- The father of an Alabama woman who joined ISIS four years ago is now suing to have the US recognize her as a citizen and return her to the country immediately.
- Hoda Muthana, 24, spoke to The New York Times recently from a Kurdish-controlled camp in Syria where she is being held with her 18-month-old son. She said she regrets her decision to betray her country.
- The Trump administration has said Muthana is not a citizen, despite the fact that she was born in New Jersey and held an American passport before she joined the caliphate.
The father of an Alabama woman who fled the US in 2014 to join ISIS is suing the government to have her recognized as a citizen and returned to her home country immediately.
Hoda Muthana, 24, and her 18-month-old son are currently being held at a Kurdish-controlled refugee camp in northern Syria.
She told The New York Times in a story published Tuesday that she regrets her decision to betray her country and wants to come home. But the Trump administration has claimed she is not a citizen, despite the fact that she was born in New Jersey and held an American passport before joining the caliphate.
- Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty
INSIDER obtained a copy of the lawsuit that Hoda’s father, Ahmed Ali Muthana, filed Wednesday in the US District Court for the District of Columbia.
The lawsuit demands that his daughter be recognized as a US citizen and returned to the country. Muthana also asks that he be allowed to send her money to help her come home, without being charged for supporting a terrorist.
At the center of the dispute between is whether Hoda she was a US citizen at the time of her birth.
In an interview on the “Today” show on Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Muthana was a diplomat at the time of his daughter’s birth, which would exempt her from birthright citizenship.
“She is a terrorist. She’s not a US citizen,” Pompeo said. “She may have been born here; she is not a US citizen, nor is she entitled to US citizenship.”
Muthana argues against that conclusion in the lawsuit, providing a letter from the United Nations that he said shows his status as a Yemeni diplomat ended a month before his daughter was born in October 1994.
- Courtesy of Hassan Shibly
A complicated question of citizenship
This isn’t the first time the validity of Hoda’s citizenship has been contested.
When her father first applied to get her an American passport in 2004, he also had to send State Department officials the letter, the lawsuit states. That passport was eventually granted and Hoda renewed it in 2014, just before leaving for Syria.
Then, a little more than a year after she left to join ISIS, in January 2016, her parents said they received a letter saying Hoda’s passport had been revoked, according to the lawsuit. The letter argued that the United Nations had not been officially notified of Muthana’s termination as a diplomat until February 1995, and therefore his daughter was still exempt from birthright citizenship when she was born.
But Muthana argues in the lawsuit that’s not the case because his letter shows the UN knew the beginning and end dates of his service.
Muthana is seeking to expedite the case due to Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria, which he believes could make it difficult to extricate his daughter from the camp where she’s living, according to the lawsuit.
The Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America is representing Muthana in the lawsuit. In a statement, the center explained that Hoda knows if the lawsuit is successful, she will be prosecuted for her crimes in the US. But she is nonetheless motivated to return to give her son the best life possible.
“In Ms. Muthana’s own words, she recognizes that she has ‘ruined’ her own life, but she does not want to ruin the life of her young child. Should the court agree with the Plaintiff, Ms. Muthana’s son will be recognized as an American citizen, and afforded the opportunity to grow up in the greatest country in the world,” the statement reads.
While the US has prosecuted some male ISIS fighters, it can be trickier to hold the women accountable, since they often weren’t allowed to fight, New York Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi explained on “The Daily” podcast on Friday.
- Read more:
- Trump’s decision not to let a US woman who joined ISIS return is the wrong one – and a dangerous one
- ISIS bride from Alabama who urged people to drive pick-up trucks into crowds on Veterans Day wants to come back to the US: ‘Please forgive me’
- 11 American women who left the US to become ISIS brides and fighters