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Pompeo says Alabama woman who joined ISIL can’t return to US | ISIS/ISIL News

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An woman who left Alabama to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group in Syria is not a US citizen and will not be allowed to return to the United States, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday.

In a brief statement that gave no details as to how the determination was reached, Pompeo said Hoda Muthana, who says she made a mistake in joining the group and now wants to return with her 18-month-old son, has no “legal basis” to claim American citizenship.

“Ms Hoda Muthana is not a US citizen and will not be admitted into the United States,” Pompeo said. “She does not have any legal basis, no valid US passport, no right to a passport nor any visa to travel to the United States.” 

Muthana’s status had been considered by lawyers from the departments of State and Justice since her case arose, according to one US official who was not authorised to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. In speaking to the Associated Press, the official would not elaborate but said Pompeo’s statement was based on the lawyers’ conclusions.

A lawyer for the Muthana’s family, Hassan Shibly, said the administration’s position is based on a “complicated” interpretation of the law involving her father. 

“They’re claiming her dad was a diplomat when she was born, which, in fact, he wasn’t,” Shibly told The Associated Press.

Muthana was born in 1994 in Hackensack, New Jersey, the lawyer said.

Most people born in the United States are accorded so-called birthright citizenship but there are exceptions.

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, a person born in the US to a foreign diplomatic officer is not subject to US law and is not automatically considered a US citizen at birth.

Regrets

The 24-year-old, who joined the ISIL says she regrets aligning herself with the armed group and wants to return to the United States, Shibly said on Tuesday. He said Muthana is putting herself at risk by speaking out against ISIL from a refugee camp where she has lived since fleeing the group a few weeks ago. 

Muthana, who dodged sniper fire and roadside bombs to escape, is ready to pay the penalty for her actions but wants freedom and safety for the son she had with one of two ISIL fighters she wed, he said. Both men were killed in combat. The New York Times reported Muthana also married and divorced a third husband in Syria.

In a handwritten letter released by Shibly, Muthana wrote that she made “a big mistake” by rejecting her family and friends in the United States to join ISIL.

“During my years in Syria I would see and experience a way of life and the terrible effects of war which changed me,” she wrote.

After fleeing her home in suburban Birmingham in late 2014 and resurfacing in Syria, Muthana used social media to advocate violence against the United States. In the letter, Muthana wrote that she didn’t understand the importance of freedoms provided by the United States at the time.

“To say that I regret my past words, any pain that I caused my family and any concerns I would cause my country would be hard for me to really express properly,” the letter said.

Shibly said Muthana was brainwashed online before she left Alabama and now could have valuable intelligence for US forces, but he said the FBI didn’t seem interested in retrieving her from the refugee camp where she is living with her son. 

Muthana’s father would welcome the woman back, Shibly said, but she is not on speaking terms with her mother.

Ashfaq Taufique, who knows Muthana’s family and is president of the Birmingham Islamic Society, said the woman could be a valuable resource for teaching young people about the dangers of online radicalisation were she allowed to return to the United States.

“Her coming back could be a very positive thing for our community and our country,” Taufique said.

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Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling

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So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

For Masuma, the decision to keep her daughter home was complex: extended family members are immunocompromised and she worried the in-person learning environment would be unpleasant because of precautions. She also felt her daughter might benefit from being supported at home.

“She doesn’t necessarily enjoy school. I also found out during the pandemic that she was being bullied [last year],” said Masuma. “So I thought, why not try from home?”

To help her daughter socialize face-to-face with other kids, Masuma enrolled Hana in Baxter Forest School, an alternative education program where kids spend most of their time outside, one day a week. Hana also attends virtual Arabic classes two days a week after school. 

Masuma’s husband and Hana share the living room work space, and Masuma admits he does the lion’s share of helping their daughter stay on task. There is a possibility that he’ll be required to return to his office in the new year.

“When he goes back to work … it’s probably going to be a little bit more difficult.”

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No school closures after Christmas holiday break, says Ontario education minister

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Ontario elementary and secondary schools will not close for an extended winter break, says Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Closures aren’t needed given Ontario’s “strong safety protocols, low levels of (COVID-19) transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce announced Wednesday afternoon. He said he had consulted with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the province’s public health measures advisory table.

That ended speculation about school buildings remaining closed in January for a period of time after the Christmas break.

Earlier in the week, Lecce told reporters the government was considering having students spend “some period out of class” in January, perhaps switching to online learning.

In a statement, Lecce said that even though rates of community transmission of COVID-19 are increasing, “schools have been remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks to ensure that our kids stay safe and learning in their classrooms.”

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Windy start to the week in Ottawa

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OTTAWA — It’s a blustery Monday in the capital with wind gusts of up to 50 km/hour expected throughout the day.

Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 4 C with a 60 per cent chance of showers or flurries before the wind dies down later this evening.

There’s a chance of flurries on Tuesday as well with a high of -1 C. The overnight low will dip to an unseasonal -9 C.  

Wednesday’s high will be just -5 C with lots of sunshine.

Seasonal temperatures return for the rest of the week..

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