The Guardian article, “Ny Nourn: the woman convicted of murder and pardoned – who now fights for other battered women,” features the experiences and political vision of Ny Nourn, an S&P member, policy expert, community organizer, and formerly incarcerated survivor. Excerpt below:
One of [Ny Nourn’s] early campaign cases was for Liyah Birru, an Ethiopian facing deportation after being convicted of a felony assault on her husband. Birru had met the former marine Silas D’Aloisio when he was stationed in Addis Ababa. They moved to rural California, where Birru said D’Aloisio quickly became violent and abusive, although he denied the allegations. Birru says that during one such incident, she took D’Aloisio’s gun and fired it at him, believing it wasn’t loaded. D’Aloisio survived, but Birru was convicted, served four years, and was then detained for deportation. The Free Liyah campaign – which gathered more than 35,000 signatures – helped secure her release on bond and there is an ongoing campaign to get her pardoned.
Nourn’s main message is that people can’t be neatly categorised. Their stories aren’t simple, so the solutions can’t be, either. Immigrants can’t be separated into “the good ones” (the honest, hard-working model minority) and “the bad ones” (whom it’s OK to kick out). The same applies to the criminal justice system. “We have a system that says: ‘Protect the victims and survivors, and lock away the perpetrators,’” she says.
“But what happens when the victim and survivor is also classed as a perpetrator?
“We have to challenge ourselves and think about how we hold the person who did harm accountable, but at the same time uplift their humanity,” she says. “How is incarcerating people and deporting them going to make the world a better place? It’s not transformative. It doesn’t look at root causes. There must be better ways.”
When it comes to her future, Nourn isn’t yet sure what she will do. “Maybe one day I’ll have my own nonprofit organisation or domestic violence shelter. I may work towards a PhD – who knows,” she says. (Nourn is also in the final stages of an undergraduate sociology degree from San Francisco State University.) Whatever path she chooses, her 10-, 16- or 21-year-old self would surely be staggered.
“That person was so quiet, so alone, so scared, doing what she could to survive and blaming herself,” says Nourn. “She would never have thought she could go to college, have a career, be an advocate.
“I’ve learned that if you want to see change happen, you have to be part of it. Being vocal is not wrong. I was silent for the majority of my life – but not any more.”