Nineteen-year-old Begum—who has remained defiant about running away from her London home four years ago to join ISIS—is in a Syrian refugee camp with her newborn son.
Begum has pleaded to be allowed back into the UK as American and other forces have decimated the Islamist terror group’s presence in the region and the so-called caliphate crumbles.
But British Home Secretary Sajid Javid has decided to block her return by stripping Begum of her British citizenship, a move that is in conformity with the law if she is a dual citizen and is thus not left “stateless.”
Javid was cited by the Daily Mail as saying that the decision to revoke Begum’s citizenship is “conducive to the public good” on grounds of preventing terrorism.
British officials notified Begum’s family in a Feb. 19 letter of “a decision taken by the Home Secretary, to deprive your daughter, Shamima Begum, of her British citizenship. In light of the circumstances of your daughter, the notice of the Home Secretary’s decision has been served of file today (19th February), and the order removing her British citizenship has subsequently been made.”
The letter noted Begum had a right to appeal.
— ITV News (@itvnews) February 19, 2019
Begum’s relatives have expressed disappointment at the government’s decision to deprive her of British citizenship.
In a statement cited by The Telegraph, the family’s lawyer Tasnime Akunjee said” [The] Family are very disappointed with the Home Office’s intention to have an order made depriving Shamima of her citizenship. We are considering all legal avenues to challenge this decision.”
Under the 1981 British Nationality Act, a person can be deprived of their citizenship if the home secretary is convinced it would be “conducive to the public good” and provided that the individual does not become stateless.
Begum was born in Britain but is believed to have—or be eligible for—Bangladeshi citizenship on grounds of her mother being a Bangladeshi national, BBC reported. Begum told the BBC in an interview that she does not currently hold a Bangladeshi passport.
The family’s legal case may rely on whether the move does, in fact, render Begum stateless. Akunjee told The Telegraph that since Begum did not have a passport, denial of a visa for Bangladesh would make her stateless.
Questions have also been raised about the nationality of her son, born in Syria while she was still a British national, and therefore by default—British. Officials could, theoretically, move to strip the child of British citizenship but it is unclear on what grounds and how this would stand up to a legal challenge.
The Home Office told Sky News through a spokesman that while it did not comment on individual cases, “Any decisions to deprive individuals of their citizenship are based on all available evidence and not taken lightly.”
“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,” a spokesman added.
Javid has previously said Begum will “face consequences” for backing ISIS and vowed, “Where individuals do manage to return, they will be questioned, investigated and potentially prosecuted.”
Philip Hollobone, a British member of Parliament, praised the decision to revoke Begum’s citizenship, “Well done, Sajid Javid for acting so quickly. This is exactly the right thing to do.”
Conservative MP George Freeman called the move a “mistake,” adding that Begum “should be brought back to face the UK courts.”
James Forsyth, a conservative commentator for The Spectator, suggested revocation of citizenship was “too easy” and allows politicians and society to sidestep the difficult conversation about the surge of Islamist extremism.
“In a way, saying that Begum is not British is too easy,” Forsyth wrote.
“It allows us to ignore the fact that this girl who went to a British school was radicalized in this way. As a country and a society, we need to think long and hard about how this happened. Stripping her of her citizenship allows us to avoid a difficult conversation that we need to have if we are not to have more young minds corrupted by Islamist extremism,” he said.
‘Kind of Retaliation’
Begum claimed in a recent interview that people should sympathize with her plight and said her family should work on getting authorities to let her back into the United Kingdom. Describing herself as “just a housewife,” she said she would not pose a security threat. She also said she was okay with beheadings and that she didn’t regret joining the radical Islamic group and marrying an ISIS terrorist.
“From what I heard, Islamically that is all allowed so I was OK with it,” she said.
Begum also spoke to BBC’s Middle East correspondent Quentin Sommerville about the Manchester Arena terror attack, saying: “I do feel that it’s wrong that innocent people did get killed,” but added, “It’s a two-way thing, really,” saying it was “just like the women and children in Baghuz that are being killed right now unjustly by the bombings.”
“And it’s kind of retaliation,” she said. “Their justification was that it was retaliation, so I thought, ok, that is a fair justification.”
"I didn't want to be IS poster girl" – London teenager Shamima Begum, who fled to join Islamic State group in Syria, says she now wants the UK's forgiveness
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) February 18, 2019
Nineteen-year-old Begum left London four years ago with two school friends to join ISIS.
While Kadiza Sultana was reported to have been killed in an airstrike in 2016, Begum said she did not know what happened to her other friend, Amira Abase.
Begum was found in a Syrian refugee camp by The Times newspaper last week after reportedly leaving Baghuz, the final stronghold of ISIS in Syria.
Begum, who in the interview with The Times said she has “no regrets” about joining ISIS, gave birth to a baby boy over the weekend and has repeatedly pleaded to be allowed back into the UK, sparking a fiery national debate about returning ISIS sympathizers.