Who is Shamima Begum?
Shamima Begum born on 25 August 1999 is a denaturalised British-born woman, who left the UK aged 15 to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria. Shamima Begum’ss intention to return to the UK in 2019 resulted in a public debate about the handling of returning jihadists. In February 2019, the British government issued an order revoking her British citizenship. It later stated that she would never be allowed to return.
Shamima Begum Bio, Wiki
Shamima Begum was born in England to parents of Bangladeshi origin and citizenship. She was raised in the Bethnal Green area of Tower Hamlets, East London, where she received her secondary education at the Bethnal Green Academy. Together with her friends Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana, she left the UK in February 2015, at the age of 15. They travelled via Turkey to join the Daesh in Syria.
Shortly after her departure, Begum’s sister expressed hope that she and her school friends had travelled to ISIL territory only to bring back their friend Sharmeena Begum (no relation), who had travelled there in 2014.
Ten days after arriving in Syria, Begum married Dutch-born Yago Riedijk, a convert to Islam, who had arrived in Syria in October 2014. This marriage may not be recognised under Dutch law since she was underage at that time. She gave birth to three children, all of whom died young; her youngest child was born in a refugee camp in February 2019 and, by March 2019, had died of a lung infection.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Begum was an “enforcer” in ISIL’s “morality police”, and tried to recruit other young women to join the jihadist group. She was allowed to carry a Kalashnikov rifle and earned a reputation as a strict enforcer of ISIL’s laws, such as dress codes for women. An anti-ISIL activist told The Independent that there are separate allegations of “Begum [stitching] suicide bombers into explosive vests so they could not be removed without detonating”.
|Born||25 August 1999 (age 21)|
England, United Kingdom
|Citizenship||United Kingdom (revoked), Bangladesh (disputed)|
|Spouse(s)||Yago Riedijk (m. 2015)|
|Children||3 (all deceased)|
Shamima Begum’s Intended return
On 13 February 2019, The Times‘ war correspondent Anthony Loyd found Begum at the al-Hawl refugee camp in Northern Syria, in what one newspaper described as “scoop of the decade”. When interviewed, Begum revealed that she was nine months pregnant and hoped to return to the UK to raise her child, but did not regret her decision to join ISIL. She said she had been unfazed by seeing the head of a beheaded man as he was “an enemy of Islam”, but believes that ISIL did not deserve victory because of their corruption and oppression.
When asked if she would be extracted from Syria, Security Minister Ben Wallace said, “I’m not putting at risk British people’s lives to go and look for terrorists or former terrorists in a failed state.” Three days after Loyd found her, Begum gave birth to a boy.
Begum was interviewed by BBC correspondent Quentin Sommerville on 18 February. During the interview, Begum asked for forgiveness and claimed that she still supports “some British values”. She said she was inspired to join ISIL by videos of fighters beheading hostages and also of “the good life” under the group.
However, Sommerville noted that she continues to espouse the ISIL ideology and to try to justify its atrocities. When asked about the Manchester Arena bombing, she claimed it was wrong to kill innocent people, but that ISIL considered it justified as retaliation for the coalition bombing of ISIL-held areas. When questioned about rape, enslavement, and murder of Yazidi women, she claimed, “Shia do the same in Iraq”.
Shamima Begum Citizenship
The following day, UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced that an order had been made with the intention of stripping Begum of her British citizenship. The UK government could not legally deprive her of British citizenship if doing so would leave her stateless. However, the UK government contended that Begum was eligible for citizenship of Bangladesh and was not left stateless. The Government of Bangladesh, however, stated that Begum does not currently hold Bangladeshi citizenship and would not be allowed to enter the country.
On 24 February, her father Ahmed Ali said, “If she at least admitted she made a mistake then I would feel sorry for her and other people would feel sorry for her, but she does not accept her wrong.” Begum reacted by stating that she regretted speaking to the media and said the UK is making an example out of her.
Legal case against the British Government
The main difficulty surrounding Begum’s pursuit of citizenship in order to return to the United Kingdom is the contrasting interpretations and perspectives around making her stateless (without citizenship in any country). Making citizens stateless is unlawful according to both UK national Law (British Nationality Act 1981 section 40) and UN international law (1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness), of which the UK is a signatory.
Shamima Begum was born a British citizen under UK law as her father (despite having already left the UK) had indefinite leave to remain and so had the “settled in the United Kingdom” status that the British Nationality Act 1981 describes as being a satisfactory prerequisite to allow Begum to be born a British citizen.
Shamima Begum’s pursuit of citizenship
On 15 April, it was reported that Shamima Begum had been granted Legal Aid to fight the revocation of her British citizenship. Hunt described the Legal Aid Agency’s decision as “very uncomfortable”, but said that the UK is “a country that believes that people with limited means should have access to the resources of the state if they want to challenge the decisions the state has made about them”.
On 3 May, Bangladeshi foreign minister Abdul Momen repeated their position on Begum but further added that if she entered Bangladesh she would face the death penalty due to the nation’s “zero-tolerance policy” towards terrorism.
In August 2019, the Metropolitan Police requested media organisations that had interviewed Begum—the BBC, ITN, Sky News and The Times—to surrender any unpublished material they may hold about Begum. They seek disclosure under the Terrorism Act 2000 in order to prepare potential prosecution.
Her lawyer, Tasnime Akunjee, travelled to Kurdish-occupied Syria to meet Begum but was turned away.
On 16 July 2020, the Court of Appeal ruled that Begum could return to the UK to contest the government’s decision to rescind her British citizenship. It was unclear how she would return to the UK to plead her case, as the British government had previously stated that it would never let her return.
On 26 February 2021, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in Begum v Home Secretary decided in favour of the Home Secretary on all grounds.