Shamima Begum, the teenager who left the UK to join ISIS, has lost her legal battle for British citizenship. Begum, who was just 15 when she left her home in Bethnal Green to join the extremist group, had been challenging the decision taken by then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid in 2019 to strip her of her British citizenship.
On Monday, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) ruled that the decision was lawful and that the suspicion that Begum had been trafficked to Syria was insufficient for her to succeed in the appeal. The judge, Mr Justice Jay, found that there was a “credible suspicion” she was a victim of trafficking, but he also concluded that the Home Secretary was not formally required to consider this when he removed her citizenship.
Begum married the notoriously hardline IS member Dutch national Yago Riedijk, 27, aged just 15 and had three children with him who all later died. She was found by a British journalist in a refugee camp in 2019, after IS lost the ground war in Syria, which made the government aware she was still alive.
Begum’s British citizenship was stripped, and she was banned from entering Britain after being deemed a threat to the nation. She has been fighting to return to the UK ever since. Her lawyers argued that the British government failed to consider that she was a victim of trafficking for sexual exploitation and wanted the British government to reconsider that decision.
The decision to revoke Begum’s citizenship has come under fire from human rights campaigners and legal experts who say that rendering her stateless compromises her right to a fair appeal. There are several British women who have British citizenship imprisoned in Camps in northeast Syria, and they can’t come home because the UK government refuses to repatriate them.
Until the Kurdish administration receives a request from the UK Government, it will not let them leave. In comparison to other countries, the UK has been criticized for “dragging its heels” on the issue, with only one adult and eleven Britons repatriated so far, compared to over 200 by Tajikistan, close to 90 by France and 100 by Germany.
Human Rights Organisation Reprieve, which represents around 30 of the detained women, published an investigation that found more than 60 per cent of British women in detention in northeast Syria are victims of trafficking by ISIS. If the state believes certain individuals have committed crimes and were not trafficked, aid organisations say they should be brought back to the UK to stand a free and fair trial.
In a recent BBC documentary, Begum said that she does not expect to be allowed back to the UK and that she believes she will remain in Syria regardless of the decision. Begum has described the conditions at the camp as “worse than prison” because there is no time limit to the length of her detention, and until the government decides to repatriate her, she will remain.