ISIS bride Shamima Begum loses first round of fight to win back her British citizenship 

Shamima Begum has today lost the first stage in her appeal against the Government’s decision to revoke her British citizenship on national security grounds.

Begum – one of three east London schoolgirls who travelled to Syria to join ISIS – lost her UK passport after she was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February last year. 

Now 20, the Londoner left the UK in February 2015 and lived under ISIS rule for more than three years where she married a Dutch jihadi. 

Their three children all died – the final baby perished in the camp where she was found after the caliphate fell – and she claims losing her British citizenship left her at risk of torture and ‘real risk of death’.

But today a tribunal, led by Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) president Mrs Justice Elisabeth Laing, delivered its ruling and found that the deprivation decision made by the Home Secretary Sajid Javid did not render her stateless.

The UK government successfully argued that under Bangladeshi law, Ms Begum, whose parents are from the country, is a citizen of Bangladesh by descent so cannot be made stateless by losing her British citizenship. 

Begum does have a right to appeal to the Court of Appeal – but her legal team has not yet said if she will. 

Citizenship fight: Shamima Begum's hope of having her British citizenship restored have been dashed

Citizenship fight: Shamima Begum's hope of having her British citizenship restored have been dashed

Jihadi bride: Shamima Begum revealed in February she was looking to return to Britain

Jihadi bride: Shamima Begum revealed in February she was looking to return to Britain

Jihadi bride Shamima Begum, 20, is desperate to return to Britain five years after she voluntarily left to join ISIS in Syria – her British citizenship was revoked when she was found in a refugee camp after the caliphate fell last year – she lost the first stage of her appeal today

Judge Doron Blum, announcing the decision of the tribunal, said that the move did not breach the Home Office’s “extraterritorial human rights policy by exposing Ms Begum to a real risk of death or inhuman or degrading treatment”.

He added that, while Ms Begum “cannot have an effective appeal in her current circumstances”, it “does not follow that her appeal succeeds” on that ground.

Former home secretary Sajid Javid stripped her of her British citizenship later that month, a decision Ms Begum’s lawyers argue was unlawful as it rendered her stateless. 

Such a decision is lawful only if an individual is entitled to citizenship of another country.

Last year, Ms Begum took legal action against the Home Office at the High Court and the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), a specialist tribunal which hears challenges to decisions to remove someone’s British citizenship on national security grounds.

Appeal: Begum challenged the decision made by then Home Secretary Sajid Javid saying she now feared for her life. Her third child Jarrah, pictured in her arms, died at three weeks old

Appeal: Begum challenged the decision made by then Home Secretary Sajid Javid saying she now feared for her life. Her third child Jarrah, pictured in her arms, died at three weeks old

Appeal: Begum challenged the decision made by then Home Secretary Sajid Javid saying she now feared for her life. Her third child Jarrah, pictured in her arms, died at three weeks old

At a hearing in October, Ms Begum’s barrister Tom Hickman QC said the situation in the al-Roj camp in which Ms Begum was then being held was ‘incredibly fragile and dangerous’, and described conditions at the camp, where Ms Begum’s third child died last March, as ‘wretched and squalid’.

Mr Hickman argued that Ms Begum – who is of British-Bangladeshi heritage – ‘is not considered a national of Bangladesh and was therefore rendered stateless by the deprivation decision’.

He also submitted that conditions in al-Roj – and in the al-Hawl camp from which Ms Begum was moved for her own safety in February – breached Ms Begum’s human rights.

Mr Hickman added that the decision ‘had the effect – and was designed – to prevent’ Ms Begum from returning to the UK, leaving her ‘abandoned’ in a detention camp.

This, he added, meant Ms Begum ‘cannot have a fair and effective appeal’ as she is unable to speak confidentially with her lawyers or to give evidence in support of her appeal.

Jonathan Glasson QC, for the Home Office, argued that Ms Begum ‘was a Bangladeshi citizen by descent, in accordance with Bangladeshi law, and so was not rendered stateless by the deprivation decision’.

He also submitted that Ms Begum ‘has not been placed at risk of ill-treatment’ as a result of the decision to revoke her British citizenship.

‘Any risk that the appellant does face arose, and continues to persist, as the result of the appellant having travelled to Syria and aligned with (IS) and is wholly unrelated to the deprivation decision,’ he added.

Ms Begum, then aged 15, was one of three schoolgirls from Bethnal Green Academy who left their homes and families to join IS, shortly after Sharmeena Begum – who is no relation – travelled to Syria in December 2014.

Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, then 16 and 15 respectively, and Ms Begum boarded a flight from Gatwick Airport to Istanbul, Turkey, on February 17 2015, before making their way to Raqqa in Syria.

Ms Begum claims she married Dutch convert Yago Riedijk 10 days after arriving in IS territory, with all three of her schoolfriends also reportedly marrying foreign IS fighters.

