two women met, Layli found a broken, emaciated girl with whom she forged an extraordinary friendship.

The clinic's acting director Karen Musalo, an expert in refugee law, assembled a team to fight on Fauziya's behalf. Ultimately, in a landmark decision that has given hope to many seeking asylum on the grounds of gender-based persecution, Fauziya was granted asylum on 13 June Here, for the first time, is Fauziya's dramatic personal story, told in her own words, vividly detailing her life as a young woman in Togo and her nightmarish day-to-day existence in American prisons. It is a story of faith and freedom, courage and inspiration - one that you will not easily forget.

Biography for Layli Miller Bashir Fauziya Kassindja was born in in Kpalime, Togo, the youngest daughter of a wealthy, prominent family. She now lives in Alexandria, Virginia. She lives in Virginia with her husband. What it is is a global and human rights issue. They will tell you it is circumcision. Circumcision leaves someone with the vital parts of his organ.

Mutilation is just what the name sounds like: cutting off the clitoris and labia minora; cutting off the clitoris, labia minora, and some portion of the labia majora and stitching the lips together, leaving a small opening near the anus for the passage of urine and blood. We were too young to even know the significance of it back then, still, we held each other and cried that night as we slept on the twin bed assigned to us. She and I were roommates at a church home that sheltered war orphans and children displaced by war.

Now, when I really think about it, I realize that it could have easily been me. The only difference between she and I was that she was of the Kpelle tribe and had lived in a village all her life, whereas I was a city girl from a political family: one-half of my family were Americo-Liberians Liberians with American ties who lived as Americans in Liberia and the other half were from the Vai tribe. Although my tribal family believed in community, they rejected most tribal customs, in fact, their custom was education, since they worked in order to save up and send their children to America and Europe for education as a result, that side of the family has doctors, lawyers, professors, historians, and judges.

Had our familial and tribal structures been reversed, I could have been my roommate, mentally and physically disfigured. But now I wonder about how much remains veiled because victims refuse to let the world know. She had no genitals. Just smooth flesh with a long scar running vertically between her legs where her genitals should have been. And a hole. A gaping hole where the urine and blood would pass through. She kept her legs spread apart, talked to me very calmly and soothingly, very matter-of-factly.

There are quite a few legal details for necessary guidance, though at times the information treads the line of verbosity, and yet it's easy to stay involved with this book because it is clearly aligned with its purpose. I also enjoyed reading about the women's groups, lawyers, professors, and historians who rallied this case - oh how the world can unite to denounce human rights violations. The lucid voice of Fauziya never strayed in connecting me with her struggle, reminding me that even when I'm glued to a desk all day, I have the tools to connect with the world and unite for a cause.

Most importantly, her voice alerts me of this bondage we call patriarchy: That was how things worked in our culture. My father had questioned and rejected a number of tribal customs and traditions, but he'd never questioned or rejected that oneā€”the power of the patriarchy. View all 41 comments. Jun 11, Kavita rated it really liked it Shelves: autobiography-memoir , africa , usa , religion , real-women , togo.

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The US is known as the country of immigrants, but it also has one of the most horrific records of integrating them into mainstream society. This is a story of the s but according to all news reports and statistics, things have not much changed in the USA. To start at the beginning, Fauziya Kassindja started life in Togo in a very patriarchal but loving family they exist and was brought up to value education. Her father was against FGM but at the same time, he did not empower his daughters The US is known as the country of immigrants, but it also has one of the most horrific records of integrating them into mainstream society.

Her father was against FGM but at the same time, he did not empower his daughters to be independent or to find their own way in life without having to submit to a man. This part of the story was a little annoying in the narrative as the author makes excuses for these things. When her father dies, her ownership passes over to her uncle under tribal law, which, by the way was not the law of the country. When her family decided she needed to be cut and married off to a man already with three existing wives, she decided to flee.

However, widespread corruption and lack of education made it impossible for her to seek justice in her own country, and the fact that African families often spread out over different countries stopped her from fleeing to these places. Her sister helped her flee to Germany, where she was taken in by a nice lady, who became her friend and helped her to adjust. After a while, another friend told her to go to USA which appealed to her since she spoke English but not German.

