- Shamima Begum, a 19-year-old who fled her home in London to join ISIS, has been trying to return to Britain.
- But the UK says she is a national security threat. On Tuesday, it told her family that it is revoking her British citizenship
- This could effectively render Begum stateless, as she says she is not a citizen of another country.
- According to The Guardian, Britain’s home secretary told Begum’s parents that because they are from Bangladesh, she could try to apply for citizenship there.
- But both Begum and people close to her family have said that she has never been there before.
- Bangladesh has refused to take responsibility of Begum.
The UK has stripped Shamima Begum, the teen who fled her East London home to join ISIS, of her British citizenship – a move which could result in her being sent to Bangladesh, a country she says she has never been to.
Begum fled her home in Bethnal Green, East London, in 2015 for Raqqa in Syria, the heart of ISIS territory, where she married a fighter from the Netherlands.
But with ISIS in total collapse, Begum, now 19, escaped to a refugee camp and has publicly asked for the UK to take her back and also to accept her son, Jerah, who was born on Saturday.
On Tuesday, the UK government responded by revoking her citizenship and reportedly referred her instead to Bangladesh, the country her parents came from.
On Tuesday, the British Home Office told Begum’s parents via letter that it is revoking Begum’s British citizenship.
The letter, obtained and published by ITV News, asked Begum’s mother to tell Shamima that officials had decided “to deprive your daughter, Shamima Begum, of her British citizenship.”
Begum has since confirmed that she also got the message.
— ITV News (@itvnews) February 19, 2019
Where does Shamima go next?
Under the British Nationality Act, the home secretary is allowed to strip a British person of their citizenship if he thinks the person has acted “in a manner which is seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the United Kingdom.”
British authorities argue that Begum would be a national security threat. Begum has said that she does not pose a risk to the public.
“I’m not going to go back and provoke people to go to ISIS or anything,” she told ITV News on Monday. “If anything I’m going to encourage them not to go because it’s not all as it seems in their videos.”
She has, however, said that she did not regret joining the terrorist group.
The Guardian reported that Sajid Javid, the UK home secretary, told Begum’s parents in a letter that because they are of Bangladeshi heritage, their daughter could be eligible to apply for citizenship in that country.
But Begum told the BBC that she neither had a Bangladeshi passport nor had ever been to the country before.
Tasnime Akunjee, the Begum family’s lawyer, said that Begum does not have dual citizenship, according to The Telegraph.
Bangladesh has refused to take responsibility of Begum. According to Sky News, Bangladesh Interior Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said on Wednesday that Begum’s citizenship was a matter for the UK government and that “Bangladesh has nothing to do with this.”
“It’s kind of heart-breaking to read”
Begum has described the Home Office’s letter as “heart-breaking to read” and “hard to swallow.”
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 Baghouz. It’s kind of hard to swallow.”
“I don’t know what to say,” she added. “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.”
Akunjee, the family lawyer, said in a Tuesday statement that the family was “disappointed” by the Home Office’s decision and “are considering all legal avenues to challenge this decision.”
He added to the “Good Morning Britain” TV program that Britain had a “moral” duty to let Begum’s baby return to the UK. He said: “There’s an innocent child here, her baby. Bringing that child back to safety is a duty that any moral state would have.”
Thousands of people have abandoned Baghouz – and ISIS itself – over the past few weeks as ISIS’s so-called caliphate continues to flounder under US-backed Kurdish bombing raids.
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