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The Life and Spirit of Ayaan Hirsi Ali | Women’s History Month

March is “National Women’s History Month”.  There are so many women in our lifetime that come to mind when I reflect on this most important subject.

Ayaan-Hirsi-AliSeveral years ago I was watching CNN and I was intrigued by a woman who had just published a book about her struggle to survive a life that you would think could only be a movie.  The book was titled Infidel; its author, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born into a Majerteen family in Mogadishu Somalia.  They were a well-established family as her father was a leading figure in the Somali Revolution.

As a small child of 5 years, she was forced, by her Grandmother, to have a female circumcision or better known as female genital mutilation. In 1992 her father arranged a marriage to a distant cousin in Canada. Refusing to submit herself to a stranger, and relinquish all rights as a woman, she escaped that marriage and went to the Netherlands seeking asylum with the help of a relative living there.

Not just thinking of her own survival, she worked as a Somali/Dutch interpreter and translator, frequently coming in contact with other women who were living in asylum centers and hostels for battered women. She enrolled in college and as an educated woman she spoke six languages.

At the age of 33 she became quite prominent in the Dutch Parliament speaking out for women’s rights, in her culture. The more she made her message heard the greater a target she became by opposition and it was clear that her life was in danger.

Her adversities never stopped her.  She wrote her books, made her movie Submission; even after her producer/friend Theo Van Gogh was murdered.

Her books and her writings are remarkable.  She has received numerous rewards in countries such as Denmark, Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden, and the United States, as well as the European Union.

After living in the United States for some years, she returned to the Netherlands.


Ayann Hirsi is now married to British historian, Niall Ferguson. And at the age of 41 gave birth to her son, Thomas.  She still is an active member of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy.

I honor her and celebrate her courage and commitment to making this world better for women.



Author: Olga Cohen

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