Lord Justice Flaux said that the national security concerns about her “could be addressed and managed if she returns to the United Kingdom…Ms Begum is not afraid of facing British justice, she welcomes it. But the stripping of her citizenship without a chance to clear her name is not justice, it is the opposite.”
Opinion: Shamima Begum, ISIS Brides, and Human Rights in the UK
Shamima Begum should be allowed to return to the UK to fight against the removal of her British citizenship, says the Court of Appeal. They ruled on the grounds that Shamima was denied a fair hearing, and was unable to fight her case in Syria. Lord Justice Flaux said: “Fairness and justice must, on the facts of this case, outweigh the national security concerns, so that the leave to enter appeals should be allowed.”
The judge also said that the national security concerns about her “could be addressed and managed if she returns to the United Kingdom…Ms Begum is not afraid of facing British justice, she welcomes it. But the stripping of her citizenship without a chance to clear her name is not justice, it is the opposite.”
The UK Home Office had revoked her citizenship in February 2019 and is planning to appeal against this new decision in the Supreme Court. The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) ruled the decision lawful because Shamima Begum is “a citizen of Bangladesh by descent”. But Bangladesh’s ministry of foreign affairs said the government was “deeply concerned” she had been “erroneously identified” as a Bangladeshi national. If Bangladesh and the UK deny her citizenship, Shamima is stateless.
Shamima Begum, aged 15 at the time, was one of three schoolgirls who left East London to join the Islamic State group in Syria in February 2015. They boarded a flight from Gatwick Airport to Istanbul, Turkey before making their way to Raqqa in Syria where she married a Dutch recruit.
She told the BBC in February 2019, “I was hoping Britain would understand I made a mistake, a very big mistake because I was young and naive.” She had three children with her ISIS terrorist husband. Sadly all of her children died from malnutrition and disease in the camps. Shamima also admitted: “mentally I am in a really bad way. I need therapy to deal with my grief. It is so hard. I have lost all my children.”
Shamima’s case highlights a double standard, however, especially when it comes to the case of another ISIS bride, Lisa Smith, an Irish woman who joined ISIS in 2015.
ISIS bride Lisa Smith, originally from Dundalk Ireland, returned to Dublin in December 2019 with her two-year-old daughter. She also denied being part of any violence despite photos of her posing with guns. Lisa also went to Syria in 2015, but she was 34 at the time, not 15 like the case of Shamima. She was an adult, and also a former member of Ireland’s Defence Forces – yet there was a lot less media attention, obstacles, and uproar against her coming home. Shortly after she was even released on bail in December 2019 for New Year’s Eve.
Shamima is a daughter of a Bangladeshi immigrant, and it’s hard to deny that her heritage has been weaponised against her in an attempt to wipe away her British status. Allegedly aged 13 when initially contacted by ISIS, Shamima was a victim of child grooming and sexual trafficking who admits that she was “brainwashed”. Since the beginning of this media furore, it’s been difficult for some media outlets and society to refrain from demonising her, which could be a result of Islamophobia and fear of being labelled as a ‘terrorist sympathiser’.
Shamima’s family lawyer Tasneeme Akunjee claimed in a letter that her family had not given consent or been informed she was interviewed by police when another girl at Bethnal Green Academy ran away to Syria in December 2014. Tower Hamlets Council subsequently decided that four girls in the same friendship group should become wards of court to prevent the same disastrous outcome.
Former Home secretary MP Sajid Javid tweeted: “First and most critically, allowing her – and indeed other terrorists – back into the UK to pursue an appeal would create a national security risk that cannot be fully mitigated, even with the diversion of significant resources.”
Understandably many people are worried about the threat to national security. It could potentially open the door for other ISIS brides to also return at the expense of taxpayers.
According to a report, ex-FBI agent Ali Soufan, publishing on the Soufan Centre, believes: “More often than not, those who do return to their countries of origin after leaving the caliphate look back upon the Islamic State with a combination of despair and disillusionment.”
Access to a fair trial is a fundamental human right within the UK justice system and it’s irresponsible for any government to evade its duties. Taking responsibility for Shamima’s human rights also challenges the radical belief that Western society doesn’t care for Muslims at all. Simply cancelling citizenship does not solve the real issue of radicalisation. Ultimately, Shamima Begum should return to the UK to be held accountable for the crimes that she has committed.