LONDON: UK home secretary has revoked the British citizenship of an ISIS bride who has been found in a Syrian refugee camp as the so-called “Caliphate” enters its final days.
Shamima Begum, 19, a British citizen of Bangladeshi heritage, who speaks English and Bengali, had left Britain as an East London schoolgirl aged 15 four years ago with two friends from the same school to join ISIS in Syria. The three went without their family’s knowledge and were met at the Syrian border by jihadists. They subsequently married foreign ISIS fighters.
Last week a reporter with The Times found Begum dressed in a black niqab and nine months pregnant with her third child inside the al-Hawl settlement in north-east Syria after fleeing ISIS’s final showdown in Baghuz, eastern Syria, against Syrian Democratic Forces backed by US airstrikes.
She told the Times she fled Baghuz because of fears over her unborn child after her husband, a Dutch ISIS fighter, Yago Riedijk, was captured. “Now all I want to do is come home to Britain,” she said, stating that her other two children had died of malnutrition and sickness. More than 50 children have died in the camp in the past three months, which 12 other British jihadi brides have reportedly arrived at. Captured ISIS fighters are being kept in a separate camp.
“I’ll do anything required just to be able to come home and live quietly with my child,” she said.
“I can‘t live in this camp forever. I’m afraid my child might even die here. They don‘t really have proof that I did anything that is dangerous,” she told Sky News.
But her plea for mercy from the British government fell on deaf ears and at the weekend she gave birth to a baby boy named Jerah inside the dismal crowded camp — named after a 7th-century Islamic warlord.
Since then she has given a series of interviews to British media saying she had just been a “housewife” in ISIL and had not committed any act of terror. Her London parents immediately instructed a lawyer, Tasnime Akunjee, who called for her to be let back into Britain.
But on Tuesday Pakistan-origin Javid wrote to her parents saying “in the light of your daughter’s circumstances” he was depriving her of her citizenship.
On Wednesday the teenage jihadist bride, after reading the letter shown to her by a British journalist in the camp, said it was “a bit unjust on her and her son”. She said she may now try and get citizenship in Holland instead.
Whilst it is illegal to leave someone stateless, Javid was able to revoke her British citizenship as her mother was born in Bangladesh, meaning she could claim Bangladeshi citizenship.
Approximately 900 Britons left the UK to join ISIS and of those just 40% have returned. Of those, just 40 have been successfully prosecuted.
Under the 1981 British Nationality Act, the secretary of state may by order deprive a person of a citizenship status if he is satisfied that deprivation is “conducive to the public good” provided that it would not make the person stateless. Last year 104 people were deprived of their British citizenship.
Begum has won no sympathy among the British public, with more than 500,000, including many Indians with UK residency, signing an e-petition calling on the government to revoke the citizenship of all returning ISIS members.
In her media interviews, Begum said: “I don’t regret coming here” and that “seeing her first severed head in a bin” didn’t faze her at all.
When asked what she thought of ISIS executions, she said: “From what I heard, Islamically that is all allowed. So I was okay with it.”
“I did have a good time there. At first, it was nice, it was like how they showed it in the videos, like ‘come, make a family together’. Then afterwards, things got harder. The situation got difficult.”
“I think a lot of people should have, like, sympathy towards me for everything I‘ve been through,” she continued, adding the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing, in which 22 people, mainly children, were killed by an Islamist, was “retaliation” for the women and children being killed in “Islamic State”.
A home office spokesperson said: “In recent days the home secretary has clearly stated that his priority is the safety and security of Britain and the people who live here.
“In order to protect this country, he has the power to deprive someone of their British citizenship where it would not render them stateless. Such decisions are based on all available evidence and not taken lightly.”
However late Wednesday Masudur Rahman, director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Dhaka, said: “Bangladesh asserts that Ms. Shamima Begum is not a Bangladeshi citizen. The Government of Bangladesh is deeply concerned that she has been erroneously identified as a holder of dual citizenship shared with Bangladesh alongside her birthplace, the UK. She is a British citizen by birth and has never applied for dual nationality with Bangladesh. It may also be mentioned that she never visited Bangladesh in the past despite her parental lineage. So, there is no question of her being allowed to enter into Bangladesh.”