Last year we detailed the political firestorm unleashed in the UK after so-called British jihadist bride Shamima Begum demanded of British authorities to be repatriated.
The now 20-year old UK citizen joined Islamic State in 2015 after fleeing the UK when she was just 15. Last year she gave birth in a Syrian refugee camp and is demanding safe return to Britain for fear that she and her child could die in the camp, so near the war zone. Proponents for her legal return to British soil have argued that as a teenager she was unwittingly manipulated into traveling to Syria by ISIS propaganda.
But over a year ago her family was notified in a letter (on Feb. 19) from the Home Secretary that authorities had revoked her British citizenship because she traveled to join a foreign terrorist group. The decision has been under appeal while Begum and her child remain in custody of US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeast Syria.
But on Thursday British High Court judges ruled she should be allowed to return to the United Kingdom. CNN reports:
The Court of Appeal and a Divisional Court of the High Court on Thursday ruled Begum should be allowed to return to the United Kingdom to pursue her appeal before the Special Immigrations Appeals Commission (SIAC) “albeit subject to such controls as the Secretary of State deems appropriate.”
Under the 1981 British Nationality Act, UK authorities have the legal right to revoke a person’s citizenship should it be “conducive to the public good” and they won’t become stateless as a result. She was captured in early 2019 in that was at the time ISIS’ last holdout pocket of Baghuz, in Syria Deir ez-Zor province. While in an SDF detention camp, she remains stateless since her British citizenship was stripped.
Conservatives in Britain, such as previous Interior Minister Sajid Javid argued at the time the Begum case was driving national headlines that “dangerous individuals” coming back to the UK from battlefields in the Middle East should be stripped of their British citizenship. He said this option has already been “so far exercises more than 100 times,” otherwise he also advocates prosecution of apprehended returning suspects “regardless of their age and gender.”
Conservative MPs have said they would not “hesitate to prevent” the return of Britons who set off for the Middle East to join ISIS.
The UK Home Office is expected to fight the High Court appeals decision to allow her to return, with a spokesperson saying the decision was “very disappointing”. The statement said further: “The government’s top priority remains maintaining our national security and keeping the public safe.”
In recent interviews she expressed respect for “British values” while also demanding British ‘fairness’ in her case, yet still said she did not regret traveling to Syria to join ISIS and some aspects of the “good life” under the Islamic State.
This latest decision to allow her return to the UK will unleash fresh debate and controversy, given Britons will no doubt be legitimately concerned over having someone who willingly and unrepentantly joined ISIS living freely in their midst.