Do They Hear You When You Cry

She got a fake passport and landed in the US. Her real trial started at this point. Treated like a criminal, and not a refugee fleeing for her life, she was locked up in high security prisons and treated like filth. For the details, just read the book. It's way too shocking! The racism inherent even in acceptance of immigrants is pretty evident throughout the book, and especially at the statistics quoted at the end.

The book is definitely worth a read since Kassindja's case led to some reforms, and ensured that women fleeing from FGM are considered as legitimate refugee cases. However, the issue of detention of refugees and their mistreatment still continues, not just in the US but all around the world. View 2 comments. Nov 23, Amanda rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: human rights kids, women's rights kids.

Shelves: read-in This is one of those stories which, if it were fiction, it would be totally unbelievable. It's the story of a young Togolese woman who flees Togo to escape an arranged marriage and genital mutilation, only to get trapped in the immigration system upon arriving in the US.

As I was reading this book, I would have given it four stars- the writing could have been more concise and there were some stylistic things that I didn't like. But by the end, I was so heartbroken and angry for Fauziya that to r This is one of those stories which, if it were fiction, it would be totally unbelievable. But by the end, I was so heartbroken and angry for Fauziya that to rate it any lower would have been wrong. The writing is simple if you scan over some of the legalese and straightforward and utterly poignant. View 1 comment. Jan 09, Dana rated it it was amazing.

Fauziya Kassindja grew up in Togo, Africa in a privileged setting. Fauziya's father died suddenly and she was pulled out of school and put into an arranged marriage as a fourth wife and then told to prepare herself for FMG. Kassindja's sister went against her own husband to save her sister and help her to escape the country. But escape to what? Kassindja ended up going the the US and applying for as Fauziya Kassindja grew up in Togo, Africa in a privileged setting. Kassindja ended up going the the US and applying for asylum. The customs officers immediately sent her to jail where she was kept for sixteen months.

Fauziya was treated worse than the worst offender as she had no status. She was housed with murderers. Her health deteriorated to near death without any concern of any official. Kassindja was lucky in that her cousin went above and beyond to help her and she met Layli Bashir, a law student and Karen Musalo, a refugee lawyer who helped her and eventually got her asylum.

This book really puts the immigration policy of the United States under intense scrutiny.


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I believe that Canada's policy is much the same although evidently we were among the first to grant asylum for FMG applicants. Kassindja was a brave and very strong person to withstand all the trials and tribulations and yes, cruelty she encountered on her journey. There has to be a better way to grant asylum to those who truly need it and send away those who don't. Every single person should read this book as a means to better understand political imprisonment, human rights and how immigration policies do not work.

Dec 16, Winter Sophia Rose rated it it was amazing. I Loved It! Jul 28, Jeanette rated it liked it. Here is Fauziya telling her life's story. It's compelling. I applaud her courage in several avenues. First and especially, in the continued need she consistently exhibits to demand that female mutilation becomes unacceptable and worthy of the condemnation that it so deserves.

Especially in Africa and the Middle East, and within worldwide medical associations. It's a cause of misery and terrible outcomes, life-long, for a woman's health and natural barriers against infection. Besides the brutalit Here is Fauziya telling her life's story. Besides the brutality and trauma of the cutting operation itself, its long term consequences are even more horrific. But second and more than that, I applaud her ability to judge this escape as she did, from deep within her own cultural dichotomy of conflicting influences. Because she still doesn't acknowledge some of the negatives of her own culture and tribal beliefs, that she does accept as normal.

Saying all that, I thought the telling itself was jagged and endlessly rough. Earlier childhood and the period up until her Father's death was ok but held many redundant phrases and repeating information. After her Mother left, it is so reactive and scattered with emotional upheavals and sometimes rants- that in some aspects, as bad as the facts surrounding her life and choices became?

