RD European of the Year 2006
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RD European of the Year 2006


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Ayaan Hirsi Ali risks her life to fight for oppressed women in her adopted country—and in Britain, too

When Somali-born Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali took part in a television programme about Islamic Sharia law in 2003, she ended up contributing much more than her opinion on Islam and its treatment of women. A young woman from a Muslim family told the programme makers she was in fear of her life from her relatives who hit her and called her a whore for wanting to go out with her friends and wearing western clothes. Hirsi Ali listened to her story, then took the young woman to the police, only to be told: “We can’t help you. There are so many girls like you and this is not police work.”

It is not usually a politician’s job to look after threatened Muslim girls either, but that is what Ayaan Hirsi Ali did. She took the girl into her own home for nearly a year, enabling her to finish higher education. “She encouraged me every day,” says her protégée, who now has a job and her own flat. “Because of her I am stronger. It’s very difficult and dangerous for women from my community to speak out. Ayaan does that for us. We need her.”

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, 36, believes passionately that showing Europeans what goes on in some Muslim homes in our midst will kick-start a process of emancipation. “If only people, including those in Britain, were aware of the sheer number of girls living in terror,” she says. “Just going outside without your father or your brother’s permission can lead to your being taken to the home country of your parents and being shot dead. You can be forced into marriage with someone who’s going to rape you every night. You will conceive children year after year when you don’t want to be pregnant.”

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