What to make of the ISIS bride Hoda Mothana: Reporter's Notebook

PHOTO: Hoda Muthana is pictured with her 18-month-old son. She left Alabama four years at the age of 19 to marry an ISIS fighter. Now, she wants to return to the U.S.Playnull
WATCH American 'ISIS Bride' speaks out

It’s a tricky one. I went into the interview not knowing what to expect.

We’d seen the Shamima Begum interviews, and so perhaps I thought something of that sulky, broody almost typically teenage-like behavior we saw from her, would be evident in Hoda Mothana, the U.S. citizen who became an ISIS bride.

But she was nothing like her.

Shamima was defensive and arrogant. Hoda was very different.

She was initially reluctant to speak, so I spent some time with her one-on-one in a small room at the refugee camp.

PHOTO: Hoda Muthana, 24, spoke to ABC News for her first television interview. Muthana, an Alabama woman, traveled to Syria in 2014 and became an ISIS bride. She now wants to return to the U.S.ABC News
Hoda Muthana, 24, spoke to ABC News for her first television interview. Muthana, an Alabama woman, traveled to Syria in 2014 and became an ISIS bride. She now wants to return to the U.S.

The cameras scared her and she was worried she might "say the wrong thing." We chatted about the camp and about her son, and she loosened up.

But she was nervous throughout.

Nervous of being judged, nervous of not being believed when she said she made a mistake and nervous of the reaction she knows will come when her interview is broadcast.

Above all she’s nervous of being left in this refugee camp.

My main sense from meeting her was naivety. She appeared unable to grasp the magnitude of the crimes ISIS committed.

PHOTO: Hoda Muthana is pictured with her 18-month-old son. She left Alabama four years at the age of 19 to marry an ISIS fighter. Now, she wants to return to the U.S.null
Hoda Muthana is pictured with her 18-month-old son. She left Alabama four years at the age of 19 to marry an ISIS fighter. Now, she wants to return to the U.S.

Child-like, and speaking in almost hushed tones, she says she just wants forgiveness. But in our conversation, it isn't entirely clear she understands what she's done. She says she realizes the beliefs she had were wrong, but I don’t think she really gets what she did quite yet.

There was no point telling her that many people believe what she did was evil. No point lambasting her. I tried to gently explain to her the ISIS horrors, but that didn't appear to register.

There is a state of shock also. She said "this is the first time in so long I’ve spoken to western men."

As strange as it was for us to be in a camp full of women in head to toe burkas, so too was it strange for her to be sitting opposite some guy from London and his camera crew.

PHOTO: Hoda Muthana is pictured with her 18-month-old son. She left Alabama four years at the age of 19 to marry an ISIS fighter. Now, she wants to return to the U.S.null
Hoda Muthana is pictured with her 18-month-old son. She left Alabama four years at the age of 19 to marry an ISIS fighter. Now, she wants to return to the U.S.

In our interview, I didn't get the sense she could be a secret jihadi, still harboring dangerous views. To me, there was a feeling of a young girl perhaps easily led, who went from a not very serious Muslim to an ISIS wife in one year.

And that’s who I think Hoda Mothana is.

Comments