ISIS bride Hoda Muthana's supporters say she'll "suffer immediate and irreparable harm" if she's forced to stay in the Syrian camp she now calls home -- but journalists who've visited the refugee center, government statistics and the actions of officials overseeing Muthana paint a somewhat different picture of the terror widow's life in limbo.
For one thing, the camp appears to be more dangerous for children than adults, as statistics show two-thirds of the 80 people who have died there since December have been under the age of one. That figure from the United Nations and International Rescue Committee, and cited by The Guardian in a report about the al-Hawl camp, has come to the forefront amid her legal team's failure to convince a judge in Washington this week to expedite the case of Muthana and her 18-month-old son. Muthana’s father is suing the U.S. government to let her depart the Kurdish-controlled camp for America.
“Our understanding is that, because she has taken such an adamant position in news media denouncing ISIS, that within these camps are ISIS supporters, who now view her as a heretic, she is now not a Muslim and should be executed and killed, so she faces significant danger from them," her lawyer Charles Swift said.
But Swift also noted officials were working to make sure Muthana was safe.
“Our understanding is that in recognition of that, the forces moved her to a camp where they thought that there was less likelihood of that, we’re hopeful," he said.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton wasn’t buying the claims of severe hardship, and he sided with government lawyers who say assertions about Muthana’s immediate danger amount to pure speculation and he noted that, despite claiming her safety is at risk, she has found the time to do on-camera media interviews. In portions of one that Muthana did with CBS News this week, she smiled, laughed and appeared at ease with her child, the son of an ISIS terrorist.
Critics also have argued that Muthana’s current fate is of her own doing, as she voluntarily left America years ago to join up with the terrorist group.
“Obviously there is harm if someone is denied the rights of citizenship of the United States,” Walton said, according to Politico, but “the harm is not irreparable harm.”
The case, which is centered around a dispute over whether or not Muthana is a U.S. citizen, will now proceed at a normal pace.
A report from The Guardian about the northeastern Syrian camp where Muthana and her son are now residing described it as a squalid place that is being overwhelmed by the number of refugees pouring in trying to flee the bloody conflict, and that many there – not just potentially Muthana -- are battling unsanitary conditions.
The report estimates the population of the camp to be around at least 43,000, with 2,000 people last week sleeping outdoors while awaiting processing for entry.
“This is an extremely vulnerable population,” Paul Donohoe, a spokesperson with the International Rescue Committee, told the newspaper. “They’ve been without medical care and adequate food and water in some cases for weeks, which is contributing to why so many are dying on arrival. There’s also an astonishing number of pregnant women. Some have been giving birth on the trucks that bring them to al-Hawl.”
A security officer says she’s been told by some international aid agencies that they have not been able to access the camp since the roads around it are unsafe. Tensions are also reported to be running high amongst the refugees in al-Hawl, with several women revealing to The Guardian that longtime residents have imposed ISIS-style rules there, such as beating the children of those who remove their niqabs.
Swift told Fox News yesterday, despite the legal setback, that “we are very likely to succeed… in the final motion or complaint.”
“She’s likely to come home in the end,” he added.
As for Muthana, CBS News says during her interview with the station, she told them, "I wish I could tell the people that I don't -- I'm not a threat to America," despite allegedly once operating a Twitter account that encouraged U.S. citizens to kill each other.
Muthana added: "I hope no one sees me as a threat, and I hope everyone gives me a second chance."