Thu Jun 29th, 2006 at 06:16:47 AM EST
The farce for the Netherlands is now complete. The spat between Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Minister of Integration Rita Verdonk that reverberated through the international press has resulted into a dirty deal that stinks to the heavens. Verdonk ends up on political safe ground but shows again how her personal vindictiveness makes her politics an open embarrassment for the entire country.
In a statement released today Ayaan Hirsi Ali writes that she "regrets having misled Verdonk" and that she has "full understanding" for the actions Verdonk took against her. Verdonk announced Ayaan Hirsi Ali keeps her nationality and her passport. Everyone happy, Verdonk has saved her face, case closed.
But Hirsi Ali's statement was doctored up to the very last moment in a session with the minister of Finances (Zalm, a close friend of Hirsi Ali), the minister of Justice (Donner), the minister of Foreign Affairs (Bot) and minister Verdonk herself under the supervision of Jan Peter Balkenende, the prime-minister, himself. In a revealing interview tonight Ayaan Hirsi Ali already expressed she signed her statement out of "practical reasons" and "time pressure" and not because she agreed with the text.
***From the front page - whataboutbob
Six weeks ago, I diaried about the sudden resignation of Hirsi Ali as member of Dutch Parliament. Her resignation was the result of a chain of events, starting with a documentary that "revealed" the common knowledge Hirsi Ali had lied about her name during her immigration procedure. This led the minister of Integration Rita Verdonk to investigate the status of Hirsi Ali's citizenship and in a stunningly inept investigation of 24 hours Verdonk concluded Hirsi Ali's citizenship was therefore unjustified and should be revoked. That Verdonk was in a fierce internal struggle within her own party for party leadership and was playing a populist card using her ministerial position to score a cheap point had of course nothing to do with it.
Verdonk's announcement had immediate consequences: Hirsi Ali, being an official member of Parliament, of Verdonk's own VVD party no less, resigned her membership and sped up her plan to leave the Netherlands permanently and start working for the ultra-conservative American Enterprise Institute in the USA. In a hectic session six weeks ago, a furious parliament forced the minister with increasingly sharper motions to reconsider her decision. Verdonk buckled, and announced she'd be back within six weeks with her final decision.
And, amazingly, it took Verdonk all of those six weeks. In the meantime, Hirsi Ali found family members who stated that her grandfather had born both the name Ali and Magan and that under Somalian tradition Ayaan was free to choose any one of those names. The latter was again confirmed by a cultural anthropologist. For anyone following the comments that my previous diary generated, this is nothing new... Therefore, Hirsi Ali's statements that she had lied during her naturalisation were, juristically, untrue - but Ayaan had not known this when she made them...
As time proceeded, everything seemed to head for a huge embarrassment for Verdonk who had created her own death-trap. Stubbornly staying the course would've further escalated the case and drawn further international frowning and increase the sentiments that the Netherlands are turning increasingly xenophobic (which is really not that far from the truth). Simply giving up would have brought enormous personal damage to Verdonk - who has built her bullying, unbending character to a dumbfounding popularity amongst the Dutch. Beside that, there may have been a personal axe to grind. Although she was a leading candidate for party leader, the VVD members chose her fiercest opponent instead: neoliberal Mark Rutte (right). By a hair's breadth. And it was the clamour about Hirsi Ali that swayed enough popular sentiment from Verdonk to Rutte. Hirsi Ali had become her undoing.
But now time was also on Verdonk's side. Because Hirsi Ali had already moved to the United Status - and did not have a proper visa yet. Nor could she start working officially at her new employee without legal documentation. And as long as her nationality was up for grabs - there was no way she could attain either visa or job.
This is my take: Verdonk fully knew she had Hirsi Ali pinched this way. Brokering a deal with the rest of the cabinet and pushing the allotted time to the maximum, Verdonk was very likely well aware Hirsi Ali would want to avoid further escalation - as it would threaten her pending alien status within the USA. The text Ayaan Hirsi Ali was offered to sign was handed to her yesterday - at the very last minute before Verdonk would announce her new decision on Ayaan's citizenship.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali chose the pragmatic way out, probably sick to the teeth of the manipulation from The Hague and signed. Verdonk happily announced everything was therefore okay (the issue of a false date of birth was never an issue), Hirsi Ali remains a Dutch citizen and Verdonk told everyone with a straight face "I've done nothing wrong in this case." Hirsi Ali's signature under the statement removes the killer argument that Verdonk was anything but inept and allows the minister a safe heaven from the wrath of the parliament. The emergency session of parliament is scheduled for tomorrow (Wednesday). Verdonk's party, after a truly dismal chapter in their history, probably wants to move on as quickly as possible and will likely drag their coalition party CDA with it.
Opposition is possibly as furious as before. Wouter Bos, of the largest opposition party (Pvda), concluded: "Bizarre. Couldn't she [Verdonk] have done all this work six weeks ago and saved us the national and international embarrassment?"
But Hirsi Ali still swung back. In an interview from New York tonight she openly confessed she had signed the given statement because of time pressure and practical reasons to bring the matter to a close. Not because she agreed with the text of the statement - of which she had preferred a different version (she did not tell in what way). This was later confirmed by her lawyer, who went even further and stated Hirsi Ali had signed under duress. Verdonk's response: "Nonsense. Everything which has happened the past weeks is solely Hirsi Ali's fault."
This allows the opposition to sharpen the knives once again in the session for tomorrow. But even so, the damage is already done. Verdonk, and the Dutch government with it, have been shown (again) they're hell-bent to keep in power until the elections and are willing to sacrifice their own morals about which they preach so highly. It has been a disgusting spectacle, and I've little hope tomorrow's parliamentary session will bring better things.
Finally. There are practically fifty equal cases of immigrants, officially scheduled to be deported, and who've been rejected citizenships on similar (nonsensical) grounds. Hirsi Ali expressed the hope that they, like herself, will also be given new consideration to receive Dutch citizenship. With a coy smile she described Verdonk as "A minister who still needs to learn a lot."
And never mind that Rita Verdonk has remained to this day the most popular minster of the Balkenende government.
Damn it. I'll stick to climate diaries in the future. They're slightly less embarrassing for my own country.