After a long and intensive five-week hearing, it was revealed on February 22 that Shamima Begum has lost her legal appeal to regain UK citizenship.
Begum was 15 when she left her home in East London and travelled to Syria to join the extremist group Islamic State. British authorities revoked her citizenship on security grounds in 2019, after she was found in a Syrian refugee camp 9 months pregnant with her third child.
Her lawyers claimed she was groomed into joining the group alongside school friends Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, and that the Home Office had failed to recognise her as a victim of child trafficking. However, last week’s ruling by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission determined the removal of Begum’s citizenship to be lawful.
Begum made global headlines as the “ISIS bride” when she was found by a journalist in the displacement camp al-Hawl. Speaking to The Times in 2019, she claimed that after reaching Syria she was swiftly married to 27-year-old Dutch jihadist Yago Riedijk.
Begum spent several years living in Raqqa during her time with the extremist group, but pleaded to return home to give birth after revealing that her first two children died from sickness and malnutrition as infants. After being denied re-entrance to the UK, her third child Jarrah died in a Syrian hospital later that month.
Despite claiming in the interview she was seeking Britain’s forgiveness, Begum was thought to have displayed an intrinsic lack of remorse for her actions.
She defined the 2017 Manchester bombing – where 22 people died at the hands of jihadi suicide bomber Salman Abedi – as “retaliation” for military strikes on IS territories. Furthermore, she claimed that “seeing beheaded heads in bins did not faze [her].”
When asked if she had any regrets about leaving the UK Begum said no, claiming she “knew about [the nature of the group] and was okay with it.” She asserted that she “had a good time there, it's just that at the end things got harder and [she] couldn't take it anymore.”
Finally, when asked if she had wanted to leave the group, Begum responded: “only at the end after my [first child] died. I realised I had to get out for the sake of my daughter and baby.”
This led many to believe she had only left the Islamic State for safety reasons and not because of any disengagement with their philosophies, thus causing many to defend the UK Supreme Court’s decision.
According to the BBC, last week’s ruling was “the first time judges had to consider whether the state's obligations to combat abuse of children should have any influence over national security decisions.”
Begum’s defence lawyer Justice Jay surmised that there was credible suspicion she had been trafficked. "The motive for bringing her to Syria was sexual exploitation to which, as a child, she could not give a valid consent,” he stated.
However, the judge ultimately ruled that these concerns did not surpass the Home Office’s responsibility to strip Begum of her British nationality for security reasons.
Human rights group Amnesty described the ruling as a “very disappointing decision.”
“The power to banish a citizen like this simply shouldn’t exist, not least when we’re talking about a person who was seriously exploited as a child,” Amnesty official Steve Valdez-Symonds said in their statement.
Begum has made numerous public appeals as part of her fight against the court’s decision, recently launching a BBC documentary and podcast series ‘The Shamima Begum Story’. She maintains she is not a bad person, and that the British public’s perception of her as a security risk is solely due to inaccurate media portrayal.
Begum’s legal team insist the case is "nowhere near over", the BBC reports.
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