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Well, she did the right thing, but at times was also her own worst enemy. Her own perceptions of others' cultures? Fauziya holds her own tribal identity mores and they do seem to give her a strong self-identity. And they served her eventual choices well. That's what nineteen days in B. I'm not sure how the public interest was served by my incarceration.

It's important to be careful with books like these. On the one hand, this is an invaluable document that demonstrates the constant rock-and-a-hard-place in the contest of human rights between imperial powers and their once possessed postcolonial nations. On the other, the quote by the infamous Gloria Steinem gives That's what nineteen days in B. On the other, the quote by the infamous Gloria Steinem gives me pause, as the name is almost inevitably tied to the most harmful of simplifications in terms of gender, violence, and, ultimately, who deserves humanity and who does not.

The conflict between these two forces is constant, and as said in the epilogue, there's a chance that Kassindja would have had an even worse time of it had she asked for asylum around the time of this book's publication rather than five years prior. Progress, then, is nothing to be taken for granted, and Kassindja's testimony isn't old enough to be discounted as 'that was then, this was now', if ever that sort of discounting was ever viable.

I don't have to be as wary about this book as I am about other examples of its type Infidel comes immediately to mind because of how little it messes around with its context and reality. It's never as simple as Islamophobic, white savior complex would have as believe, and yet the protests about internment camps that have recently been replaced by multiple mass shooting reportage in US headlines what a country, am I right demonstrates that Kassindja's experiences have only just begun for thousands of others, millions if one acknowledges that the hard line she draws between detained refugees and incarcerated convicts is not nearly as credible in the US as the text espouses.

However, it is important to take an inch without giving a mile, and while I know many aspects of Kassindja's story remain true decades later, her story and those of many others have intrinsic political usefulness, for good and for ill. For example, rape and sexual slavery does not merely target a single category of gender, not in '94 and not now, and it's these sorts of absolutist statements one must make not of and commit to being more informed about if one truly wants to incorporate Kassindja's work into a larger, more holistic awareness of the intersection of legal, social, national, ethnic, and historical in the broad span of oppression, from the days before female genital mutilation was codified in law as a crime to the now of political pundits arguing that they aren't technically concentration camps.

All that money. And the prison didn't treat refugees any better than it treated convicts. If anything, it treated us worse.

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Fauziya prevailed because she had the opportunity to appeal Judge Ferlise's decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals, which reversed the immigration judge's decision. Under expedited removal, such an appeal is no longer possible Did I like this book? Yes, very much so. I think it is extremely valuable, especially in today's political environment, as it gives a humanizing base to work off of in terms of nitty gritty sociojudicial reality: what ends up working, what doesn't, and how long it can go on, despite all assumptions and preparations birthed from experience and common sense.

I'm even glad for once that I let this work sit on my shelves for as long as it did, as it just wouldn't have hit home as much before the narrative of "illegal immigrant" really started pissing me off. Kassindja's family is still trapped in US prisons and US detention centers and US concentration camps, and twenty-one years has only augmented the tech and expedited the deportation process. There's a grueling trek in front of those committed to humanizing the dehumanized, whether victim of the non-US country of their birth or the prison industrial complex of my homeland, and letting ourselves get used to any of it paves the way to 's Germany.

To naysayers: I wish I were joking. Kassindja's story is too old to be a wake up call, but it bears repeating that the worst is yet to come if we let it. In recent years we have expressed a fear of "illegal immigrants," We fear that we are being overrun by "aliens" and we believe that we are protecting ourselves and our families by keeping them out.

Toward these ends, we have encouraged our congressional representatives to enact restrictive measures[. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door! Dec 07, taaza rated it it was amazing. I was really blown away by this book - in fact, I think it is one of the best, if not the best - that I have read yet this year. An African girl of 17 years of age tries to get political asylum to escape "kakia" or FGM as she flees Togo by way of Germany and then the U.

This was a painful but incredible description of her ordeal in prison and finally the legal difficulties endured as her legal team worked day and night trying to get asylum granted. Fascinating and absorbing, a must-read for wo I was really blown away by this book - in fact, I think it is one of the best, if not the best - that I have read yet this year.

