Shamima Begum, the British teenager who left the UK at the age of 15 to join ISIS, has lost her appeal against the UK government’s decision to remove her British citizenship.
The judgement does not address whether Begum can return to the United Kingdom, but rather whether the revocation of her citizenship was legal.
Judge Robert Jay issued the judgement on Wednesday, February 22, after a five-day hearing in November during which her attorneys argued that the UK Home Office had a duty to investigate if she was a victim of human trafficking before taking her citizenship.
Begum, aged 23, is staying in a camp in northern Syria after flying to the country with two school classmates in 2015 to join the ISIS terror organisation. After petitioning with the UK government to be permitted to return to her home country for the birth of her son, she reappeared and made international headlines as a “ISIS bride” in February 2019.
On February 19, 2019, UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid stripped Begum of her British citizenship, and her newborn baby died in a Syrian refugee camp the following month.
She told reporters that she had two more children before that infant, both of whom perished in Syria as babies.
Begum has made a number of public appeals in her fight against the government’s decision, most notably appearing in the BBC documentary The Shamima Begum Story and a ten-part BBC podcast series.
In the podcast series she insisted that she is “not a bad person.” While accepting that the British public viewed her as a “danger” and a “risk,” Begum blamed this on her media portrayal.
She appealed the UK government’s decision to revoke her citizenship, however the government denied her permission to enter the country to pursue her appeal in June 2019.
The UK Court of Appeal concluded in 2020 that Begum should be allowed entry to enter the country because otherwise the hearing would not be “fair and effective.”
The Supreme Court overturned that decision the following year, finding that the Court of Appeal made four errors in ruling that Begum should be allowed to return to the UK to pursue her case.
Begum’s lawyers criticized the court ruling as a “lost opportunity to put into reverse a profound mistake and a continuing injustice.”
“The outcome is that there is now no protection for a British child trafficked out of the UK if the home secretary invokes national security,” Gareth Pierce and Daniel Furner, of Birnberg Pierce Solicitors, said in a statement seen
“Begum remains in unlawful, arbitrary and indefinite detention without trial in a Syrian camp. Every possible avenue to challenge this decision will be urgently pursued,” it continued.
Rights group Amnesty International who has been pushing for the case described the ruling as a “very disappointing decision.”
“The power to banish a citizen like this simply shouldn’t exist in the modern world, not least when we’re talking about a person who was seriously exploited as a child,” Steve Valdez-Symonds, the group’s UK refugee and migrant rights director, said in a statement.
“Along with thousands of others, including large numbers of women and children, this young British woman is now trapped in a dangerous refugee camp in a war-torn country and left largely at the mercy of gangs and armed groups.”
“The home secretary shouldn’t be in the business of exiling British citizens by stripping them of their citizenship,” Valdez-Symonds said.
Javid, the home secretary who removed Begum’s British citizenship, welcomed Wednesday’s ruling, tweeted that it “upheld my decision to remove an individual’s citizenship on national security grounds.”
“This is a complex case but home secretaries should have the power to prevent anyone entering our country who is assessed to pose a threat to it.” Javid added.