Shamima Begum, a young British woman who left her home country at the age of 15 to join the terrorist group ISIS, has lost her appeal against the decision by the UK government to revoke her citizenship. The ruling was delivered by Judge Robert Jay on February 22, following a five-day hearing in November 2021. The decision does not determine whether Begum can return to the UK, but rather whether the removal of her citizenship was lawful.
Begum, who is now 23 years old, left the UK in 2015 with two school friends to join ISIS in Syria. In February 2019, she re-emerged as an “ISIS bride,” and pleaded with the UK government to be allowed to return to the UK for the birth of her son. However, then UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid revoked her British citizenship on February 19, 2019, and Begum’s newborn son died in a Syrian refugee camp the following month.
In the years that followed, Begum made several public appeals as she fought against the government’s decision. She argued that the UK Home Office had a duty to investigate whether she was a victim of trafficking before removing her citizenship. Her lawyers argued that the removal of her citizenship had rendered her stateless and exposed her to the risk of mistreatment or even death in the refugee camp where she currently resides.
Begum has also been the subject of numerous media portrayals, which she claims have unfairly cast her as a “bad person” and a “danger” to the British public. She has challenged the UK government’s decision to revoke her citizenship, but her application to enter the UK to pursue her appeal was denied in June 2019.
In 2020, the UK Court of Appeal ruled that Begum should be granted leave to enter the UK because otherwise, it would not be “a fair and effective hearing.” However, in 2021, the Supreme Court reversed that decision, arguing that the Court of Appeal made four errors when it ruled that Begum should be allowed to return to the UK to carry out her appeal.
Begum’s case has been controversial, with some arguing that she should be allowed to return to the UK to face justice, while others argue that she should remain in the refugee camp in Syria where she currently resides. Rights group Amnesty International has been advocating for Begum’s case and described the recent ruling as “very disappointing.”
In response to the ruling, Javid tweeted that it “upheld my decision to remove an individual’s citizenship on national security grounds.” He argued that home secretaries should have the power to prevent anyone entering the UK who is assessed to pose a threat to the country.
Meanwhile, Begum’s lawyers have criticized the ruling as a “lost opportunity to put into reverse a profound mistake and a continuing injustice.” They argue that Begum remains in unlawful, arbitrary, and indefinite detention without trial in a Syrian camp, and that every possible avenue to challenge this decision will be urgently pursued.
The case of Shamima Begum has raised important questions about citizenship, national security, and the rights of individuals who join terrorist groups. It is a complex and controversial case that is likely to continue to be debated for years to come.