Discredited Somali Quits Dutch Politics

By John Ward Anderson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, May 17, 2006

PARIS, May 16 -- Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali woman who moved to the Netherlands, won a seat in the Dutch parliament and became one of Europe's best-known champions of immigrant and Muslim women's rights, said Tuesday she would give up her seat and leave the country because she is being stripped of citizenship for lying on an asylum application 14 years ago.

Hirsi Ali, a harsh critic of Islam and Dutch intolerance toward immigrants, has been negotiating for a position at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington and expects to begin there in September, according to her spokeswoman, Ingrid Pouw.

In a statement Tuesday, Hirsi Ali said she was proud that she had "put the oppression of immigrant women -- especially Muslim women -- squarely on the Dutch political agenda." She said she had spoken out against what she called "issues related to Islam," including limits on speech, the murder of women deemed to have brought shame on a family, and the religion's failure to condemn genital mutilation.

She came to international prominence in 2004 for writing the screenplay for "Submission," a short film that outraged many Muslims and prompted an Islamic radical to kill its director, Theo van Gogh. The film featured four women, wearing see-through robes with words from the Koran scribbled on their bodies, who claimed to have been abused by their Muslim husbands.

Hirsi Ali's outspokenness and celebrity made her a high-profile target of complaint in the Netherlands, both from Muslims and anti-immigrant figures. The target of frequent death threats, she has lived in semi-hiding under armed protection for about four years, conditions that she said contributed to her decision, months in the making, to leave the Netherlands.

Pouw said that Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk, a member of Hirsi Ali's VVD political party who has taken a hard line on immigration issues, informed Hirsi Ali in a letter delivered Monday night that her passport was being revoked and she was being stripped of her citizenship for lying on her 1992 asylum application.

Speaking at a news conference, Hirsi Ali said that she recently lost a court case brought by neighbors who claimed her presence was a security problem and a nuisance, and she was going to have to vacate her government-provided apartment by the end of August.

"It is difficult to live with so many threats on your life and such a level of police protection. It is difficult to work as a parliamentarian if you have nowhere to live," Hirsi Ali said in the statement. "It has become impossible since last night, when Minister Verdonk informed me that she would strip me of my Dutch citizenship."

Hirsi Ali, whose legal name is Hirsi Magan, arrived in the Netherlands in 1992, claiming that she was fleeing an arranged marriage. She was awarded Dutch citizenship in 1997 and was elected to parliament in 2003.

On her asylum application, she gave a false name and date of birth and lied about the countries she had lived in and visited before arriving in the Netherlands, claiming she recently had fled war-torn Somalia when she actually had lived in Kenya for 12 years. Although it has been known for at least four years that she put false information on her asylum application, the issue came under renewed focus last week when a Dutch TV documentary looked at her case. The report included statements from family members that her marriage was consensual, not arranged.

That element of her life story goes to the core of her international persona, and, if untrue, could seriously damage her reputation and credibility.

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