UK revokes ISIS jihadi bride’s citizenship

Begum, who is currently in a Syrian refugee camp, described the move as “unjust“.

February 20, 2019 09:18 pm | Updated 09:19 pm IST - London

A UK girl of Bangladeshi descent, who fled to join Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria in 2015 and married an Islamist extremist, has been stripped of her British citizenship which the teen said was “unjust”.

Shamima Begum, 19, who had expressed the desire to return to the UK with her newborn son, was banned on Tuesday from entering the country.

In a letter dated February 19, UK home secretary Sajid Javid wrote to Begum’s family informing them that he had made an order revoking her citizenship.

“Please find enclosed papers that relate to a decision taken by the Home Secretary, to deprive your daughter, Shamima Begum, of her British citizenship,” the letter reads.

Begum, who is currently in a Syrian refugee camp, described the move as “unjust“.

“I am not that shocked but I am a bit shocked. It’s a bit upsetting and frustrating. I feel like it’s a bit unjust on me and my son,” she told ‘ITV News’ channel from the camp.

Begum claimed that she was being treated harshly because “I was on the news four years ago”, saying that she heard of “other people being sent back to Britain”.

“I don’t know why my case is any different,” she added.

She said she was weighing up her options and could try to apply for Dutch citizenship on the basis of the nationality of her ISIS-recruit husband, who is currently in prison.

“Another option I might try with my family is my husband is from Holland and he has family in Holland. Maybe I can ask for citizenship in Holland. If he gets sent back to prison in Holland I can just wait for him while he is in prison,” she said.

Under the 1981 British Nationality Act, the UK home secretary has the power to deprive a person of their citizenship if satisfied that it would be “conducive to the public good” and they would not become stateless as a result.

It is believed that because Begum’s mother is Bangladeshi, she could apply for citizenship of that country. However, her family’s lawyer, Tasnime Akunjee, confirmed plans to legally challenge the order because the teenager did not have dual nationality and had never visited Bangladesh.

“We are considering all legal avenues to challenge this decision Our position is that to all practical purposes she has been made stateless,” he said.

A UK Home Office spokesperson said that while it would not comment on individual cases, “any decisions to deprive individuals of their citizenship are based on all available evidence and not taken lightly“.

Addressing the House of Commons on Monday, Javid had revealed that more than 100 people have been barred from entering Britain due to their status as foreigners, or by having their British citizenship stripped if they are dual nationals because they posed a security threat.

“They all supported a terrorist organisation and in doing so they have shown they hate our country and the values we stand for,” he said, vowing that where individuals did manage to return, they will be “questioned, investigated and potentially prosecuted“.

The government’s move to strip Begum of her citizenship has been attacked by the Opposition Labour Party, with shadow home secretary Diane Abbott calling it a failure of the UK’s security obligations and breach of human rights law.

“Potential citizenship rights elsewhere are entirely irrelevant. Our fundamental freedoms do not need to be compromised; they are perfectly compatible with our safety,” she said.

Meanwhile, an e-petition started last week since Begum’s case hit the headlines has attracted nearly 45,000 signatures calling for preventing her return to the UK.

“Shamima Begum has clearly stated she has no regrets, and only wants to return to the UK, as she is pregnant and wants free health care and benefits. Shamima Begum should never be allowed to return to the UK,” the petition on Change.Org reads.

In February 2015, Begum was a student of Bethnal Green Academy in east London alongside Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana when the three teenagers became on-the-run jihadi brides - women who choose to marry Islamist extremists to bear them children to carry on the fight.

The girls flew from Gatwick Airport near London to Turkey after telling their parents they were going out for the day and later crossed the border into Syria.

After arriving in Raqqa, Begum recalls staying at a house with other newly-arrived jihadi brides-to-be. The jihadi bride was married off to Yago Riedijk, 27, a Dutch convert to Islam, 10 days after arriving in Raqqa.

In her interview from the refugee camp in Syria, she talked about losing two babies - one to malnutrition and the other to illness - an experience she says was a big shock. With her third pregnancy at its final stages, she said it was her concern for her unborn child that contributed to her decision to leave Baghuz, the last ISIS stronghold.

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