NEW ANALYSIS: As thousands of Norwegians protest the pending deportation of Maria Amelie, a rejected asylum seeker who nonetheless integrated herself into society, many welcomed indications that another far less popular refugee is willing to go home. “Mullah Krekar is free to leave whenever he wants, tomorrow for example,” Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
Krekar stole the media spotlight once again Wednesday evening, when TV2 reported that Krekar suddenly seems willing to return voluntarily to northern Iraq. Newspaper VG reports he may even run for political office there, and NRK was leading its broadcasts Thursday morning with the story. The man who fled Iraq in the early 1990s, later led a guerrilla group there but has been allowed to stay in Norway because of fears he’d be executed on return, apparently doesn’t think Iraq is so dangerous after all. His lawyer Brynjar Meling said Krekar hopes to leave Norway sometime next year.
First, though, Meling said Krekar’s name must be stricken from the US’ and UN’s lists of terror suspects. “It would be intolerable for Krekar to leave Norway if his name remains on an international list of wanted terrorists,” Meling told TV2.
Støre, eager to see Krekar leave Norway, has said he’d be willing to help but there are no guarantees the US or UN will suddenly dismiss Krekar’s past. As late as last year, Krekar was charged in Norway itself with issuing death threats and inciting terrorist activity, after he’d told foreign correspondents in Oslo that if he was expelled from Norway and then killed, those responsible for his expulsion would also be killed. He earlier has made threats against the leader of Norway’s Conservative party, Erna Solberg, when she was a government minister in charge of immigration issues.
“He can’t just wipe out his past,” Siv Jensen, head of the Progress Party, Norway’s most conservative party in Parliament, told NRK Thursday morning, even though she’s long been among the most eager to see Krekar’s tail lights.
So Norwegian government officials remain in a bind. They make it clear Krekar can leave any time he wants, but they still can’t force him to leave, unless they, too, can prove he won’t be in danger in Iraq. Krekar now seems to be offering his voluntary departure in return for clearing his record of past deeds. That won’t be easy.
Krekar’s situation could hardly be more different than that of Maria Amelie, who fled a former Soviet republic as a minor with her family and sought asylum in Norway. While Krekar was granted asylum in Norway but then violated its terms by repeatedly traveling back to northern Iraq to lead the guerrilla group Ansar al-Islam, and eventually attracting terrorism charges, Amelie and her family were rejected. They stayed on illegally, and Amelie made great strides at integrating, but she was arrested last week and is likely to be sent out of the country soon.
Few would claim Krekar has embraced or made as much effort to integrate into the society of the country that granted him refuge, even though he was allowed to bring his family to Norway and received financial support and shelter from the Norwegians for years, and was legally allowed to stay on even after being deemed a threat to national security. This, along with the threats he issued last year, has not endeared him to Norwegian taxpayers or officials.
The government and immigration authorities, however, are compelled to follow immigration rules that aren’t supposed to have anything to do with personal popularity or lack thereof. Krekar and Amelie must be subject to the same rules, and just as Krekar’s guerrilla activity eventually caught up with him, so has Amelie’s illegal alien status caught up with her. Local papers also were filled on Thursday with stories of hundreds of other illegal aliens who are being sent out of Norway every week. They all broke the rules, but while Amelie may be put on a flight to Moscow any day now, Krekar’s departure still can’t be expected any time soon.