Ana’s Fate Rested With An Asylum Officer Who Had Just Been Told To Doubt Her Word

Ana’s Fate Rested With An Asylum Officer Who Had Just Been Told To Doubt Her Word

Huffington Post News

AUSTIN, Texas ― Ana was working at a restaurant in Guatemala four years ago, when a teenager with baggy pants approached. He ordered a tostada, then remained standing at the entrance even as another waitress invited him several times to take a seat. Instead, he took a few steps toward Ana, pulled out a gun and pointed it at her face.

She froze, looking him in the eyes without speaking. His hand trembled. When a co-worker saw the gun and screamed, the boy pulled the trigger. The bullet grazed Ana’s head and she fell to the floor, hoping he’d think she was dead and leave her alone.

She reported the attack to the police, but they didn’t arrest anyone. Authorities suspected he was a gang member and might have confused her with someone else or attempted to kill her as part of an initiation rite. To protect herself, she moved to a town nearby.

But a few months ago, she ran into him again. Now a fully grown man, he was bulkier but still wore baggy pants. She could tell he recognized her from the way he stared. “All that fear I had became reality again,” she said.

When she saw him a few weeks later, he raised his hand, extending his fingers toward her as if they were the barrel of a gun. Fearing that he wanted to kill her for reporting the shooting, she fled the country with her 3-year-old daughter, traveling overland through Mexico and into the United States.

Ana, whom we are identifying with a pseudonym because she fears for her life if she’s deported, told all this to a U.S. asylum officer last month. The officer didn’t disbelieve her story, according to a record of the interview. But after they spoke, he checked the box on her application that read “credible fear NOT established.” Instead of sending her claim for asylum onto an immigration court, the interview fast-tracked her for deportation back to Guatemala.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement plans to deport Ana on Tuesday, returning her to a country where she thinks she’ll be killed.

“I’m not lying,” Ana told The Huffington Post by phone from the Karnes County Residential Center in Texas, where the 24-year-old has been detained for the last month. “I thought I was safe. Why don’t they believe me?”

Asylum is the best known of several ways that unauthorized immigrants can obtain legal permission to remain in the United States when they fear for their safety at home. The bar for establishing “credible fear” ― the first step in the asylum process ― had been low for most of the Obama administration, requiring officers to err on the side of leniency so that people don’t get deported to a place where they’ll be killed, tortured or abused.

But last month, President Donald Trump’s administration ordered asylum officers to take a more skeptical approach in these interviews, making it more likely that the U.S. will deport people whose cases previously would have advanced to an immigration court. Ana had her interview on Feb. 27, the day the new rules went into effect.

I’m not lying. I thought I was safe. Why don’t they believe me?
Ana, who has been denied asylum in the U.S.

Claims for asylum (and other forms of relief from deportation) can often take years to settle, so most who pass the credible-fear interview are released from detention while their cases wind through the courts. But a negative ruling on credible fear prevents immigration judges from setting bond hearings for those detained and makes deportation quicker and easier.

It’s impossible to say whether any specific person would have passed that first step in the asylum process under past presidents. Asylum officers have wide latitude to make their determinations. And even once a person clears that first step, judges’ rulings on who eventually is granted asylum status vary widely between jurisdictions  and individual cases.

But several experts consulted by HuffPost, as well as the attorneys who represent Ana, thought her case would have easily passed muster under the previous administration’s guidelines. Manoj Govindaiah, the director for family detention services at the legal group RAICES, said Ana’s case shows that Trump’s new rules are already pushing asylum seekers into deportation more swiftly.

“The new guidance raises the bar as to what is considered a credible fear of return,” Govindaiah said. “We believe that if her interview had been only a few days earlier, she would not be facing deportation today.”

Denise Gilman, a lawyer who is trying to help Ana avoid deportation, agreed that Trump’s new directives undermined her client’s claim.

“It does appear that she was denied based on the new guidelines,” Gilman said. “It was a perfectly viable case.”

