U.S.-born ISIS bride: I'll have 'no problem' returning despite Trump decree

Image: Hoda Muthana
NBC News' Richard Engel speaks with Hoda Muthana in Syria on Friday. Copyright NBC News
By Richard Engel and Associated Press with NBC News World News
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"I know in fact that I was a citizen. When I tried filing for a passport it was very easy. It came in 10 days," the Alabama woman told NBC News.


AL-HOUL CAMP, Syria — An American-born ISIS bride told NBC News Friday that she anticipates "no problem" in returning to the U.S. despite the Trump administration insisting that won't be allowed.

Hoda Muthana, 24, left the U.S. to join the Islamic State in Syria in 2014.

She is now staying in a refugee camp with her 18-month-old son after fleeing the remnants of the caliphate.

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to refuse her entry.

Pompeo told NBC's "Today" on Thursday that Muthana is not a citizen and will not be admitted to the country.

The Alabama woman and her family are now suing the Trump administration in an effort to allow her to return.

"I know in fact that I was a citizen," she told NBC News. "When I tried filing for a passport it was very easy. It came in 10 days. So, I thought I didn't have a problem, and I'm sure there is no problem and I know my lawyer hopefully is working on it and he will win the case."

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When asked what she expects will happen if she is allowed to return to the U.S., Muthana replied: "Of course I'll be given jail time."

Muthana is the daughter of a former Yemeni diplomat. The family's lawyers claim that the government determined she is not a citizen because her father held diplomatic status at the time of her birth in Hackensack, New Jersey.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a person born in the U.S. to an accredited foreign diplomatic officer is not subject to U.S. law and is not automatically considered an American citizen at birth.

Hoda Muthana with her son.
Hoda Muthana with her son.Ivor Prickett/The New York Times

The Obama administration was first to determine she was not a citizen and notified her family they would revoke her passport in January 2016.

The family's lawyers are now arguing that Muthana's father was no longer a diplomat when she was born and that she held a legitimate U.S. passport at the time she left for Syria.

Muthana spoke to NBC News inside her tent in a section of the al-Houl Camp in northeast Syria reserved for foreign ISIS families. There were no officials from the camp present during the interview.

The site was crowded with nearly 1,600 people — all women and children — from 48 countries, according to statistics provided by the camp's director.

Muthana said she fears for her life, not from camp guards, but from other ISIS wives who might take reprisals against her for speaking out against the group.

Muthana described herself as a former Islamic "radical" who has changed her beliefs. She added that she deeply regrets travelling to ISIS territory and said she was "brainwashed" online.

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