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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 December, 2003, 10:04 GMT
Moving stories: Ayaan Hirsi Ali
BBC World Service's The World Today programme is asking migrants who have been successful in their adopted countries how they got to the top of their field.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an MP for the Liberal Party in the Netherlands, with a brief on immigration. Originally from Somalia, she fled to Holland after her father attempted to arrange a marriage for her.

I left Somalia when I six-years-old. I lived in Saudi Arabia for one year, in Ethiopia for one and a half years, in Kenya for 11 years, and I live in the Netherlands now.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
If I were to say the things that I say now in the Dutch Parliament in Somalia, I would be killed
I left Kenya because my father had chosen someone for me to marry.

He wanted me to go to Canada, where this man lived.

On my way to Canada I made a stop in Germany. I didn't agree with this marriage, so I didn't take the plane - I took the train to Holland.

You can say I ran away.

When I had finished learning the Dutch language, I thought I would like to go and study.

I came from a continent which is torn apart by civil war, and I wanted to understand that.

I took political science in college, and that's how I got involved with learning about power, about governments, about institutions, about citizenship - what makes Europe Europe, and what makes developing countries what they are now.

I wanted to understand - I came from a country in civil war, and I really wanted to understand why we had civil war and why it was peaceful and prosperous here.

I am now a member of parliament for the Liberal Party. My subjects - my portfolio - include the migration of non-Western migrants to the Netherlands, the emancipation of women, and development aid to developing countries.

Unfortunately I cannot do this line of work in my country of birth.

Somalia is made up of a population which is 100% Muslim. The radical leanings of a huge number of the population is unfortunately growing, and the position of the Somali woman has never been worse than it is now.

If I were to say the things that I say now in the Dutch Parliament in Somalia, I would be killed.

I wish I could go back, and I would love to go back, even if it's just to see my parents and brother.

But I can't go back, because the situation is that I have said things about the Islamic religion, I have said things about my past, I have said things about the Prophet Mohammed and his message about women.

By saying these things, I think I would be seeking danger if I went back to Somalia.

I'm not intimidated by the threats and the attempts to make me shut my mouth, because living in a rich western European country like this one, I have protection that I otherwise would not have in Somalia or in Africa or in any other Islamic country.

So I am going to make use of this huge opportunity - that I am protected and I can say what I want, that it gets published and spread, and that I am a voice in parliament for these women.

That's something that people forget, because that means you change the rights of women here. They have these rights, but you make sure they are implemented.

I would not change that. I think I wouldn't be able to do that in another country, and I'm not going to allow people to intimidate me.

I have memories - my parents lived there, and I have good memories of the weather, of food, of how as a child I played.

In a way I identify my childhood with my place of birth. I think that's just about it.

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali
"I'm not going to allow people to intimidate me"

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