A woman from Alabama who left the United States in 2014 to join the Islamic State in Syria will fight on in her legal battle to regain American citizenship, her lawyers said, after the latest blow to her case.
On Monday, the Supreme Court declined without comment to consider Hoda Muthana's petition seeking permission to reenter the United States. The court refused to hear an appeal filed by her family, or overturn lower court rulings where relatives argued she was unlawfully denied her return to the country. Her legal team, the Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America (CLCMA), called the outcome a "sad day for the Muthana family, and for the sanctity of United States citizenship in general."
American-born Muthana, 27, has been living with her 4-year-old son in a Syrian refugee camp. Her passport was revoked in 2016, and the government has since said she is not a citizen and will not be allowed to return to the United States.
Muthana was 20 years old and a student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham when she left the United States, after apparently becoming radicalized by online videos prompting her to seek a life under Islamic State rule. She used her college tuition money to secretly buy a plane ticket to the Middle East, while telling her family that she was going to Atlanta for a field trip as part of a class assignment.
While she was living in the self-declared caliphate in Syria, Muthana helped spread Islamic State propaganda on social media and called for the death of Americans. During her time there, she married three Islamic State fighters, having a child with her second husband, who was killed in battle. She later escaped Islamic State-held territory and surrendered to Kurdish forces, who placed her in a refugee camp with her child.
Her attorneys called this week's Supreme Court decision "extremely disappointing news" and have argued that U.S. authorities should recognize Muthana's citizenship, which they say she acquired at the time of her birth in Hackensack, N.J.
Muthana's passport was revoked in 2016, a decision made under President Barack Obama. In 2019, President Donald Trump tweeted that he had instructed Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, "not to allow Hoda Muthana back into the Country!" Pompeo also said in a statement the same day that Muthana "is not a U.S. citizen and will not be admitted into the United States."
Muthana has previously told the press that she renounces the extreme ideology of the Islamic State and that she had been "naive," "arrogant" and "brainwashed." She has also said that she was prepared to face any legal consequences for her actions if she returns to the United States and wants her son to grow up as an American citizen. "I know I've ruined my future and my son's future and I deeply, deeply regret it," she told the Guardian newspaper. According to her lawyers, she and her son have also faced threats for renouncing the Islamic State, the Associated Press reports.
A spokesperson for the State Department told The Post that it welcomed the Supreme Court's decision declining to further review her case and that it had not changed its position with regards to Muthana's citizenship status. The Department has said in the past that Muthana is not, and has never been, an American citizen.
She stands outside of the 14th Amendment's guarantee of birthright citizenship, the government argues, because her father, who is now a naturalized citizen, was formerly a Yemeni diplomat and under the jurisdiction of his home country.
Muthana's lawyers have argued that her father was discharged from his diplomatic position by the time of her birth on Oct. 28, 1994, by which point her mother had also gained permanent residency status.
Muthana's case closely echoes that of British-born Shamima Begum, who was stripped of her British citizenship in 2019 after leaving to live under the Islamic State as a teenager. Last year, Britain's top court ruled that Begum would not be allowed back into the United Kingdom to fight a legal case about the revocation of citizenship.
Begum, who was 15 when she, along with two school friends, left for Syria, has made numerous appeals to the public for forgiveness and offered to help the government fight terrorism if she is allowed to return home. She's said she believed she was "doing the right thing" at the time and did not realize that the group was a "death cult."
The Islamic State largely territorially disintegrated after international military intervention, led by the United States. The vast number of foreign fighters remaining has left world leaders in difficult positions as they try to balance individual human rights against national security. Making individuals stateless also risks violating international laws, but both Britain and the U.S. have claimed the women are citizens of other countries, which their lawyers, along with some of the nations in question, dispute.