MP may be deported over claims she lied to win asylum


By Isabel Conway in The Hague 
Published: 15 May 2006 

http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/article484099.ece

The political career of the Netherlands' most
prominent MP was thrown into doubt as an investigation
was launched into explosive allegations that she lied
about her past in order to gain residence status and
Dutch nationality. 

Ayann Hirsi Ali, who has won an array of international
awards for bravery and free speech, has been accused
of making up a story to immigration officers in which
she claimed she had fled from a forced, arranged
marriage and that she faced persecution in her native
Somalia.

A Dutch television documentary, aired last week,
featured interviews with Ms Hirsi Ali's family in
which her claims of an arranged marriage were denied.
The programme also alleged that, contrary to her
claims of having fled a war zone in Somalia, the MP
had lived in comfortable upper middle-class
circumstances safely in Kenya for at least 12 years
before she sought refugee status in the Netherlands in
1992. Her family home - which is large and comfortable
by Kenyan standards - was shown in the programme.

Rita Verdonk, the Minister for Immigration and a
member of Ms Hirsi Ali's own VVD right-wing liberal
party, announced a full investigation into the furore
last night, insisting that "laws and rules are valid
for everyone".

Ms Hirsi Ali, 36, became internationally known when a
film she wrote provoked the murder of its
controversial director, Theo van Gogh, by an Islamic
radical in 2004. With her own life under threat, she
went into hiding and still lives under 24-hour
protection. She has never, however, strayed far from
the international spotlight and has won a string of
awards for her battle to raise awareness of the plight
of many Muslim women.

When interviewed by the highly-respected Zembla TV
programme, Ms Hirsi Ali's family members denied she
had been forced into marriage against her will to her
former husband, a Somalian man who now lives in
Canada, or that she had not been present at the
wedding ceremony, as she had previously claimed. The
couple are said to have parted amicably and her family
denied that she had fled a marriage she did not want.

When questioned by the documentary makers, the MP
stuck by her denial of being present at her own
wedding. Her brother Mahad Hirsi Magan, who first
claimed that his sister did attend her own wedding,
has since changed his story.

But Kees Driehuis of Zembla said: "We stick by the
content. We spoke to different members of her family
and we know that Hirsi Ali has been in touch with her
brother since the programme went out. Perhaps that has
something to do with it."

Asked whether she had falsified her asylum
application, she told the programme: "I lied", but
said this had been public knowledge in 2002 when the
VVD chose her as a candidate.

Ms Hirsi Ali, whose real name is Hirsi Magan,
pretended she had come to the Netherlands from
Somalia, rather than via Kenya and Germany. Refugees
are usually required to apply for asylum in the first
safe country they reach after fleeing.

Ms Hirsi Ali, who said yesterday that she was "puzzled
by the uproar," accused her rivals of a co- ordinated
political vendetta against her. "Have they all gone
mad?" she asked.

Political opponents want her stripped of her Dutch
citizenship and deported. Others say she should be
expelled from parliament.

The issue is particularly sensitive for the VVD as the
party has taken a hard line on immigration,
introducing tough new citizenship tests and leading a
drive to expel 26,000 failed asylum- seekers. It has
said that any foreigner found to have lied about their
circumstances should be prohibited from having Dutch
citizenship.

Ms Hirsi Ali rose to fame after the murder of Van Gogh
in November 2004. Defiant as ever, Ms Hirsi Ali is
working on a sequel to the film she made with Van Gogh
on Islam's treatment of homosexuality called
Submission 2. 








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