Ana is part of a wave of tens of thousands of Central American mothers who have entered the United States with their children since 2014. The Obama administration hastily established two new family detention centers ― including the Karnes facility, where she has been detained ― in an effort to dissuade the women from coming. 

The mothers and their children generally apply for asylum or other humanitarian exemptions from deportation. The vast majority of those detained at the two family detention centers in Texas were making it over the first hurdle. The credible-fear approval rate hovered around 85 to 95 percent over the last two years, according to data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Trump has accused immigrants of abusing this system to avoid deportation. 

Ana appealed the decision on her credible-fear claim after getting legal advice from lawyers with RAICES. When she went before a judge, she also raised the fact that she had been sexually abused by her father, who she says abused her mother as well. But the judge denied her appeal. Gilman said the judge held that the abuse claim wasn’t credible because Ana hadn’t raised it in her initial interview.

The news sank Ana into desperation. Guards at the facility put her on medical observation for the day to keep her from taking her own life. She composed herself to avoid giving the impression that she is not competent to care for her child. “If it wasn’t for my daughter, I think it would have been better to die at that moment so I wouldn’t have to live with this anguish,” she said.

It’s unclear whether others like Ana, who might have once passed their credible-fear interviews, are now being rejected. Citizenship and Immigration Services could not immediately provide updated statistics, which are compiled by quarter.

Asylum officers are going to read between the lines and distill that the guidance is ‘deny more cases.’
Stephen Legomsky, former head counsel for Citizenship and Immigration Services

Blaine Bookey, who co-directs the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, said Ana likely had several avenues to apply for asylum. Failing to raise the sexual abuse claim during a credible-fear interview is common, she noted, because women often aren’t comfortable disclosing such abuse and many times don’t know that it could help their cases ― unless they have lawyers to tell them.

“This case really demonstrates the complete lack of understanding ― whether it’s willful or through ignorance ― of the impact of trauma on the survivors at these interviews,” Bookey said. “A woman experiencing sexual abuse wouldn’t be immediately forthcoming about it in the context of a credible-fear interview.”

While it’s too early to tell if cases like Ana’s will become more common, Stephen Legomsky, who served as head counsel for Citizenship and Immigration Services from 2011 to 2013, said the message of the Trump administration’s revised guidance is unmistakable: Reject more claims.

“Asylum officers are going to read between the lines and distill that the guidance is ‘deny more cases,’” said Legomsky.

As for Ana, he said, “It does seem to me that based on the assertion of domestic violence in combination with the gun threat, that she has at least a ‘significant possibility’ of succeeding in an asylum claim, which is what the statute says.”

Ana has struggled to sleep since the judge rejected her first appeal. She said her daughter sometimes wakes up crying in the middle of the night.

On Monday afternoon, Immigration and Customs Enforcement rejected her lawyer’s second request to reconsider the deportation. She could be on a plane back to Guatemala as early as midnight.

“I don’t want to go back,” Ana said. “This man wants to kill me.”

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Wiz Khalifa’s Visit To Pablo Escobar’s Grave Infuriates Medillin Mayor

Wiz Khalifa’s Visit To Pablo Escobar’s Grave Infuriates Medillin Mayor

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Rapper Wiz Khalifa took a few moments during a South American trip to visit the grave of murderous drug lord Pablo Escobar. He posted photos of the tombstone with flowers and what appears to be a joint on Instagram — and a picture of himself smoking at the graveside.

Colombians were not impressed.

Medillin Mayor Federico Gutiérrez lashed the 29-year-old Pittsburgh rapper — who performed a concert in Medillin last week — as a “scoundrel” and demanded an apology, the BBC reported. “It shows that this guy has never had to suffer from the violence inflicted by these drug traffickers,” said Gutiérrez, who added that Khalifa should have left flowers for Escobar’s victims. The mayor said Khalifa won’t be welcome back in town unless he apologizes, the Pittsbugh Post-Gazette reported.

Khalifa also posed for an Instagram shot in front of Escobar’s former home.

Twitter and Colombian newspapers joined Gutiérrez in piling on the rapper for his drug-lord pilgrimage.

