London: London-born Islamic State (IS) recruit Shamima Begum has won the right to return to the United Kingdom. After her return, Shamima Begum will be able to carry on her legal fight against the UK government. The government had revoked her British citizenship on security grounds.
Begum, now 20, was one of three schoolgirls who fled London to join IS in Syria in 2015. Senior UK judges have ruled this week that she must be allowed to re-enter and fight her case. Begum was 15 years old when she secretly fled her home in east London in 2015 and went to Syria. She is currently staying in a camp run by Kurdish forces in northern Syria. The UK Court of Appeal said she had been denied a fair hearing because she could not make her case from the camp.
A special British immigration tribunal ruled in February that she was a Bangladeshi citizen by descent. It meant that she had not been rendered homeless by former UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s decision to revoke her British citizenship.
The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) is a specialist tribunal that hears challenges to decisions to remove British citizenship on national security grounds. It said Begum was in the situation she is challenging ‘as a result of her own choices, and of the actions of others, but not because of anything the Secretary of State (Javid) had done’.
Begum’s solicitor, Daniel Furner of Birnberg Peirce, had then said she would take her case to the Court of Appeal ‘as a matter of exceptional urgency’.
At a hearing at the Court of Appeal last month, her lawyer argued that Begum, could not effectively challenge the decision while she was barred from returning to the UK.
Begum had been tracked down in northern Syria in February last year by ‘The Times’ newspaper. She was then nine months pregnant with her third child, who later died. Javid stripped her of citizenship soon after on the grounds that she could claim Bangladeshi nationality through her parents. His successor as the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, also backed that decision and ruled out the prospect of her return to the UK. “We cannot have people who would do us harm allowed to enter our country – and that includes this woman,” Patel had said.
Under UK law, a person can legally have their citizenship revoked but they cannot be made stateless. The UK government maintains that Begum has access to Bangladeshi dual citizenship through her parents, even though the Bangladesh government has since denied any such rights.
Begum left the UK in February 2015 and lived under IS rule for more than three years. She became known as a so-called IS bride because she was married to Yago Riedijk, a Dutch IS fighter, soon after arriving in Syria.