Shamima was only 15 when she left Bethnal Green in 2015 with her school friends for Raqqa, Syria.
LONDON: What to do with and about Shamima Begum has fired up the British citizenry. A huge majority of British citizens agree with Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s decision to take away the teenage Jihadi bride’s citizenship: a Sky Data poll found 78% of respondents agreed with his decision.
Shamima was only 15 years old when she left Bethnal Green in 2015 with her school friends Kadiza Sultana (now dead) and Amira Abasa for Raqqa, Syria. Shamima travelled on her sister’s passport. It is understood she was radicalised by another teen, Sharmeena Begum (no relation), who left UK for Syria in 2014 sometime after her mother died. It was reported at the time that Sharmeena was radicalised by women. Friendship circles are very influential in the radicalisation process. They offer an alternative to a sheltered family life. Sharmeena made life as an ISIS wife sound attractive and the three young impressionable friends left London to seek husbands and adventure under the Daesh way of life.
Shamima watched fighting and beheading videos as well as ISIS family recreational propaganda videos. She said she knew about the executions and was ok with that and was not fazed by seeing the severed heads in bins. She married a Dutch jihadi, Yago Riedjik, ten days after arrival. They have had three children, of whom two died of disease. She has named her week-old baby, Jerah or Jarrah, allegedly after a violent Islamic warlord. This boy is a British citizen as he was born before the revocation. How this will work out for the baby and his mother is unclear at the moment.
Shamima does not appear to grasp that life as a housewife and being “looked after” by the Islamic State is not something that British citizens and the Home Office are going to have a lot of sympathy for. Shacking up with an enemy force’s fighter for four years does not exactly sync with British values, but now she wants all the advantages Britain has to offer in terms of social and health care, courtesy the taxpayer. Various journalists have interviewed her at the al-Hawl camp in Northern Syria. She has presented herself as naïve, as having made an innocent mistake, but she has shown no contrition or empathy. Shamima appears to think that the killing of the Ariana Grande fans during the Manchester concert is equivalent to Kurdish-led forces and the SDF blitzing the ISIS terrorists in Baghouz, the ISIS enclave in eastern Syria from whence she fled.
Sajid Javid would not have made his decision lightly. MI6 chief Alex Younger explicitly warned that Britons returning from ISIS were “potentially very dangerous”; he referred to the skills, connections and extreme radicalisation they had acquired. What Javid knows as Home Secretary may not be in the public domain, but his decision has been made in the interest of public safety. It is a bold decision and gives a clear message to others thinking of returning. One cannot help thinking if Amber Rudd, the previous Home Secretary would have made the same decision.
It was understood that Shamima’s mother was from Bangladesh and she was therefore entitled to citizenship, but it is no surprise that Bangladesh’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Shahriar Alam has said no. Bangladesh has enough problems with terrorists without adding one more potential. Neither does the Netherlands want her or her husband on its soil.
The left and right wing are crying for Begum’s rights, saying she is damaged by her experience, arguments include not giving her the opportunity of a trial and proper jurisprudence; some say Javid is introducing the precedent of a two-tier citizenship for dual nationals. Shamima’s family say they cannot abandon her and her sister has appealed to Javid. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Shamima should face questioning and appropriate action in the UK, Corbyn also questioned the right of Home Secretaries to have the power to revoke citizenship. International law prohibits making a person stateless by revoking their only citizenship. Where does the sob story go from here?