Escobar and his Medillin cartel are believed responsible for as many as 4,000 deaths before Escobar was killed in 1993. 

Bogata newspaper El Espectador blasted Khalifa’s “gaffe” and said it “reopened the profound pain that narcotrafficking has left that city.” The newspaper’s editor was gunned down in 1986 in an assassination linked to the cartels, and El Espectador’s office was bombed in 1989 by the Medillin cartel, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted.

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Khalifa hasn’t yet responded to the outpouring of anger.

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20 Years After Saying She Was Sexually Abused, A Child Gymnast Is Finally Believed

20 Years After Saying She Was Sexually Abused, A Child Gymnast Is Finally Believed

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Twenty years ago, Larissa Boyce says, she confessed to a gymnastics coach at Michigan State University that the school’s lauded sports medicine doctor, Larry Nassar, had touched her inappropriately.

Boyce, who was 16 at the time, was seeing Nassar for lower back pain. But during many of her appointments, he inserted his fingers into her vagina, she says. She was only a teen, but her gut told her the treatment didn’t make sense. So she told Kathie Klages, one of her instructors, about what was happening.

But Klages downplayed her concerns, Boyce said in a recent phone interview with The Huffington Post. She told Boyce she must have misunderstood the procedure. Boyce, paralyzed with shame, concluded it must all be in her head.

For two decades, that’s what she continued to believe. Then, in September 2016, news broke that two former gymnasts, including an Olympic medalist, were saying they’d been sexually abused by Nassar.

In the months since, more than 100 women have come forward with horrifying allegations of being molested by Nassar under the guise of medical treatment. The abuse is alleged to have occurred over the course of two decades, with some of the earliest reports dated in 1997, and the most recent in 2016.

More than 80 women are suing Nassar, MSU, USA Gymnastics and other parties for failing to protect them from sexual abuse. (Both MSU and USA Gymnastics employed the doctor for about 20 years while the abuse is alleged to have occurred.) Nassar also faces criminal charges in state and federal courts, and is currently incarcerated on child pornography charges. His lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

As the complaints against Nassar pile up, they have revealed a disturbing pattern. In most cases, according to the allegations, an underage girl would come to Nassar with back or hip pain. She would be asked to lie facedown on the table. Nassar would penetrate her vaginally or anally with his fingers, without the use of gloves. For some patients, the alleged “treatments” occurred weekly, over long stretches of time.

Boyce, now 36, is a mother of four and lives a 20-minute drive from MSU, where the alleged assaults took place. It appears she was among the first of Nassar’s victims at that location.

When she first heard the news of what Nassar had allegedly done to other girls, she was in denial. Then, she says, she got sick.

I got shingles and I started losing all of my hair,” she said. “I think my body was reacting to all of this stuff that I had shoved down. Gradually, the more that I thought about it, the more things I remembered.”

In January, she joined a federal lawsuit against Nassar, MSU and USA Gymnastics, under the pseudonym “Jane BMSU Doe.But on Monday, she came forward with her name, shedding her anonymity in an effort to reduce the stigma around sexual assault.

“This should not be something that we are embarrassed of, because we didn’t do anything wrong,” she said. “I want people to stand for the truth, and just be able to feel comfortable enough to come forward and say ‘This happened to me.’”

Boyce started gymnastics when she was 5. As an adolescent, she trained in a youth gymnastics program at MSU, working out 16 to 20 hours a week. 

She loved it ― especially floor routines, where she got to incorporate dance. 

“When you do gymnastics, you get this sense of accomplishment, because you are overcoming your mind ― how your mind tells your body you can’t do something,” she said. “It was pretty much my everything.” 

When she was 16, she slipped off a springboard and injured her back. Klages, who was the head women’s coach at MSU, recommended that she seek treatment with Nassar.

His reputation as a world-class gymnastics doctor preceded him, and Boyce was excited about the prospect. She knew he had treated Olympic athletes, and that any gymnast who was anyone went to him. “He was kind of an idol to everyone in the gymnastics world,” she said.

