Threatened Dutch Author Back In The Netherlands At Centre Of Firestorm

Threatened Dutch author back in the Netherlands at center of firestorm

The Associated Press
Published: October 5, 2007

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands: Former Dutch lawmaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who spent the last year at a conservative U.S. think tank, is back in a familiar place: at the center of a firestorm in the parliament she quit.

Hirsi Ali has been living under round-the-clock protection since 2004, when her friend Theo van Gogh was murdered following their collaboration on a film critical of the treatment of women under Islam.

In Washington, she had bodyguards paid by the Dutch government. But now the government says it cannot pay indefinitely, and it is time she took care of herself.

“It has been a considerably long period that she has gotten protection,” Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said Friday in his weekly post-Cabinet news conference.

Hirsi Ali returned to the Netherlands on Monday after the government indicated it would give no further extensions to its 12-month offer of protection, which expired in July. She already received two reprieves.

On arrival, she was hustled to a government safe house and has not spoken to reporters. Her lawyer, Bettina Bohler, said in an e-mail that she “cannot comment on any issue regarding her case.”

Earlier this week, Bohler said her client intended to return to the United States and pay for her own protection, but needed time to make the arrangements.

Balkenende said Hirsi Ali should have begun thinking earlier about new security arrangements. “You can also take the initiative yourself,” he said.

Though she published a best-selling autobiography this year, she would be hard pressed to pay the 2 million ($2.8 million) annual cost of her bodyguards.

Hirsi Ali has her defenders. Femke Halsema, leader of the Green-Left party, said it was unfair to leave her in the lurch, and argued that she had needed time to settle her permanent residency in the United States, which was granted a week ago.

The government has “created an unwanted situation in which no one takes responsibility,” Halsema said.

The Somali-born Hirsi Ali, now 37, quit parliament last year when the immigration minister a woman from her own party tried to strip her of her Dutch citizenship for falsifying her age and name on her refugee application 14 years earlier.

The minister, Rita Verdonk, was forced to back down, but the issue prompted the collapse of the government and an early election.

By that time, Hirsi Ali had had enough. She also was being evicted from her government-provided apartment because the neighbors said her security arrangements were an unfair burden on them.

She accepted a job last year with the American Enterprise Institute, where she completed her book “Infidel: My Life,” and lectured about the need to reform Islam, the religion she had abandoned.


Associated Press Writer Toby Sterling contributed to this report.