Hoda Muthana was born October 28, 1994 to a Yemeni diplomat in New Jersey and moved to New York and then Washington, D.C., before finally settling with her family in Alabama as a seventh grader.
Hassan Shibly, a lawyer with the Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida, provided a birth certificate for Ms. Muthana that showed she was born in Hackensack, N.J., on Oct. 28, 1994.
In 2014, Ms. Muthana, then a 20-year-old student in Alabama, traveled to Turkey, hiding her plans from her family. She told them she was heading to a university event. In fact she was smuggled into Syria, where she met up with the Islamic State and began urging attacks in the West.
Ms. Muthana says she applied for and received a United States passport before leaving for Turkey. And she was born in the United States — ordinarily a guarantee of citizenship.
While children born in America are granted citizenship under the 14th Amendment, children of foreign diplomats are not because they are not under the “jurisdiction of” the U.S., according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Still, children of diplomats can apply for residency and then eventually citizenship, per USCIS.
After she joined the Islamic State, Mr. Swift said, Ms. Muthana’s family received a letter indicating that her passport had been revoked. Her father sent the government evidence of his nondiplomatic status at the time of his daughter’s birth, but did not receive a response.
She, her family and their lawyer maintain she is a U.S. citizen.
Ms. Muthana is one of at least 13 people identified as Americans — almost all of them women and children — who are being held in detention camps by Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria. Many of them are facing similar issues as Ms. Muthana does, with their citizenship being challenged on technical grounds.
A majority of American men caught on the battlefield were the subject of sealed indictments and have been repatriated to face charges.
“When I left to Syria I was a naive, angry, and arrogant young woman,” she said in a handwritten statement provided to CNN by a representative. “To say that I regret my past words, any pain that I caused my family and any concerns I would cause my country would be hard for me to really express properly.”
In her first television interview, the 24-year-old Alabama woman who spent four years as an “ISIS bride” told ABC News she felt shame hearing the tweets she posted when she was part of ISIS and wants to return to the U.S. with her 18-month-old son, who was born under the terror group.
When interviewed by ABC, she expressed remorse and regret about her social media posts inciting violence in the name of Islam and ISIS.
“I wish I could take it completely off the net, completely out of people’s memory. … I regret it. … I hope America doesn’t think I’m a threat to them and I hope they can accept me and I’m just a normal human being who’s been manipulated once and hopefully never again,” she said.
Muthana said U.S. consul officials had not been in contact with her yet. She said she cried herself to sleep, worrying that if and when she returns to the U.S., she will be sentenced to jail and separated from her son.
Muthana, who dodged sniper fire and roadside bombs to escape, is ready to pay the penalty for her actions but wants freedom and safety for the son she had with one of two ISIL fighters she wed, he said. Both men were killed in combat. The New York Times reported Muthana also married and divorced a third husband in Syria.
In a handwritten letter released by Shibly, Muthana wrote that she made “a big mistake” by rejecting her family and friends in the US to join ISIL.
“During my years in Syria I would see and experience a way of life and the terrible effects of war which changed me,” she wrote.
After fleeing her home in suburban Birmingham in late 2014 and resurfacing in Syria, Muthana used social media to advocate violence against the US. In the letter, Muthana wrote that she didn’t understand the importance of freedoms provided by the US at the time.
“To say that I regret my past words, any pain that I caused my family and any concerns I would cause my country would be hard for me to really express properly,” the letter said.
Shibly said Muthana was brainwashed online before she left Alabama and now could have valuable intelligence for US forces, but he said the FBI didn’t seem interested in retrieving her from the refugee camp where she is living with her son.
Leaving Her Home
Ms Muthana left her home in Hoover, Alabama, in 2014 after becoming radicalised. She was a rampant online propagandist for IS and part of a network of extremist young Muslims who shared their violent views on Twitter.
During her time as an IS propagandist, Muthana’s urged her followers to commit murderous acts on US public holidays.
“Go on drive-bys and spill all of their blood, or rent a big truck and drive all over them. Veterans, Patriot, Memorial etc Day parades. go on drive by’s + spill all of their blood or rent a big truck n drive all over them. Kill them,” she tweeted.
She also called for an attack on former president Barack Obama.
“You can look up Obamas schedule on the white house website. Take down that treacherous tyrant!” she wrote.
She said she “can’t believe” she spread those views.
“I interpreted everything very wrong,” she said.
She said she and others like her were brainwashed and told things by members of IS that were “very wrong”.
She explained a sickening process of pairing off IS brides with fighters, where young girls were coached to pick husbands from a list of photos. Her first husband was Australian jihadi and IS fighter Suhan Rahman, who was killed in battle.
Her second husband was also killed fighting, and she married a third time but she no longer knows where her husband is. She said “200 other brides” of young ages, many teenagers, were put together in a locked room and shown pictures and advised on which husband to choose.
“They keep you in Raqqa with locks on all the doors and windows with a guard in front of the door,” Ms Muthana explained.
“At any time there would be about 200 people. Everyone just gave their preferences on who they’d like to marry and you were given a list and you could choose.”
Now, with the militant group driven out of Syria, Ms. Muthana says she is deeply sorry, but American officials appeared intent on closing the door to her return. Ms Muthana said she was not a threat to the US, and had been indoctrinated by the extremist group.
“I’m a normal human being who has been manipulated. I hope America doesn’t think I am a threat to them and I hope they accept me … I hope they excuse me because of how young and ignorant I was. I can tell them that now I have changed, now I am a mother, I have none of the ideology and hopefully everyone will see it when I get back.”
She said she wanted to undergo a process back in the US to help her rehabilitate.
“Maybe (I could undergo) therapy lessons, maybe a process that will ensure us that we’ll never do this again,” she said.
Ms Muthana had been living in the town of Sousa before she was captured and moved to the refugee camp. The town had run out of food and the people had begun to starve and resorted to eating grass.
“There was nothing in the market, nothing in the shops … We just plucked grass from around our houses and fried it. Seeing my son eat grass, that was my last day.”
In her written statement, she said that years of bloodshed and war, and the birth of her son, changed her
“In my quiet moments, in between bombings, starvation, cold, and fear, I would look at my beautiful little boy and know that I didn’t belong here and neither did he.”Hoda Muthana wrote.
- Hoda Muthana Biography and Profile (Goodreadbiography / News / CNN / BBC)