Shamima Begum: Isis bride 'never had Bangladeshi passport' and will fight decision to revoke UK citizenship, lawyer says

Teenager could face at least two years in refugee camp while she appeals decision, says former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation

Lizzie Dearden,Chiara Giordano
Wednesday 20 February 2019 10:38
Shamima Begum on moving to Syria: 'Videos on the internet attracted me to join them'

Isis bride Shamima Begum has “never had a Bangladeshi passport” and will fight the decision to strip her of her British citizenship, her lawyer says.

The 19-year-old Londoner, who fled to Syria aged 15 to join the Isis terror group, now wants to return to the UK to raise her new-born child.

However the Home Office wrote to her family this week, informing them that Home Secretary Sajid Javid made an order “revoking her British citizenship”.

This means she is now effectively banned from entering the UK.

The move came after the teenager from Bethnal Green was thrust back into the public eye when she was found heavily pregnant in a refugee camp in northern Syria.

She says she has already lost two children to illness in the war-torn country and wants to return to the UK with her son whom she gave birth to at the weekend.

Ms Begum’s lawyer Tasnime Akunjee told The Independent her family planned to launch a legal challenge against the home secretary’s decision.

Mr Akunjee said Ms Begum, who is of Bangladeshi heritage, was born in the UK, has “never had a Bangladeshi passport”, and does not have dual citizenship.

Shamima Begum, then 15, pictured far right alongside friends Amira Abase, 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16, before catching a flight to Turkey in 2015 to join the Islamic State group.

“Our position is that to all practical purposes she has been made stateless,” he said.

The lawyer also accused the government of making Ms Begum’s days-old son stateless, and leaving them both “stuck” in a Syrian detention camp.

He added: “This is a delaying tactic. The government is not going to win this, there is case law saying people in these circumstances are stateless and we will win but how long will that take.”

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

The Home Office declined to comment on Mr Akunjee’s allegations on Tuesday but said: “We do not make people stateless.”

In a letter addressed to Ms Begum’s mother, the Home Office asked her to inform her daughter of its decision, as well as her right to appeal.

Lord Carlile, former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said Ms Begum could challenge the decision, but that she could be stuck in Syria for at least two years during the process.

“It could run for a very long time through the courts,” he told BBC Breakfast. “I suspect that the result is going to be that she will stay where she is for maybe two years at least.”

Ms Begum’s family is of Bangladeshi descent and she married a Dutch foreign fighter but the citizenship of their child is unclear.

In a previous case a baby born to a female Isis supporter in Syria was only given British citizenship after a DNA test proved her parentage. The nationality of the baby's father in that case has not been made public.

Government guidance states that the home secretary can deprive citizenship for the “public good” if a person can apply for alternative nationality.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in