ISIS bride's family files lawsuit against Trump over her right to return to America

Hoda Muthana. Photograph:( AFP )

PTI Washington, USA Feb 24, 2019, 12.30 PM (IST)

The father of an Alabama woman who fled to Syria to marry an Islamic State fighter filed a lawsuit against Donald Trump's administration over her right to return with her 18-month-old baby after the US president said she will not be allowed back on American soil.

Hoda Muthana, 24, joined the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, in 2014 after telling her parents she was going to Atlanta, Georgia, as part of a field trip connected with her business studies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Instead, she withdrew from college and used her tuition reimbursement to purchase a plane ticket to Turkey, according to court documents. 

From Turkey, she traveled to Syria, where she married twice, both times to ISIS fighters who later died in combat. Muthana fled to the al-Hawl refugee camp in December last year amid the collapse of the ISIS caliphate in Syria and Iraq. 

"I have instructed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and he fully agrees, not to allow Hoda Muthana back into the Country!" Trump tweeted on Wednesday.

"She does not have any legal basis, no valid US Passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the United States," Pompeo said in a statement. "We continue to strongly advise all US Citizens not to travel to Syria."

Ahmed Ali Muthana filed the lawsuit Thursday, accusing the Trump administration of an "unlawful attempt" to revoke Hoda Muthana's citizenship.

Muthana has said she is willing to face federal charges upon her return.
But Trump has ordered officials to bar the former IS propagandist from entering the US.

The lawsuit emphasises that the woman's father is not arguing against any prosecution from the US government over her actions in Syria, but wants lawful recognition of her US citizenship and the citizenship of her child.

Muthana has "publicly acknowledged her actions and accepted full responsibility," a statement announcing the lawsuit said.

"In Ms Muthana's words, she recognises that she has 'ruined' her own life, but she does not want to ruin the life of her young child."

Pompeo said on Wednesday that Muthana had no "legal basis" or "right" to a passport or any US visa.

Pompeo confirmed her father's prior status as a Yemeni diplomat for the United Nations was behind the administration's decision.

Under US law, the children of diplomats are not considered US citizens.

The exact timeline of when Ahmed Ali Muthana stopped serving as a diplomat and when his daughter was born is now being contested by the Trump administration.

The family maintains Muthana was previously recognised as a citizen by the US Department of State and given a US passport in 2004.

Earlier this week, Muthana's lawyer, Hassan Shibly, shared a photo on Twitter of what he said was her US birth certificate. 

The case has similarities to that of UK-born teenager Shamima Begum who has been stripped of her British citizenship. Begum fled London to join ISIS in 2015 but is now seeking to return to the UK. 

Story highlights

Hoda Muthana, 24, joined the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, in 2014 after telling her parents she was going to Atlanta, Georgia, as part of a field trip connected with her business studies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.