Her mom accompanied her on her first few visits, and they were both impressed by how friendly and professional Nassar was, and by the photos on the walls of him with famous gymnasts. But once she started going alone, she says, the treatments changed. Nassar would allegedly ask her to disrobe and lie on her stomach. Then, she says, he would penetrate her with his fingers.

“It felt like it was sexual, but I remember justifying it in my mind ― he’s an Olympic doctor, he must know what he was doing,” Boyce said. On some occasions, she says, Nassar would take off his belt, make grunting noises and appear visibly aroused. She recalls the lights being turned off at times.

While she is unclear on the exact date, at some point in 1997 or 1998 she worked up the courage to tell Klages about what was happening. Instead of getting help, she says, she was humiliated.

Boyce says that Klages brought her teammates into her office and asked them if they had ever been uncomfortable around Nassar, singling Boyce out. She told Boyce she could file a report, but that both Boyce and Nassar could face serious consequences.

“She said that she had known him for years, and couldn’t imagine him doing anything questionable, that I must be reading into what he was doing,” Boyce said.

Klages was suspended by MSU in February amid mounting allegations that she’d downplayed athletes’ concerns about Nassar’s alleged behavior. She has since resigned. When asked to comment on Boyce’s claims, her lawyer, Shirlee Bobryk, said Klages would not be making any statements while litigation is pending.

A press release from her lawyer in February said that Klages “is extremely distressed by the accusations that have been made about her creating any sort of impediment to gymnasts reporting complaints of criminal sexual conduct or sexually inappropriate behavior.”

We tried to speak, we tried to stop it from happening, and we were silenced.
Larissa Boyce

The next time Boyce saw Nassar for an appointment, he knew about her allegations, she said. He reassured her that what he was doing was a legitimate medical procedure, and proceeded to sexually abuse her again, she said. But this time, he was rough, and it hurt more than usual. “It seemed like he was mad at me,” she recalled.

After the encounter with Klages, Boyce says, she stopped going to gymnastics as much.

“Everyone thought I was a liar,” she said. “I was intimidated, and I was afraid to do anything.”

She says the sexual abuse occurred on an almost weekly basis, and continued for two years. In the years afterward, she said, she convinced herself there was something wrong with her. Now, she is wracked with pain at the sheer number of girls who were allegedly abused. She wonders what would have happened if her own complaint had been taken more seriously.

“MSU, USA Gymnastics, they ignored the signs,” she said. “All of us girls who came forward to coaches and trainers ― we tried to speak, we tried to stop it from happening, and we were silenced.”

No one from MSU has reached out to her since Nassar has been embroiled in lawsuits, she said. A spokesperson for MSU did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I think that either they can try to cover up what happened, or they could become a leader across the nation and show that they are going to accept and own up to their failures,” Boyce said. “I want to see them have integrity to make it right, and show that they care more about the survivors than saving face.”

For her part, Boyce says she is still coming to terms with having been betrayed by an adult whom she considered a formative part of her adolescence.

“There was such a loyalty that I felt towards him, because he was this godlike person in the gymnastics world,” she said. “He built a relationship that I thought was real. He gave me the feeling that he really did care about me as a person and not just as a patient.”  

Coming forward has started that healing process, she said.

“I felt like I had this dirty little secret, and it kind of eats at you,” she said. “I don’t have that anymore.”

______

Melissa Jeltsen covers domestic violence and issues related to women’s health, safety and security. Tips? Feedback? Send an email or follow her on Twitter.

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10 Bachelorette Party Confessions That Will Make You Say ‘Eep!’

10 Bachelorette Party Confessions That Will Make You Say ‘Eep!’

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The bachelorette party should be a fun, celebratory weekend for the bride and her best friends.

Unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned. Below, 10 people on the secret-sharing app Whisper get honest about their bachelorette party experiences. 

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Local Racist Clears Up Any Confusion About The Meaning Of ‘White Lives Matter’

Local Racist Clears Up Any Confusion About The Meaning Of ‘White Lives Matter’

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Residents of Lewiston, New York, were upset last week to find that someone had dropped 10 to 20 “white lives matter” fliers on properties in the area. The leaflets contained anti-immigrant messages, as well as false statistics about crime and race similar to the ones Donald Trump retweeted to his millions of followers in 2015.

