Somali-Born Lawmaker Leaving Netherlands
Tuesday, May 16, 2006; 4:19 PM
THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- A Somali-born lawmaker and fierce critic of radical Islam tearfully announced Tuesday that she is leaving the Netherlands, reportedly for the U.S., after the government threatened to revoke her citizenship for lying on her asylum application.
The threat to strip Ayaan Hirsi Ali of Dutch citizenship unleashed a fierce debate in parliament at a time of heightened anti-immigrant sentiment in the country.
Hirsi Ali, 36, has been under police guard since a short film she wrote criticizing the treatment of women under Islam provoked the murder of its director, Theo van Gogh, by an Islamic radical.
She said she decided Monday night to resign from parliament after Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk told her "she would strip me of my Dutch citizenship."
"I am therefore preparing to leave Holland," Hirsi Ali told reporters in The Hague, her voice choking with emotion.
She declined to say what she will do next, or to comment on Dutch media reports that she will join the American Enterprise Institute in the United States. A spokesman for the institute refused to comment. The U.S. Embassy in The Hague declined to comment on reports that the government has offered to accept Hirsi Ali.
The decision to revoke Hirsi Ali's citizenship appeared driven by domestic Dutch politics _ and drew criticism from Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, who said he was "surprised by the speed" with which Verdonk acted and asked her for an explanation.
He said Verdonk bore "individual responsibility" for decisions in immigration cases.
Hirsi Ali falsified her name and date of birth on an asylum application when she arrived in 1992, fearing reprisals from her family after she fled an arranged marriage.
She was granted a passport in 1997 and acknowledged the falsification in 2002 during vetting as a candidate for parliament. There were no objections then.
But after a television program revived the matter last week, one of Hirsi Ali's political opponents, far-right lawmaker Hilbrand Nawijn, brought pressure on Verdonk to revoke her citizenship.
Verdonk reviewed the case and found naturalization had been improperly granted: a ruling by the Dutch Supreme Court in 2005 found that passports issued to people with false names are automatically invalid.