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'IS bride' Shamima Begum loses first stage of appeal against removal of British citizenship

Shamima Begum was stripped of her UK citizenship by the Home Office [Getty]

Date of publication: 7 February, 2020

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Shamima Begum's appeal against the Home Office's decision to strip her of British citizenship has failed.
Shamima Begum, a British woman who left London aged 15 to join the Islamic State extremist group, has lost her appeal against a government decision which stripped her of UK citizenship.

Begum emerged in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019, sharing with the world her wish to return to the UK.

Shortly after, the UK Home Office revoked her passport leaving her stateless.

Now, an appeal launched by Begum's lawyer challenging the decision has failed. The Special Immigration Appeals Commission ruled against Begum on Friday on three grounds, including that she had "not been improperly deprived of her citizenship", The Guardian reported.

Begum's lawyers argued that the British Home Secretary Sajid Javid's decision to revoke Shamima's citizenship was invalid as it rendered the young woman stateless.

The UK government revoked her citizenship on the grounds that Begum had a heritage claim to Bangladeshi citizenship through her mother. Bangladesh have said there is no question of her being allowed into the country.

Begum's lawyers told the court that Shamima was at risk of "death, inhuman or degrading treatment", The Guardian reported, and that if forced to go to Bangladesh she could be hanged.

Begum's barrister Tom Hickman QC argued that Shamima "is not considered a national of Bangladesh and was therefore rendered stateless by the deprivation decision" at an October hearing, Press Association reported.

Hickman further argued that the conditions in Al-Hol camp, where Begum is living, breached her human rights.

"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," Jonathan Glasson QC argued for the Home Office.

He further argued that Begum "was a Bangladeshi citizen by descent, in accordance with Bangladeshi law, and so was not rendered stateless by the deprivation decision", according to PA.

Home Secretary Javid was criticised over his decision to revoke Begum's citizenship after her three-week-old baby passed away from pneumonia in March last year.

Begum had lost two other children in Syria.

Begum's family lawyer Tasnime Akunjee travelled to Syria in March in order to gain her signature for a legal plea to regain her British citizenship.

Her signature was needed for an appeal to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, which has previously found decisions by the UK government to strip people of their citizenship unlawful.

Akunjee was not permitted to enter the Al-Hol camp to visit Begum by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who administer and guard the camp.

Comment: Citizenship is a basic right, even for Shamima Begum

Begum, who is now 20, left east London for Syria with two friends in February 2015. Her companions, Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, died in Syria. 

Shamima then emerged, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019. Her first televised interviews did not endear her to the public and her citizenship was revoked by the Home Office soon after.

Begum has claimed she was only a "housewife" during her time in Syria.

Syrian activists have disputed those claims, telling The Sunday Telegraph that Begum had been sighted patrolling the streets of Raqqa, armed with an automatic weapon and scaring the local population.

She said she did not regret joining the Islamic State group.

While living in Syria, Begum married a Dutch IS fighter who is currently being held by Kurdish fighters. He has told the BBC that he wishes to return to the Netherlands with his wife.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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