The controversy was a big enough deal that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) decided to weigh in, because the racist literature contradicted “all that we stand for as New Yorkers,” he said.

Well, local TV station WKBW tracked down the person responsible so he could “set the record straight,” and the interview went pretty much exactly how you’d expect.

“There’s been misrepresentations of what was on those flyers and why they were passed out in the area they were passed out in,” the man, Scott Lacy, told the station.

Lacy went on to claim that his statistics, which appear to be copied and pasted from white supremacist sources, were factual and definitely not “fabricated out of the blue.” And he said he was really just sharing them to “raise awareness with whites about the plight our people face in this country.”

At that point in the conversation, you’d expect Lacy to start in with the “I’m not racist, but…” bullshit. What he did instead was at least refreshingly honest.

“I consider myself a racist,” said Lacy. “But not because I believe in hatred towards anybody else ― it’s because I love my own people.”

And there you have it. “White lives matter” ― the rallying cry for racist white people who believe you should only love other white people, because racism.

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22 Tweets That Accurately Sum Up Sex In Your 30s

22 Tweets That Accurately Sum Up Sex In Your 30s

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Sex in your 30s is a bit of a mixed bag: It has the potential to be hotter than it’s ever been ― in fact, studies show that women reach their sexual peak in their 30s ― but that’s assuming you can stay awake long enough to actually do the deed. 

Below, some tweets that sum up the experience.

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Elon Musk Just Launched A New Startup

Elon Musk Just Launched A New Startup

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Does Elon Musk ever sleep?

Probably. But whatever the amount, it’s likely diminished even more now, as the serial entrepreneur ― already busy with Tesla, SpaceX and Solar City, not to mention The Boring Company and Hyperloop ― has launched another company.

His newest venture, called Neuralink, will research how to connect the human brain and computers by way of tiny, implanted electrodes.

Max Hodak, a company insider at Neuralink, confirmed the news to the Wall Street Journal Monday, describing the state of the startup as “embryonic.”

While Neuralink may be brand new, the concept it hopes to capitalize on is not.

Musk spoke publicly about the idea at Recode’s 2016 Code Conference, describing a need for some sort of “neural lace” to enable direct human/computer interfacing. Without that, he theorized, we risk playing second fiddle to artificial intelligence, a technology liable to advance so quickly it ends up viewing humans as little more than domestic pets (in a best-case scenario).

“I don’t love the idea of being a house cat,” Musk said at the conference. “I think one of the solutions that seems maybe the best is to add an AI layer … A third, digital layer above the cortex that could work well and symbiotically with you.”

Researchers have been actively engaged in the topic as well. A 2015 study in the journal Nature Nanotechnology explained in great detail how an electronic mesh could be injected into the brain via a syringe. Possible early applications of the technology could help treat neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, or help patients with spinal cord injuries control artificial limbs.

“We’re trying to blur the distinction between electronic circuits and neural circuits,” Charles Lieber, a co-author of the Nature Nanotechnology report and a researcher at Harvard told Smithsonian Magazine at the time. “We have to walk before we can run, but we think we can really revolutionize our ability to interface with the brain.”

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White Man Accused Of Fatally Stabbing Black New Yorker Is Charged With Terrorism

White Man Accused Of Fatally Stabbing Black New Yorker Is Charged With Terrorism

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A murder suspect accused of coming to New York to kill as many black men as he could will face trial on charges of terrorism, according to New York County District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.

On Monday, James Harris Jackson, 28, of Baltimore was indicted Monday on one count each of first- and second-degree murder as an act of terrorism for the March 20 stabbing of Timothy Caughman, 66.

He previously was charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime and three counts of criminal possession of a weapon.

Vance said the hate crime charges were warranted because of the coldblooded way he chose his victim, according to a statement released to the press.

“James Jackson prowled the streets of New York for three days in search of a black person to assassinate in order to launch a campaign of terrorism against our Manhattan community and the values we celebrate.

