Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Dutch U-turn over passport for Somali-born MP
- Dutch U-turn over passport for Somali-born MP
By Stephen Castle in Brussels
Published: 28 June 2006
The Somali-born Dutch MP and critic of Islam, Ayaan
Hirsi Ali, is to be allowed to keep her passport and
nationality despite falsifying her asylum application
14 years ago.
Six weeks after announcing plans to strip Ms Hirsi Ali
of her citizenship, an international outcry forced the
country's hardline Immigration Minister, Rita Verdonk,
to reverse the decision, which had split the
To make matters worse, Ms Hirsi Ali's neighbours
sought to have her evicted from her home, complaining
about the inconvenience caused by the security needed
to guarantee her safety.
Once a devout Muslim, Ms Hirsi Ali lives under 24-hour
guard after a death threat against her was pinned to
the chest of her ally, the film-maker Theo Van Gogh
after he was murdered in 2004.
The former MP was an outspoken critic of
fundamentalist Islam and worked with Van Gogh on the
film Submission, which featured veiled women with
texts from the Koran written on their flesh.
The passport controversy burst into life after a
television documentary publicised the fact that Ms
Hirsi Ali falsified information on her asylum
application in 1992. Fleeing to the Netherlands to
escape an arranged marriage, Ms Hirsi Ali gave a false
name and birthday - a fact she had acknowledged
publicly before accepting a parliamentary seat. The
naturalisation process was completed in 1997 and Ms
Hirsi Ali became a member of parliament in 2002.
Ms Verdonk's attempt to remove her citizenship caused
uproar in parliament, prompting criticism even from
political allies. In the storm that followed, Ms Hirsi
Ali quit parliament and tearfully announced plans to
speed up a planned emigration to the US to take up a
job at the Washington-based American Enterprise
Institute think-tank. But the foreign media criticised
the Netherlands for its failure to support a woman who
had faced death threats for her criticism of
The Netherlands parliament also passed motions calling
on Ms Verdonk to ensure that Ms Hirsi Ali remained a
Dutch citizen, whatever the nature of her
The minister paid a direct price, failing in her
attempt to win the leadership of the VVD Liberal
Party, despite being the favourite.
Yesterday, in a letter to the Parliament, Ms Verdonk
found a figleaf to cover her change of heart, arguing
that it had been legitimate for Ms Hirsi Ali to use
her grandfather's name rather than her father's name,
Hirsi Magen. She said: "Taking everything into
consideration, I have reached the conclusion that the
naturalisation decision of 1997 identifies Ayaan Hirsi
Ali sufficiently and thus she did indeed correctly
receive Dutch citizenship. Had it not been for the
investigation I carried out, the facts that were
decisive in reaching this conclusion would not have
come to light."
Ms Hirsi Ali, 36, said she regretted admitting lying
since the name she adopted was legitimate. She said:
"The name Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the name that I was
permitted to use according to Somalian law and custom
and which may therefore serve as the basis for the
official registration of my name in the Netherlands."
The minister's letter may not be the end of the matter
as Ms Verdonk's many critics will seek to exploit her
political difficulties. Left-wing politicians want to
know if the ruling could affect the cases of at least
60 others stripped of their nationality for giving a
false name during the asylum process.
Yesterday's announcement followed a cabinet meeting in
The Hague late on Monday. Gerrit Zalm, the Deputy
Prime Minister and an ally of Ms Hirsi Ali, said he
had "good hope" that the case could be finalised. Mr
Zalm was leader of the VVD when Ms Hirsi Ali was
recruited to run for parliament. She told him at the
time that she had given a false name to get asylum in
the Netherlands in 1992.
Somali-born MP can keep citizenship, says minister
Associated Press in The Hague
Wednesday June 28, 2006
Somali-born lawmaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose
citizenship came under question because she falsified
information on her asylum application in 1992, will
retain her Dutch nationality, the Netherlands
immigration minister said yesterday.
The reversal came six weeks after immigration minister
Rita Verdonk said Hirsi Ali's naturalisation was
invalid because she gave a false name and birthday
when she came to the Netherlands, escaping an arranged
Ms Verdonk's decision created an uproar in parliament,
which demanded that she find a way out of the
Dutch ex-MP retains citizenship
Somali-born former Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali is to be
allowed to keep her Dutch citizenship despite lying in
her asylum application in 1992.
Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk was forced to make a
U-turn after her calls for Ms Hirsi Ali to lose her
citizenship met with criticism.
Ms Hirsi Ali resigned from parliament in May after Ms
She came to prominence in 2004 after a Muslim
extremist killed her film-maker colleague Theo van
In a letter to the Dutch parliament, Ms Verdonk said
she had found a loophole which made it legitimate for
Ms Hirsi Ali to have used her grandfather's name in
her asylum claim, the Associated Press news agency
"Taking everything into consideration, I have reached
the conclusion that the naturalization decision of
1997 identifies Ayaan Hirsi Ali sufficiently and thus
she did indeed correctly receive Dutch citizenship,"
AP quoted Ms Verdonk as saying in the letter.
In 1992, Ms Hirsi Ali gave a false name and date of
birth to the immigration authorities when she arrived
in the Netherlands claiming she was fleeing an
She did not declare that she had arrived in the
country via Kenya and Germany - refugees are usually
required to seek asylum in the first safe country they
But Ms Hirsi Ali, 36, said she confessed when she was
vetted for parliament in 2002 but was still offered a
seat as a member of the centre-right VVD party.
In a statement released on Tuesday, she said regretted
giving authorities the wrong impression about her
Her lawyer said the former MP was "happy there are no
more questions about her Dutch citizenship", AP
Ms Hirsi Ali has been offered a job at the
Washington-based think tank The American Enterprise
Institute to start in September.
She rose to international attention in 2004 as the
writer of a controversial film on violence against
Muslim women, Submission, after Mr van Gogh was
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