An Alabama woman who ran away from her home in her 20s, joined the Islamic State group and gave birth to a child with its fighter says she still hopes to return to the United States and serve a prison sentence if necessary. extremists.
Khoda Muthana, who gave a rare interview from the Roj prison camp in Syria, where she is being held by US-allied Kurdish forces, said she was brainwashed by internet traffickers into joining the group in 2014 and now regrets everything except her young son. school age.
“If I have to sit in jail and do my time, I will. … I will not fight against it, – said the 28-year-old player News movement. “I hope my government will look at me as a young and naive person at that time.”
It’s something he’s repeated in various media interviews since fleeing one of the extremist group’s last enclaves in Syria in early 2019.
But four years ago, when the extremists were on the rise, he was an ardent supporter of them on social media. In an interview with BuzzFeed News. ISIS then ruled over a self-proclaimed Islamic caliphate covering a third of Syria and Iraq. In 2015, in posts from his Twitter account, he called on Americans to join the group and carry out attacks in the US, suggesting drive-by shootings or drive-by attacks targeting gatherings for national holidays.
Muthana told TNM that his phone was taken from him and that the tweets were sent by ISIS supporters.
Muthana was born in New Jersey to Yemeni immigrants and once held a US passport. He grew up in a conservative Muslim household in Hoover, Alabama, near Birmingham. In 2014, he told his family he was going on a school trip, but flew to Turkey and crossed into Syria, funding the trip with education checks he had secretly cashed.
The Obama administration revoked his citizenship in 2016, saying his father was an accredited Yemeni diplomat at the time of his birth — a rare revocation of birthright citizenship. Her lawyers opposed the move, arguing that her father’s diplomatic accreditation expired before the girl was born.
The Trump administration has argued that he is not a citizen and prevented him from returningAlthough he forced the European allies to repatriate their citizens to reduce pressure on the detention camps.
That left her and her son in a prison camp in northern Syria with thousands of widows and their children of Islamic State fighters.
According to a report by Human Rights Watch, about 65,600 suspected Islamic State members and their family members – both Syrian and foreign nationals – are with the US in northeastern Syria. held in camps and prisons run by allied Kurdish groups. released last month.
Women accused of being linked to ISIS and their minor children are mostly held in al-Hol and Roj camps, which the rights group described as “life-threatening conditions”. There are more than 37,400 foreigners among the inmates of the camp, including Europeans and North Americans.
Human Rights Watch and other observers cited harsh living conditions in the camps, including inadequate food, water, and medical care, as well as physical and sexual abuse of prisoners by guards and other inmates.
Kurdish-led officials and activists have blamed ISIS sleeper cells for escalating violence inside the facilities, including the beheading of two Egyptian girls, ages 11 and 13, at al-Hol camp in November. In the same month, Turkish airstrikes targeting Kurdish groups were also carried out near Al-Hol. Camp officials claim the Turkish strikes targeted security forces guarding the camp.
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“None of the foreigners have been brought before a judicial authority … to determine the necessity and legality of their detention, and their detention is arbitrary and unlawful,” Human Rights Watch wrote. “Detention based solely on family ties is collective punishment, a war crime.”
Calls for the repatriation of detainees have gone largely unheeded following ISIS’s bloody reign, which has been marked by massacres, beheadings and other atrocities, many of which have been shown to the world in graphic films shared on social media.
But over time, the pace of repatriation began to accelerate. Human Rights Watch said about 3,100 foreigners, mostly women and children, have been sent to homes in the past year. Most of them were Iraqis, who made up the majority of those arrested, but nationals were also repatriated to Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia and the United Kingdom.
The United States repatriated a total of 39 American citizens. It is not known how many more Americans remain in the camps.
These days, Muthana presents himself as a victim of the Islamic State.
In an interview with TNM, she describes how she was detained in a guest house for unmarried women and children after arriving in Syria in 2014. “I have never seen such filth in my life, 100 women and twice as many children running around, noise, dirty beds,” he said.
The only way to escape was to marry a warrior. He eventually married and remarried three times. Her first two husbands, including her son’s father, died in battle. According to reports, she divorced her third husband.
The extremist group, also known as ISIS, no longer controls any territory in Syria or Iraq, but continues to carry out occasional attacks and has supporters in camps. Mutana says he still has to be careful about what he says, fearing reprisals.
“Even here, I can’t fully say everything I want to say. But once I go, I go. I will defend against it,” he said. “I wanted to help the victims of ISIS in the West to understand that someone like me is not a member of it, that I am also a victim of ISIS.”
Hassan Shibli, a lawyer who assisted Mutana’s family, said it was “obvious that he was brainwashed and used.”
He said his family wants him to come back, pay his debt to society and then help others “go down the dark path he went down.”
“He is completely delusional and no one will deny that. But again, he was a teenager who was the victim of a very sophisticated recruitment operation aimed at exploiting the young, vulnerable and disenfranchised,” he said.