'Do They Hear You When You Cry?'

Editor's note: An earlier version of this blog misattributed Maureen Fiedler as the author.

Do They Hear You when You Cry? by Fauziya Kassindja and Layli Miller Bashir is a story of women helping women. Fauziya Kassindja was 17 in Togo. She was the youngest, and when her father had died, she had no protection. Her male relatives decided to marry her to a man who already had three wives, and in preparation for marriage to undergo female genital mutilation.

Fauziya's sister got her on an airplane to Germany where she was able to buy a passport to get to the United States. She had relatives here and would be able to continue living out what her father expected of his daughter.

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She got off the plane and was immediately put into detention, denied even the right to be interviewed by an attorney, was in four prisons in 16 months, her health deteriorating, not a criminal but a woman looking for asylum.

Throughout her imprisonment, other women helped Fauziya and gave her strength, particularly a young woman who is Baha'i and the young law student Layli Miller Bashir who achieved her release and helped her write this book.

Those of us who have known people in prison will recognize the truth of Fauziya's story. This is what prison is like, whether you are an innocent 17-year-old girl fleeing torture or mentally ill or a gangster. And even gangsters should not be treated so badly. Here we are in this land of plenty, and right now we are so afraid of what immigrants to our country will do to us, take away jobs, commit crimes. And now Fauziya devotes her life to helping other women. This is a long book, but reading it is a compelling opportunity to learn what prison is like and a motivation to work for reform.


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