Layli Miller Muro: A woman for the history books

Layli Miller-Muro is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the the Tahirih Justice Center. She established Tahirih in 1997 following her involvement in a high-profile case that set national precedent and revolutionized asylum law in the United States. Fauziya Kassindja, a 17-year-old girl who had fled Togo in fear of a forced polygamous marriage and female genital mutilation, was granted asylum in 1996 by the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals. This decision opened the door to gender-based persecution as grounds for asylum. Using her portion of the proceeds from a book she and Ms. Kassindja co-authored about the case, “Do They Hear You When You Cry?,” Layli established Tahirih.

Since 2001, Layli has led Tahirih in its service to more than 22,000 women and children, growing the non-profit from a staff of six to over 70, and expanding its offices from Greater DC to Houston, Baltimore, and the San Francisco Bay Area. In recognition of its sound management and innovative programs, under Layli’s leadership, Tahirih won the Washington Post Award for Management Excellence and gained recognition for its innovative use of pro bono services in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Prior to joining Tahirih as Chief Executive Officer, Layli was an attorney at the law firm of Arnold & Porter, where she practiced international litigation and maintained a substantial pro bono practice. Prior to joining Arnold & Porter, Layli was an attorney-advisor at the U.S. Department of Justice, Board of Immigration Appeals.

Layli is a frequent lecturer and has appeared in numerous news outlets including CNN, Fox News, The New York Times, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. She lives in the Washington, DC area with her husband and three children.

“We are making progress. Women and girls are standing up for justice. They are refusing the violence they’ve suffered. We are making a significant impact, not only in the lives of our clients, but on the legal system and, in turn, on the planet with regard to the status of women.”

Layli has been honored with many awards and accolades throughout her career, including:

  • Newsweek/Daily Beast’s 150 Most Fearless Women in the World
  • Diane von Furstenberg’s People’s Voice Award
  • Huffington Post’s 50 Powerful Women Religious Leaders
  • GoldmanSach’s Top 100 Most Innovative Entrepreneurs
  • Smart CEO Brava! Women Business Achievement Award


  • “A Nation of Laws – What About Immigration?” The Wall Street Journal, March 3, 2017
  • “Episode 146: Layli Miller-Muro,” Person Place Thing with Randy Cohen, November 6, 2016
  • “Thousands of Young Women in the U.S. Forced Into Marriage,” NPR, April 14, 2015
  • “Ending Violence Against Women and Girls,” Big Think: Think Tank, June 17, 2014
  • “Global Ethics Forum,” Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, Oct. 15, 2013
  • “For battered immigrant women, fear of deportation becomes abusers weapon,” The Washington Post, Feb. 8, 2012
  • “Innovate: Justice,” TEDx Grand Rapids, June 2, 2011
  • “The Power of Many,” Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2011


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