Shamima Begum was ‘victim’ in joining Isis in Syria, and even Nazis had fair trial, says family lawyer

19-year-old has lost two children and wants to return to UK, but does ‘not regret’ joining Isis in 2014 aged 15

Harry Cockburn
Monday 18 February 2019 11:36
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Shamima Begum on moving to Syria: 'Videos on the internet attracted me to join them'

A lawyer working for Shamima Begum’s family has said any attempt to deny her “due process” would mean she was being treated worse than Nazi war criminals after the Second World War.

Tasnime Akunjee said Ms Begum, who was 15 when she left the UK to join Isis in Syria, had been brainwashed and would have to be de-radicalised to return to the UK.

He said: “The Nazis had the Nuremberg trials. They were given due process. This girl was a victim when she went out there at 15 years old. Our politicians are saying that she should be denied protections and due process that would have been granted to Nazis.”

His comments, reported by Reuters, come after the home secretary Sajid Javid said he would not hesitate in blocking her return to the UK.

Writing in The Sunday Times, he said: “My message is clear: if you have supported terrorist organisations abroad I will not hesitate to prevent your return.”

“If you do manage to return you should be ready to be questioned, investigated and potentially prosecuted.”

He added: “As a father I feel compassion for anyone born or brought into a conflict zone. But in considering what actions need to be taken now, I have to think about the safety and security of children living in our country.”

Ms Begum, who is now 19, gave birth to her third child over the weekend. Her other two children died last year from illnesses compounded by malnutrition and poor healthcare and as Isis lost ground.

Her husband, a former Isis soldier who she married within 10 days of arriving in Syria in 2014, was captured by Syrian forces outside the eastern city of Baghouz earlier this year.

Ms Begum has said she now wants to return to the UK, but has also said she doesn’t regret going to Syria.

Speaking to Sky News since giving birth to a son in a refugee camp in northern Syria, Ms Begum said: “I think a lot of people should have sympathy towards me for everything I have been through.

“I didn’t know what I was getting into when I left.

“I was hoping that maybe for the sake of me and my child they’d let me come back. Because I can’t live in this camp forever. It’s not really possible.”

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Mr Akunjee said the birth of the child had increased the pressure on the government to allow Ms Begum and her child to come into the UK.

“We are now dealing with an innocent baby who we would like to get out of the camp and back to the UK,” he said.

Ms Begum remains a British citizen, and the UK cannot strip her of her citizenship. Jeremy Wright, the culture secretary, said Britain would be legally obliged to allow Ms Begum to return at some stage.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Wright said: “I think it’s clear that if you’re dealing with a British citizen who wants to return to this country – and they’re not a dual citizen, so their only citizenship is British citizenship – then we are obliged at some stage at least to take them back. That doesn’t mean that we can’t put in place the necessary security measures.”

Ms Begum told Sky News she had “just been a housewife” during her four years living under Isis, and the UK had “no evidence” her return could pose a threat.

She said: “They don’t have any evidence against me doing anything dangerous. When I went to Syria I was just a housewife, the entire four years I stayed at home, took care of my husband, took care of my kids. I never did anything. I never made propaganda, I never encouraged people to come to Syria.”

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In a statement released on Friday, Ms Begum’s family in London said her apparent lack of regret for joining Isis should be regarded as the “words of a girl who was groomed at the age of 15”.

They said: “Now we are faced with the situation of knowing that Shamima’s young children have died – children we will never come to know as a family. This is the hardest of news to bear.

“The welfare of Shamima’s unborn child is of paramount concern to our family, and we will do everything within our power to protect that baby who is entirely blameless in these events.”

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