LONDON: After much media debate, it was decided on Tuesday (February 19) that Shamima Begum, who fled the UK to join the Islamic State terror group in Syria aged 15, has been stripped of her British citizenship and her family have been told about it.
According to a letter sent to her mother, Home Secretary Sajid Javid ordered the move against the 19-year-old Londoner who wants to return to the UK with her newly-born child as the so-called caliphate crumbles.
She was part of a trio of girls from Bethnal Green Academy to travel to the war-torn nation to support the terror group in February 2015.
Her family’s lawyer, Tasnime Akunjee, described them as “very disappointed” over the move and said they are “considering all legal avenues to challenge this decision”.
ITV News reported a letter from the Home Office that was received by Ms Begum’s mother on Tuesday. The letter reads; “In light of the circumstances of your daughter, the notice of the Home Secretary’s decision has been served of file today (19 February), and the order removing her British citizenship has subsequently been made.”
The letter asked the mother to inform her daughter of the decision, as well as her right to appeal. Shamima gave birth to a boy over the weekend, having already lost two children, and made pleas for forgiveness and to be accepted back in the UK.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick has signalled she could be arrested and investigated if she returns to Britain. When Ms Begum left the UK, the then chief of counter-terror policing Sir Mark Rowley suggested that she might be treated as a victim of grooming. But on Tuesday Ms Dick said: “We’re a long way down the road since then.”
International law forbids nations from making people stateless by revoking their only citizenship, but it is possible Ms Begum, who is of Bangladeshi heritage, held dual citizenship.
Mr Javid on Monday told the House of Commons: “The powers available to me include banning non-British people from this country and stripping dangerous dual nationals of their British citizenship. Over 100 people have already been deprived in this way.”
On Monday, in an interview with the BBC, Ms Begum compared the Manchester Arena bombing to military strikes on Isis strongholds, calling the terror attack “retaliation”.
There are currently plans to change the law to make travelling to certain terror hotspots a criminal offence, but this would not apply retrospectively to Ms Begum. Around 425 suspected jihadi fighters are thought to have returned to the UK from Syria so far.
Her comments come as Home secretary Sajid Javid said a rewrite of Britain’s 650-year-old treason law could be implemented to prosecute returning jihadis. He told the House of Commons on Monday that a change to the 1351 Treason Act was “worth considering carefully”.
He said: “This is a complex situation and we should always be looking to see what tools we have at our disposal to ensure that those who are guilty of terrorism, or of supporting terrorist groups, are brought to justice.
“That means ensuring that we have the right laws in place. There are already powers in existence, including those covering extra-territorial jurisdictions.”
Mr Javid has said that no British troops will be used to rescue any Britons who travelled to Syria to support terrorism, and vowed to block Ms Begum’s return.
In an interview with the BBC’s Middle East correspondent, Quentin Sommerville, Ms Begum said she is ready to face prison if it means returning from a Syrian refugee camp to the UK with her baby boy, who was born on Saturday.
The 19-year-old said: “I actually do support some British values and I am willing to go back to the UK and settle back again and rehabilitate and that stuff.”
She left east London along with two other teenage girls in 2015 to join Islamic State in Syria, but now wants to return home.
She later told ITV News she did not see why Home Secretary Sajid Javid would see her as a threat.”I’m a 19-year-old girl with a new born baby. I don’t have any weapons; I don’t want to hurt anyone even if I did have weapons or anything,” she said.
“He has no proof that I was a threat other than that I was in Isis, that’s it. I don’t know how I would be seen as a danger. I’m not going to go back and promote people to go to Isis or anything, if anything I’m going to encourage them not to go because it’s not all it seems in their videos.
“I do regret it because when I went I thought I was going to make a family and I didn’t realise what the things they were doing that they weren’t showing in their propaganda videos, and I actually do regret it, I do feel bad for anyone who was affected by the actions of Isis.”