11.07.2014

Small-Town Girl Advocates in a Political World

Her name was Dekha Hassan-Mohamed.

As a Somali fleeing the nation for refusing a marriage proposal from a member of the Al-Shabaab—a violent Islamic sect that doesn't take kindly to subversion—her story sounds more like the beginnings of a dissonant fairy tale rather than the reality she and countless women in her home nation face.

After her brother was brutally murdered by Islamic extremists, Hassan-Mohamed escaped Somalia, making her way through Ethiopia, Brazil, and on to Mexico. She eventually reached the international bridge where she sought peace and safety in the United States, but was detained due to lack of identification.

"The problem is that in a country like Somalia there hasn't been a stable government in so long; and they're not exactly concerned with giving you a birth certificate," said Emily Arthur '15 (pictured), a third-year student in Regent University's School of Law.  Emily is also a graduate assistant, student staff member, and two-time intern with the Center for Global Justice, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law.

That's where the rule of law steps in. In 2014, Arthur spent her summer as a Center for Global Justice, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law intern, working with Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center attorneys in El Paso, Texas.

There, Arthur worked with the non-profit alongside the attorneys, working on each of the petitions and motions as they advocated for Hassan-Mohamed's asylum on the grounds of political opinion.

"We told the judge that her refusal of marriage wasn't because she just wasn't interested," explained Arthur. "By saying 'no' she was disagreeing with the Al-Shabaab both ideologically and religiously, and the Somali government was unwilling to intervene."

Hassan-Mohamed's case was eventually won, and Arthur was able to revel in the fact that the work she supported helped not only win three asylum cases, but also confirm a distinct calling on her life.

"It was great because immigration issues are so prominent in the media these days, and I felt like I was just right there in the middle of it all."

Arthur has always loved being "in the middle" of advocacy, and all-things-international, even in the midst of her small-town upbringing in Palestine, West Virginia. Despite the international-tone of the rural town's name, Arthur says that it's made up of less than 5,000 people who grow up there and stay put.

Before attending law school, Arthur had nearly resolved to do the same, and upon graduation from college, was set to take a position at the town's only high school teaching Spanish. But the day before the position closed, a candidate for the job, an out-of-towner with a Ph.D., beat Arthur out.

"It was the strangest thing, because nobody comes into our little town, especially with a doctorate degree," said Arthur. "He was probably the only person in town who had one."

Arthur took that as confirmation she was meant to hone the skills of seeking justice and advocating on behalf of the oppressed, a task that she knows will lead her to a fulfilling career in the future, no matter where in the world she goes.

"This has never been about power or résumé building for me, it's been about doing what I enjoy," said Arthur. "I want to go into work every day and enjoy what I do and get meaning out of it."

Learn more about Regent University School of Law and the Center for Global Justice, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law.


By Brett Wilson