Fascinating and absorbing, a must-read for women and women rights advocates everywhere, but this is a truly a book for everyone. I may make a ring out of this at a later date. Dec 13, Katie rated it really liked it Recommended to Katie by: Becky.


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  • My mother's own sister had died from it, and I'd heard my parents speak of this event with horror. But my "husband," like most men in our tribe, wanted me to be cut so that I would be "clean" for him. So my aunt had arranged for the women who do it to come to our house. I've heard that during the procedure, four women spread your legs wide apart and hold you down so that you can't move.

    And then, the eldest woman takes a knife that is used to cut hair and scrapes your woman parts off. There are no painkillers, no anesthesia. The knife isn't sterilized. Afterward, the women wrap your legs from your hips to your knees and you have to stay in bed for forty days so the wound can close. After the forty days, you are "reborn" for your husband, and delivered to his house to begin your new life as his wife.

    This would have happened to me had I stayed in Togo. It happens every day to girls all over the world. But with the help of my oldest sister and money from my mother, I ran away, far from my home, my family, and my country. I was now in my fourth prison. I had been beaten, teargassed, kept in isolation until I nearly lost my mind, trussed up in chains like a dangerous animal, strip-searched repeatedly, and forced to live with criminals, even murderers.

    Do they hear you when you cry

    I had committed no crime and was a danger to no one. I was only a nineteen-year-old girl from Togo who desperately needed help. I was a refugee seeking asylum, not a convicted criminal. I kept asking myself, why is this happening to me? My teachers in Africa said that America was a great country.

    It was the land of freedom, where people were supposed to find justice. But I was delivered to a dark corner of America where there was no justice. There was only cruelty, danger, and indifference. And now I was ill. Even as I sat waiting for my visitors that day, my chest was burning. Each time I took a breath, it felt like someone was stabbing me with a knife.

    I was weak because I hadn't eaten much of anything for days. Swallowing food hurt too much. I didn't know what was wrong with me. I had asked to see a doctor several times but was never called to see one. I was afraid. Was I dying? Would I die alone in this place? The meeting I was about to have was with members of my legal team, three people who were fighting for my release from prison: Layli Miller Bashir, Karen Musalo, and David Shaffer.

    Karen and David were relatively new to my case, Karen having gotten involved only last September, and David at the end of December. I had never met either of them before. She was the young law student who had represented me at my asylum hearing back in August. After we lost that first hearing, she promised she would never leave me. She said she would keep fighting for me until I was free. She was like an angel, someone who had come to rescue me from the living hell I had endured since coming to the United States.

    Although she is a white American, and I am a black African, we had become sisters. So I should have been happy to see Layli again, for I hadn't seen her in more than four months.

    'Do They Hear You When You Cry?' | National Catholic Reporter

    As much as I loved her, however, I was hoping never to have to see her again. I wanted to leave her a note, thanking her and my entire legal team and telling them why I had decided not to wait for them to get me out. Now I would have to explain my decision face-to-face. But how could I explain it? How could I explain to Layli, or to anyone who has never experienced them, the daily indignities and humiliations of prison life?

    How could I explain what it is like to live with only the barest essentials: a prison uniform, a cell, a bunk, a bedsheet, two towels, a washcloth, toilet paper, and tiny bars of harsh soap? How could I explain what it is like to have no privacy to shower or to use the toilet? How could I explain what it feels like to be counted like cattle every day, to eat when you were told to eat, sleep when you were told to sleep? How could I explain the mind-numbing, soul-deadening feeling of doing nothing but watching TV, day after day, week after week, month after month?

    No, I could never fully explain what it is like to live in prison, which was why I'd stopped trying to communicate with anyone on the outside. I'd lost interest in writing letters and making phone calls. There was no more reason to talk to people, really. What could they say that I hadn't already heard?

    source link It was always the same old story: "Hang in there, keep your spirits up, we're working hard, everything will be fine, just hold on a little while longer. They meant well, I knew. But they couldn't possibly understand how I felt.