Shamima Begum's family want her baby back in UK

IS teenager Shamima Begum's family want to bring baby to UK
3 min read
22 February, 2019
Begum, whose family hopes to bring her newborn son to London, seeks mercy from the UK government after her citizenship is revoked by the Home Office.
Families of Amira Abase and Shamima Begum, who left London to join IS [Getty Images]
Shamima Begum, the teenager who joined Islamic State four years ago and whose citizenship has been stripped by the UK, has asked the government for "a bit more mercy," as her family in London explore measures to bring her newborn son to Britain.

The family's lawyer, Tasnime Akunjee, is planning to travel to meet Begum in Syria "as soon as possible" to start the legal appeal process challenging the removal of her citizenship. While there, he will seek her permission to bring her son back with him to the UK.

The Home Office revoked Begum's citizenship on Tuesday on the grounds that her heritage claim to Bangladeshi citizenship would not render her stateless. A day earlier, the 19-year-old gave birth to a baby boy in a Syrian refugee camp.

"I would like them (British politicians) to re-evaluate my case with a bit more mercy in their heart, you know," Begum told Sky News on Thursday, "I am willing to change".

Legal experts have said Begum's baby retains his right to UK citizenship as he was born before the Home Office order. The home secretary, Sajid Javid, said "children should not suffer, so if a parent loses their British citizenship it does not affect the rights of their child," further indicating the legal permissibility for the baby's return.

After learning of the news from media reports, the Bangladesh foreign minister said "there is no question of her being allowed to enter into Bangladesh". Begum does not hold Bangladeshi citizenship nor has she ever visited the South Asian country.

It is illegal under international law to render a person stateless by revoking their nationality. It is unclear how plans to revoke Begum's citizenship will be implemented.

Begum escaped from Baghouz, the last IS stronghold in eastern Syria, two weeks ago. Her husband, a Dutch convert to Islam, surrendered to Syrian fighters as they left. Begum had two other children while in Syria, but both died.

The 19-year-old was one of three schoolgirls who travelled to Syria from Bethnal Green, east London in 2014. She said she did not regret joining the Islamic State group.

Her case highlights the challenges faced by Western governments as IS recruits come out of the woodwork and ask to return to their home countries.

The British authorities estimate around 900 Britons travelled to Syria and Iraq to join the conflict, of whom around 300-400 have since returned - and 40 have been prosecuted.

Sajid Javid is vehemently opposed to IS members returning to the UK. "My message is clear - if you have supported terrorist organisations abroad I will not hesitate to prevent your return," he told The Times.