ISIS teen ‘a bit shocked’ after UK revokes her citizenship
Shamima Begum wants to return to Britain after fleeing from the extremist group
A legal battle is looming over the British government’s decision to revoke the citizenship of Shamima Begum, the London teenager who travelled to Syria to join ISIS but is now seeking permission to return.
Tasnime Akunjee, the lawyer for her family, said Ms Begum’s relatives were “considering all legal avenues to challenge this decision”.
Any challenge is likely to be lengthy and would see her remain in northern Syria for at least two years, according to a former independent reviewer of UK terrorism legislation.
“It could run for a very long time through the courts,” Alex Carlile told the BBC. “I suspect that the result is going to be that she will stay where she is for maybe two years at least.”
Ms Begum’s mother received a letter on Tuesday informing the family that the Home Secretary had decided to strip her citizenship. She was told she had 28 days to appeal the decision to a dedicated immigration appeals court.
Ms Begum, who gave birth to a baby boy at the weekend, said she was “a bit shocked” and suggested she might seek the nationality of her husband, an ISIS fighter from the Netherlands. Yago Riedijk reportedly surrendered to SDF allies two weeks ago.
“It’s a bit upsetting and frustrating. I feel like it’s a bit unjust on me and my son,” she told ITV News. “It’s kind of heart-breaking to read. My family made it sound like it would be a lot easier for me to come back to the UK when I was speaking to them in Baghuz.
“Maybe I can ask for citizenship in Holland,” said Ms Begum. “If he gets sent back to prison in Holland I can just wait for him while he is in prison.”
Ms Begum ran away with two friends in 2015, when she was 15, and travelled to Syria. One of the other girls is reportedly dead, while the fate of the other was last heard of in a dwindling pocket of ISIS territory and her fate was unclear, according to Ms Begum.
The UK introduced laws in 2014 that allowed them to revoke the citizenship of anyone if they were suspected of “conduct seriously prejudicial to vital interests of the UK”.
“Most people stripped of their citizenship under the provision concerned have not been convicted of a crime,” Professor Matthew Gibney, Director of the Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford University told The National. That is one of the advantages of this provision in the law; it allows the Home Secretary to use their discretion to deprive citizenship as effectively an administrative power.
“Certainly, virtually all people who have lost their citizenship while overseas, have done so without being convicted of a crime in a UK court. The UK has claimed that the power is useful in cases where evidence is hard to gather and when national security issues are at stake.”
Middle East minister Alistair Burt told the National this week that nobody could be made “stateless”. But legislation allows the UK to act if a person was “able” to become a national of another country.
Ms Begum could potentially become a Bangladeshi citizen but Mr Akunjee said on Wednesday that the teenager was not a dual citizen and had never had a Bangladeshi passport.
Prime Minister Theresa May told MPs on Wednesday that it was important to make “very clear” that the government would take action against anyone involved in terrorism.
Questions have also been raised about the status of Ms Begum’s son, born on Monday. The news of the Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s decision comes as a report from the Henry Jackson Society found over 156 children are subject to care proceedings over extremism concerns, with 48% of those reviewed having one or more family members joining ISIS.
Nikita Malik, Director of the Centre on Radicalisation and Terrorism and the report’s author, warned that the UK’s courts are not currently up to the task of handling a wave of women who joined the ‘caliphate’ returning with their children.
“The UK faces a real and imminent prospect of a wave of women from Islamic State returning to the UK with babies and children in tow,” she said.
“They return to a family courts system that is not currently up to the task of handling the serious challenges of extremism.”
She said the system required reform of children of extremists could “remain in the hands of their potentially dangerous parents.”
In another case, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement on Wednesday, closing the door on readmitting Yemeni citizen and former Alabama resident Hoda Muthana into the US.
Mr Pompeo said Ms Muthana, who fled Alabama in 2014 and joined ISIS, “is not a US citizen and will not be admitted into the United States.”
“She does not have any legal basis, no valid US passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the United States,” the statement added.
Ms Muthana was a student in Alabama and fled the US at age 20 as an ISIS bride. She conceived a child during her stay with the terror group.
Now, she has also been appealing through several media outlets to return to the United States with her child and says she “deeply regrets” joining ISIS.