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Shamima Begum: Timeline of events since she fled to join Isis nine years ago

East London schoolgirl, now aged 24, who ran away to Syria in 2015 wants to return to the UK

Holly Bancroft,Maryam Zakir-Hussain
Friday 23 February 2024 16:39 GMT
Shamima Begum loses appeal against removal of her British citizenship

Shamima Begum has lost her latest bid to overturn the government’s decision to strip her of British citizenship, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Ms Begum left the UK aged 15 with two other east London schoolgirls to travel to Syria in February 2015.

Last year, she lost a challenge against the decision at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC).

Shamima Begum’s lawyers said they would ‘keep fighting’ after she lost a challenge over the removal of her British citizenship (PA) (PA Archive)

Here are the key developments to date:

August 1999: Shamima Begum is born in England to parents of Bangladeshi heritage.

February 2015: British counter-terrorism police launched an international hunt to find three London schoolgirls who were making their way to the so-called Islamic State’s (Isis) territory in Syria.

Ms Begum, 15, had slipped out of her house in east London, with friends, Kadiza Sultant, 16 and Amira Abase. They caught a flight to Istanbul, Turkey and travelled to the Syrian border from there.

In late February, the Metropolitan police confirm that Begum and her friends had reached Syria. Ten days after arriving in the country, Shamima Begum marries Yago Riedijk, a Dutch-born convert to Islam and a convicted terrorist.

October 2017: A US-backed alliance of Syrian fighters takes full control of Raqqa, ending three years of Isis rule in the city.

Amira Abase, Kadiza Sultana and Shamima Begum fled the UK in February 2015 (PA Media)

13 February 2019: The Times’ war correspondent Anthony Loyd finds Ms Begum, then 19-years-old, at the al-Hawl refugee camp in Northern Syria. A pregnant Ms Begum tells him that she wants to return to the UK to raise her child but that she did not regret her decision to join Isis. She says that she had had two other children who died of malnutrition.

She says she had been unfazed by seeing the head of a beheaded man as he was an “enemy of Islam” but believes that Isis did not deserve victory.

Three days later, Ms Begum gives birth to a baby boy.

19 February 2019: The UK government serves notice that it intends to strip Ms Begum of her British citizenship.

The then-Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, writes to Ms Begum’s parents to inform them of his order to strip her citizenship. He believes that, because her parents are of Bangladeshi heritage, she can apply for citizenship of that country.

The law allows the government to remove citizenship if they can show the person behaved “in a manner which is seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the UK” and when there is “reasonable grounds for believing that the person is able, under the law of a country or territory outside the UK, to become a national of such a country or territory.”

24 February 2019: Ms Begum’s father, Ahmed Ali, speaks to The Mail on Sunday and says that he “doesn’t have a problem” with his daughter’s British citizenship being removed.

Speaking from his home in Bangladesh, he said: “If she at least admitted she made a mistake then I would feel sorry for her and other people would feel sorry for her, but she does not accept her wrong.”

Ms Begum caught on CCTV at Gatwick Airport (PA Media)

16 July 2020: The Court of Appeal rules that Ms Begum should be permitted to return to the UK in order to fairly contest the British government’s decision to revoke her citizenship. This ruling was appealed and sent to the Supreme Court.

26 February 2021: On February 26, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously against bringing Ms Begum back, thus reversing the previous decision.

15 September 2021: Ms Begum asks the British people for forgiveness in an interview with ITV. The now-22-year-old says that Isis’s killing of innocent people is “unjustifiable”.

She apologised for comments she had previously made to a BBC journalist about the Manchester Arena bombing. In 2019, she had claimed - when asked about the 2017 attack - that it was wrong to kill innocent people, but that Isis considered it justified as retaliation for coalition bombing of Isis-held areas.

She told ITV: “I do not believe that one evil justifies another evil. I don’t think that women and children should be killed for other people’s motives and for other people’s agendas.”

November 2022

Before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), Ms Begum’s counsel said: “Without seeking to investigate and determine, still less consider, whether she was a child victim of trafficking and whether there were failures by public authorities in the UK to prevent her being trafficked.”

Ms Begum has asked the British people for forgiveness (ABC News)

January 2023

In the BBC podcast series, she said she understood public anger towards her but insisted she was not a “bad person”.

She said she accepted she was viewed “as a danger, as a risk”, but blamed her portrayal in the media.

February 22, 2023

Ms Begum lost her appeal in a SIAC court to overturn the government’s decision to strip her of her British citizenship.

October 2023

Ms Begum’s appeal against the loss of her British citizenship began in the Court of Appeal.

Begum’s team of barristers claim she was a victim of Isis propaganda and was groomed into terrorism.

Samantha Knights KC told the court the government had failed to consider the legal duties owed to Ms Begum as a potential victim of trafficking or as a result of “state failures” in her case.

Ms Begum pictured in 2001 in Roj Camp, where she was interred with other women who were members of Islamic State (Getty Images)

February 2024

Three judges dismissed Ms Begum‘s bid at the Court of Appeal.

Giving the ruling, Lady Chief Justice Baroness Carr said: “It could be argued the decision in Ms Begum‘s case was harsh. It could also be argued that Ms Begum is the author of her own misfortune.

“But it is not for this court to agree or disagree with either point of view. Our only task is to assess whether the deprivation decision was unlawful.

“We have concluded it was not and the appeal is dismissed.”

Ms Begum’s legal team promised they would continue to fight until she is “safely back home”.

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