Middle East

Shamima Begum: Britain and Bangladesh wash their hands of IS teen


A British teenager who joined the IS group in Syria said Wednesday she was shocked by a government decision to revoke her citizenship and was considering applying to settle in The Netherlands, the homeland of her husband.

A London teenager who joined the IS group in Syria is now facing the prospect of being stateless after Britain revoked her citizenship and authorities in Bangladesh, where her family is from, said they would not take her in.

Shamima Begum, who travelled to Syria in 2015 and now wants to return to Britain after giving birth in a refugee camp in Syria last week, was stripped of her UK citizenship on Tuesday.

Now 19, Begum said she was "shocked" at the decision by Britain to revoke her citizenship, a move announced in a letter to her family in Britain, according to their lawyer.

The Home Office believed that Begum was entitled to claim citizenship in Bangladesh - a claim disputed by the South Asian country.

"Bangladesh asserts that Ms Shamima Begum is not a Bangladeshi citizen. She is a British citizen by birth and has never applied for dual nationality with Bangladesh," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Shamima Begum has been stripped of her UK citizenship.
Shamima Begum has been stripped of her UK citizenship.

"It may also be mentioned that she never visited Bangladesh in the past despite her parental lineage. So, there is no question of her being allowed to enter into Bangladesh," it added.

'Children should not suffer'

Begum's fate has stirred controversy since she and two friends fled her east London home to join the terror network four years ago when she was aged 15.

The case highlights a dilemma facing many European countries, divided over whether to allow jihadists and IS sympathisers home to face prosecution or bar them over security concerns as the so-called "caliphate" crumbles.

Shamima Begum left the UK to join IS in 2015.
Shamima Begum left the UK to join IS in 2015.

British Interior minister Sajid Javid told lawmakers Wednesday that revoking citizenship was "a powerful tool" not used lightly. 

"But when someone turns their back on (our) fundamental values and supports terror they don't have an automatic right to return to the UK," he said. 

However he hinted that Begum's newborn son could be treated differently.

"Children should not suffer, so if a parent does lose their British citizenship it does not affect the rights of their child," the minister said.

Begum gave birth to her third child at the weekend, and appealed to British authorities to show "compassion" by allowing her to raise the baby in Britain - while expressing no regret over having joined IS.

'All legal avenues' 

In the ministry's letter sent to Begum's mother, it said the teen had the right to appeal the order.

Tasnime Akunjee, a lawyer for her family, said it was disappointed with the move and "considering all legal avenues to challenge this decision".

Begum is in a refugee camp in northeast Syria where she fled to escape fighting in the east of the country along with hundreds of other people with links to IS.

She said she had previously given birth to two other children after marrying in Syria. Both children are said to have died, apparently from illness and malnutrition.

Begum fled Britain with Kadiza Sultana, who has since been reported killed, and Amira Abase.

Begum said in recent media interviews that Abase had stayed in a village where IS fighters were making a final stand against US-backed forces.

Shamima Begum said she only wants to return to the UK with her newborn baby.
Shamima Begum said she only wants to return to the UK with her newborn baby.

European countries have been grappling with what to do with foreign fighters detained in Syria by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, who have warned they may not be able to guard their jails once US troops leave.

The British government on Monday rebuffed US President Donald Trump's call for European allies to take back hundreds of alleged jihadists captured in the war-ravaged country.

Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman said the fighters should instead face justice in places where they committed their crimes.

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