“Last week, with total presence of mind, he acted on his plan, randomly selecting a beloved New Yorker solely on the basis of his skin color, and stabbing him repeatedly and publicly on a Midtown street corner. James Jackson wanted to kill black men, planned to kill black men, and then did kill a black man.”

Caughman was rummaging through trash looking for bottles and cans when he was fatally stabbed with a 26-inch sword.

When Jackson turned himself in, about 24 hours later, police said, he told officers he came to New York from Baltimore “for the purpose of killing black men. 

Jackson reportedly acknowledged the crime to the New York Daily News, saying he wanted to discourage white women from getting romantically involved with black men.

“I didn’t know he was elderly,” Jackson told the paper. He added that he would have rather killed “a young thug” or “a successful older black man with blonds … people you see in Midtown. These younger guys that put white girls on the wrong path.”

Vance’s statement said a crime like this is a reminder that New York’s “remarkable diversity” can’t be taken for granted. “We must celebrate it, protect it, and refuse to let violence and hate undermine the progress we have made as a city, a state, and a nation.”

Jackson’s lawyer, Sanford Talkin, declined to comment Monday, according to Newsday. His next court date is scheduled for April 13.

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Katie Cassidy Is Coming Back To ‘Arrow,’ But It’s Not Quite How You’d Think

Katie Cassidy Is Coming Back To ‘Arrow,’ But It’s Not Quite How You’d Think

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Katie Cassidy played the beloved “Arrow” character Laurel Lance for four seasons before being killed off. Well, it turns out Cassidy is coming back to her “Arrow” family … but Earth-1’s Laurel Lance is not. 

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Cassidy has signed on as a series regular for Season 6. She’ll be reprising her role as Black Siren, Laurel Lance’s doppelgänger.

“One of the things that most excites us about ‘Arrow’ is that we go where the story takes us,” said executive producer Marc Guggenheim in a statement. “Last year, the story took us to the tragic death of Laurel Lance. This year, our midseason finale reintroduced us to Laurel’s doppelgänger, Black Siren. We were so taken by Katie’s fearless interpretation of this character that we knew her story was not yet finished.”

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome Katie back to ‘Arrow’ as Black Siren,” Guggenheim added. “Though as her appearances on ‘Arrow’ and ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ this season show, she never really left the family.”

Cassidy confirmed her return to the show with just five little words: “There’s no place like home.”

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Reactions to the news were mixed on Twitter. Many “Arrow” fans were here for the surprise announcement, while others seemed less than enthused.

Either way, we’re looking forward to Black Siren’s inevitable showdown with Team Arrow. 

“Arrow” airs Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. on The CW.

Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tom Hanks, Tracy Morgan, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Moore, Padma Lakshmi and a whole host of other stars are teaming up for Stand for Rights: A Benefit for the ACLU. Donate now and join us at 7 p.m. Eastern on Friday, March 31 on Facebook Live. #standforrights2017 

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55 Stunning Images Of Muslim Women Protesting Around The World

55 Stunning Images Of Muslim Women Protesting Around The World

Huffington Post News

Activism and faith are inextricably linked for many Muslim women.

On the campaign trail, President Donald Trump criticized Ghazala Khan, the mother of a fallen U.S. soldier, for staying silent during an appearance at the Democratic Convention. He suggested “maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say.”

But Trump was wrong ― Khan had plenty to say and she still does. She’s part of a large group of Muslim women, past and present, who shatter stereotypes and speak up loudly about the issues that matter to them, whether it’s protesting Trump’s backdoor Muslim ban, or showing their support for the victims of Syria’s brutal civil war.

In honor of Muslim Women’s Day, The Huffington Post has curated 55 stunning photos of Muslim women participating in protests for their rights and for peace. The photo collection seeks to highlight just a few of the places in the world that have been touched by the power of Muslim women’s activism. Contrary to the stereotype Trump fell for, Muslim women have been talking back for quite some time.

Now more than ever, it’s important to elevate these women’s voices.

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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