Matter of A-O-

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A woman from Jordan who feared “honor killing” for losing her virginity out of wedlock was initially denied asylum in 1998 by an immigration judge and then by the Board of Immigration Appeals. After a petition for reversal, the Board granted Ms. A-O- asylum in 2002, bringing a favorable ending to Ms. A-O-’s six-year legal battle.

CGRS Involvement

CGRS joined as co-counsel when the case went to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In addition, CGRS submitted an amicus brief to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 2000.

Basic Facts

Ms. A-O- was an unmarried woman in Jordan when she fell in love with Mr. B, a Palestinian engineer.  Ms. A-O- feared that her family would commit an honor killing against her because she disobeyed Arabic and Islamic cultural norms by losing her virginity outside a marital relationship.  When Mr. B proposed to Ms. A-O-, her father refused to allow the marriage because of his nationality and economic class.  Fearing her family’s actions, Ms. A-O- fled Jordan for the United States.  While living in the United States, Ms. A-O- married Mr. B without her family’s permission. She feared further prosecution from her family because of these actions that violated her family’s cultural norms. 

Procedural History

Ms. A-O- entered the United States as a tourist in 1991, and was authorized to remain in the United States until 1992. In 1996 she was served an Order to Show Cause to appear at a deportation hearing. At this hearing she requested asylum and withholding. In her hearing she testified that she did not want to return to Jordan because of fears that the male members of her family would commit a “crime of honor”. She asserted that Jordanian law does not adequately discourage these crimes from occurring or ensure that they are punished. Ms. A-O-’s case for asylum was initially denied by the immigration judge (IJ) in 1998 and the Board of Immigration Appeals in 1999. These courts acknowledged honor killings occur in Jordan, but stated that they are violent episodes in specific families and they are not pattern or a practice against Jordanian women in general. CGRS joined as co-counsel when the case went to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and submitted a brief arguing that the persecution which Ms. A-O- would suffer is on account of her membership in the particular social group of “Jordanian women who have lost their virginity while unwed and married against their family's wishes.”  CGRS facilitated a widespread advocacy campaign through the media and encouraged pressure from members of Congress.  Ultimately, it was remanded and the BIA granted asylum to Ms. A-O- in 2002.

Legal Documents

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IJ Decision denying Ms. A-O-’s request for asylum

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BIA Decision dismissing appeal by Ms. A-O-

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2012 CGRS amicus brief to the Ninth Circuit seeking reversal of the BIA decision

News Coverage

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