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Who: Two young women — Hoda Muthana from the United States and Shamima Begum from Britain — have ignited debate about youths who have left their countries to join the Islamic State but now want to come home.
What: Muthana, 24, said in an interview with ABC News that she’s ashamed of social media posts she made when she was part of ISIS and wants to return to the United States with her 18-month-old son. Muthana’s lawyer says she was a “stupid, naive, young dumb woman” who became enamored of the Islamic State, and was “brainwashed” and compelled to marry ISIS fighters. She appealed to Americans, insisting that she is not a threat and describing herself instead as a “normal human being who’s been manipulated once and hopefully never again.”
The English teenager Begum, 19, said in an interview with Sky News that she fled the caliphate because she feared her son, whom she recently gave birth to in a refugee camp, would die like her other children if she stayed. Despite occasional bombings, Begum said she led a normal life. “I never did anything dangerous. I never made propaganda,” she said.
Where: Muthana and Begum are both in a Kurdish-run refugee camp in Syria along with other people who have fled remnants of the Islamic State.
When: Muthana left her family in Alabama in 2014 and made her way to Syria to join the Islamic State. Begum ran away from her family and left Britain in 2015 with two other girls from her London school, traveling to northern Syria to join ISIS.
Why: The number of women from Western countries who travel to Syria for the Islamic State is not known, with estimates ranging from 550 to 1,000. According to the Independent, about 900 British citizens have left to join ISIS in the past seven years. Twelve more British ISIS brides reportedly have arrived at a refugee camp recently, stoking concerns that dozens more could demand a return to the U.K. According to a recent study, British girls were active in seeking out extremist material before making their own decision to join ISIS. Canadian women who have emerged out of ISIS’s fall say they were persuaded by their husbands to leave their country.
What’s next: The Trump administration is refusing to allow Muthana to reenter the United States, saying she “is not a U.S. citizen and will not be admitted.” Muthana’s father has sued the U.S. government arguing that she is a citizen and is being denied due process. Her legal status is unclear, with questions surrounding her citizenship and U.S. passport. Muthana says she wants to come back to face the American justice system. “If she broke the law, then the justice system can deal with her, and if she didn’t break the law, she should come back anyway, so it can be determined if she is a threat,” her lawyer said. He added that Muthana wants to speak out against the Islamic State and help de-radicalize other Americans.
The British government has revoked Begum’s citizenship. Bangladesh, where her family is from, says Begum is not a citizen and will not take her in. Begum wants to raise her son in Britain, but her story is the subject of intense debate there. She previously expressed little remorse for her actions, but is now appealing for mercy. The government has suggested that her son could be a British citizen and allowed into the U.K. Begum says she may apply for Dutch citizenship because her husband, an Islamic State fighter, is from the Netherlands. But questions remain over the legality of stripping her citizenship as Britain and other European countries struggle with what to do.
They are terrorists and shouldn’t be allowed back.
“These are the women who leave their homes, families, friends and countries to go and marry the world’s worst terrorists. … They’re traitors, pure and simple. And traitors deserve not one iota of ‘fairness.’ Indeed, the only ‘fairness’ I would show is towards their own innocent children who should be sent home for adoption by decent, humane people, not cared for by radicalised terror-lovers. My message to both these brides, and any others like them, is this: You made your ISIS husband beds, now you can rot in hell in them.” — Piers Morgan, Daily Mail
“For any society that truly takes women seriously, those who abandoned their lives in their home country to assist in mass murder and a war against humanity should be rejected and not be allowed to return. This isn’t brain surgery. Those complicit should be tried by an international tribunal as would anyone involved in war crimes. We can choose to take these jihadis seriously, or we can choose to give them a pass because … they’re women?” — Tammy Bruce, Washington Times
Allow them to come home and face legal consequences.
“If the president and the secretary do not want Muthana to try to come back to the United States, the best strategy is to have the Justice Department indict her on serious felony charges. She may seek another alternative if she knows the risk of coming back here is decades of imprisonment. Of course, Muthana may decide to come anyway.” — Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review
A U.S. citizen cannot be barred from re-entry.
“Legally, we don’t have an obligation to facilitate travel home, but an American who arrives at the border can’t be barred from entry,” says Ardian Shajkovci, the director of research at the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE). “Legally, we can only prosecute for laws that were in place at the time of their travel, so no ex post facto prosecution.” — Hollie McKay, Fox News
Terror attack victims say any involvement with ISIS is unforgivable.
“She’s [Shamima Begum] made her bed, hasn’t she? I think she should just remain where she is. For starters, I don’t think she’s being honest. I think the only reason she would like to come back is because she couldn’t stay where she was.” — Alex Klis, whose parents died in the Manchester bombing, Yahoo UK
“Hoda [Muthana] and the many thousands of ISIS fighters who have promoted terrorism need to be held accountable and brought to justice.” — Diane Foley, whose son James Foley was beheaded by ISIS fighters, Fox News
“I’m stunned by what she’s said. If nothing else this just shows the depravity of IS supporters and the reason why none of them should ever be allowed back into this country. There is no hope for rehabilitation because they have been indoctrinated into an evil ideology.” — Phil Dick, who survived the Manchester bombing, the Sun
Young, naive, brainwashed — they deserve a chance at rehabilitation.
“This disturbing case holds a mirror up to Britain. In it we see a reflection of the racist, vengeful and weak society we are, as opposed to the strong, stable, tolerant, humane or even baseline-functioning one some, unbelievably, still claim us to be. Begum has asked to come home. She is right to ask this of the country where she was born, raised and radicalized.” — Chitra Ramaswamy, The Guardian
“You can’t just leave them there. Bring them home and there are methods of monitoring and restraining these Isis radicals. … A long-term, organized plan should be implemented, that much is certain if we’re to solve this for future generations.” — Anthony Loyd, who found Shamima Begum in refugee camp, GQ UK
“The brainwashed child she was has everything to do with the brainwashed young woman she has become. That’s not to justify what she has done, but to see the series of events that have unfolded in her life as being traceable directly back to her grooming and subsequent radicalization.” — Michael Segalov, The Guardian