She told The Times last February that she left Raqqa in January 2017 with her husband but her children, a one-year-old girl and a three-month-old boy, had both since died. Her third child died shortly after he was born.

At a three-day hearing at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) in November, Begum’s lawyers argued that, as the Bangladeshi government has refused to accept her right to citizenship, she has been left stateless.

Her lawyers also relied on an earlier ruling by SIAC on two men of Bangladeshi origin, who were also stripped of their British citizenship on national security grounds.

The two men were identified in court documents only as E3 and N3. In 2017, the Home Office stripped E3, aged 38, of his citizenship on suspicion that he was an Islamic extremist who had travelled abroad for terrorist activity.

At the time his citizenship was deprived he was visiting Bangladesh, where he remains.

N3 is a 35-year-old man who was born in Bangladesh to British parents and later moved to the UK.

His British citizenship was taken away as the Home Office suspected he had gone to Syria and joined jihadi groups aligned with Al Qaeda. N3 is now in Turkey.

Both men took their cases to the SIAC in a joint hearing, and successfully defeated the Home Office.

Timeline: How Shamima Begum’s dream of becoming a jihadi bride saw her stripped of her British citizenship for joining ISIS

Escaping to Syria: Kadiza Sultana,16, Shamima Begum,15 and 15-year-old Amira Abase before they joined IS in Syria. Begum's friends are believed to be dead

Escaping to Syria: Kadiza Sultana,16, Shamima Begum,15 and 15-year-old Amira Abase before they joined IS in Syria. Begum's friends are believed to be dead

Escaping to Syria: Kadiza Sultana,16, Shamima Begum,15 and 15-year-old Amira Abase before they joined IS in Syria. Begum’s friends are believed to be dead

Here is a timeline of events following the three girls’ disappearance leading up to Shamima Begum’s legal action.

2015

– February 17 – Kadiza Sultana, Amira Abase and Shamima Begum leave their east London homes at 8am to travel to Istanbul, Turkey, from Gatwick Airport. Begum and Abase are reported missing by their families later the same day.

– February 18 – Sultana is reported missing to the police.

– February 20 – The Metropolitan Police launch a public appeal for information on the missing girls who are feared to have gone on to Syria.  The Met expresses concerns that the missing girls may have fled to join ISIS. 

– February 21 – Four days after the girls went missing, police believe they may still be in Turkey. 

– February 22 – Abase’s father Abase Hussen says his daughter told him she was going to a wedding on the day she disappeared.  

– March 10 – It emerges that the girls funded their trip by stealing jewellery. 

2016

– August 2016 – Sultana, then 17, is reported to have been killed in Raqqa in May when a suspected Russian air strike obliterates her house.

2019

– February 13 – Begum, then 19, tells Anthony Loyd of The Times that she wants to return to the UK to give birth to her third child.

Speaking from the al-Hawl refugee camp in northern Syria, Begum tells the paper: ‘I’m not the same silly little 15-year-old schoolgirl who ran away from Bethnal Green four years ago. And I don’t regret coming here.’

February 15 – Home Secretary Sajid Javid says he ‘will not hesitate’ to prevent the return of Britons who travelled to join IS.

– February 17 – Begum gives birth to her third child – a baby boy, Jarrah – in al-Hawl. Her two other children, a daughter called Sarayah and a son called Jerah, have both previously died.

– February 19 – The Home Office sends Begum’s family a letter stating that it intended to revoke her British citizenship.

– February 20 – Begum, having been shown a copy of the Home Office’s letter by ITV News, describes the decision as ‘unjust’. 

– February 22 – Begum’s family write to Mr Javid asking for his help to bring her newborn son to Britain. Shamima’s sister Renu Begum, writing on behalf of the family, said the baby boy was a ‘true innocent’ who should not ‘lose the privilege of being raised in the safety of this country’.

– Late February – Begum is moved to the al-Roj camp in north-eastern Syria, reportedly because of threats to her life made at al-Hawl following the publication of her newspaper interviews.

– March 7 – Jarrah dies around three weeks after he was born.

 – March 19 – Begum’s lawyers file a legal action challenging the decision to revoke her citizenship.

April 1 – In a further interview with The Times, Begum says she was ‘brainwashed’ and that she wanted to ‘go back to the UK for a second chance to start my life over again’. 

– May 4 – Bangladesh’s foreign minister Abdul Momen says Begum could face the death penalty for involvement in terrorism if she goes to the country, adding that Bangladesh had ‘nothing to do’ with her.  

– September 29 – Home Secretary Priti Patel says there is ‘no way’ she will let Begum return to the UK, adding: ‘We cannot have people who would do us harm allowed to enter our country – and that includes this woman.’ 

– October 22-25 – Begum’s appeal against the revocation of her British citizenship begins in London. Her barrister Tom Hickman QC submits the decision has unlawfully rendered her stateless, and exposed her to a ‘real risk’ of torture or death.

2020 

– February 7 – SIAC rules on Begum’s legal challenge

 

 

 

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