American Woman Who Joined ISIS Asks to Come Home: 'I'm Really Traumatized...Please Forgive Me'

Hoda Muthana, an American woman who traveled to Syria to join ISIS, the Islamic State militant group, in 2014, is pleading to be allowed to return to the U.S., having been captured and detained by Kurdish forces.

The 24-year-old from Alabama spoke to The Guardian from the al-Hawl refugee camp in northern Syria, admitting to having made a "big mistake" and claiming to have been brainwashed into supporting the extremists.

Tens of thousands of people have been placed in al-Hawl, close to where surviving members of the crumbling caliphate are staging a desperate last stand against Kurdish-led and U.S. backed forces in the southeast of Syria.

Among them are about 1,500 foreign women and children, of which Muthana is the only American. She is being held with her 18-month-old son, Adam, who was fathered by her second of three ISIS husbands.

"I thought I was doing things correctly for the sake of God," Muthana told The Guardian. Describing how she and her friends had become radicalized, she said, "We were basically in the time of ignorance…and then became jihadi, if you like to describe it that way."

Muthana said her family in Hoover, Alabama, were conservative and strict. She said this led to social isolation, which contributed to her radicalization. "You want to go out with your friends and I didn't get any of that," she said. "I turned to my religion and went in too hard. I was self-taught and thought whatever I read, it was right."

After months of secret planning, Muthana left the U.S. on a flight toTurkey in November 2014. She eventually made her way to Syria, settling in the northern city of Raqqa, which served as the de facto ISIS capital until its liberation in 2017.

Soon after, Muthana married her first husband, an Australian fighter called Suhan Rahman, who was killed in the city of Kobani in 2015. "Americans wake up! Men and women altogether. You have much to do while you live under our greatest enemy, enough of your sleeping!" Muthana tweeted after Rahman's death. "Go on drivebys, and spill all of their blood, or rent a big truck and drive all over them. Veterans, Patriots, Memorial, etc day…Kill them."

She would go on to become a prolific user of Twitter, inciting Americans to commit terror attacks at home. According to The Guardian, she claimed that her account had been taken over and used by ISIS as part of its propaganda outreach.

Her second husband, and Adam's father, was a Tunisian fighter who was killed in fighting in Mosul. Last year, she briefly married a Syrian fighter. Along with thousands of others, she fled as the area under ISIS control shrank.

The extremists have now been forced back into the last village under their control—Baghuz. Muthana fled from the nearby village of Susa about six weeks ago with a group of refugees. Having slept in the desert for two nights, they were captured by Kurdish forces.

"I look back now and I think I was very arrogant," she said. "Now I'm worried about my son's future. In the end, I didn't have many friends left, because the more I talked about the oppression of ISIS the more I lost friends. I was brainwashed once, and my friends are still brainwashed."

Muthana described her "very mind-blowing" experience as being "like a movie." She added: "You read one book and think you know everything. I'm really traumatized by my experience. We starved and we literally ate grass."

With President Donald Trump urging the Western allies to repatriate captured foreign fighters, Muthana, too, hopes to be able to return home.

Though she has not been in touch with any U.S. officials since being captured, she said: "I would tell them please forgive me for being so ignorant, and I was really young and ignorant and I was 19 when I decided to leave."

"I believe that America gives second chances. I want to return, and I'll never come back to the Middle East. America can take my passport and I wouldn't mind."

Syria ISIS woman American
Refugees flee battles between Syrian Democratic Forces and ISIS fighters near the village of Baghuz, Syria, on January 26. Hoda Muthana, an American woman who traveled to Syria to join ISIS in 2014, is pleading to be allowed to return to the U.S. “I believe that America gives second chances. I want to return, and I’ll never come back to the Middle East. America can take my passport and I wouldn’t mind.” DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images
American Woman Who Joined ISIS Asks to Come Home: 'I'm Really Traumatized...Please Forgive Me' | World