After tensions were decreasing between the United States and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), some of its members are attempting to return home to the US. They chose to flee the US after being influenced by ISIS’s wide social media presence.
Hoda Muthana was a college student at the University of Alabama Birmingham and had told her parents she was leaving the country for a school trip overseas. That was a lie. Muthana left the US to join ISIS. She fled to the Middle East and snuck into an ISIS caliphate where she burned her passport.
There she was placed amongst women from all over the world. They were told they could not leave until they were married to an ISIS militant. Leaders would come around with a list and match the women up with militants.
Four years later she now wishes to return home to the U.S. She once had believed in the executions and teachings of ISIS but now expresses her deepest regrets. She is currently detained in a refugee camp in Syria.
“Once I look back on it, I can’t stress how much of a crazy idea it was,” Muthana said to New York Times. “I can’t believe it. I ruined my life. I ruined my future.”
Muthana is not alone. Kimberly Gwen Polman is there as well, with a similar story. Polman studied legal administration in Canada but possesses dual citizenship in the US. Both women are married to ISIS militants. The pair are now begging for their passports to be reissued so they can return to the country they call home.
“I do not think that it is as simple as it being a good or bad idea,” Reynolds counselor Thomas Moore said. “Almost certainly the United States would be a country that would afford her and her children more opportunities but there is the same factor of their safety within the community following such a public renouncement of America. I personally believe that people deserve the right for redemption and rehabilitation.”
59 U.S citizens are known to have fled to join ISIS and the men that had once fled have since been able to return. Thirteen women and children that have fled have been denied access back into the U.S. The reasons behind their pending access are unknown.
The Charlotte Observer wrote that Seamus Hughes Deputy Director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University said there were “thousands of legitimate reasons to question the sincerity” of appeals like those of Ms. Muthana and Ms. Polman.
“I think that we need to be sensitive to what these women have experienced,” said Reynolds sophomore Elizabeth White. “I think that globally we all need to include these women but make sure they meet certain requirements [upon their arrival].”
These women have faced many challenges and now the U.S and European countries face the challenge of forgiveness.
“It seems like this is part of the growing challenge of working to combat an ideology,” English teacher Stephen Langford said. “Which is more amorphous than trying someone for a specific crime. I think the U.S. and other European countries are facing that challenge on a broader scale as some citizens of their countries develop radical ideologies without even going abroad.”
Many European countries have not allowed all once citizens who joined ISIS to regain their citizenship. The US has been the most lenient about the repatriation of these citizens.