Jarrah was born a British citizen and our country did nothing to ensure his welfare

His mother should have been brought home to face British justice. Her son would have had the protection and the support that a civilised country provides for all its children

Anna Soubry
Saturday 09 March 2019 17:10
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Shamima Begum: 'I would like them to re-evaluate my case with a bit more mercy'

The death of Shamima Begum’s baby should be a moment for national reflection.

The home secretary, Savid Javid, who holds one of the most important offices of state, caved in to the hostility from the usual noisy quarters and stripped her of British citizenship. Within a few weeks of that decision, Shamima’s baby died in a refugee camp. This sad state of affairs speaks loudly about the sorry state of British politics.

Reasoned, considered debate, based on evidence and well-established values, has been all but lost. In its place is the “dog whistle” response, intended to polish political credentials with whichever faction will enhance your own career.

Radicalised in Britain, the country of her birth, Shamima Begum and two other friends left their families and flew out to join Isis. Begum was 15 when she ran away from home and went overseas. British law is very clear: anyone under the age of 16 is a child. Children lack the maturity to make important decisions – we deem them vulnerable and the state has a strict duty of care. Given she was off to join one of the most brutal and ruthless terrorist groups the world had ever seen, her actions should have caused great alarm.

Three years and three dead children later, Shamima wanted to come home. In interviews before and after giving birth to baby Jarrah, Shamima spoke to journalists, no doubt without any thought as to how her words would be received. Barely a soul had a scrap of sympathy for her situation and I’d include myself in that.

But instead of a mature debate about how and especially where members of Isis are brought to justice, and how we should deal with so-called “jihadi brides” and their children who want to return to the UK, the knee jerk reaction prevailed. Begum should be left to stew in her own mess, people said. Informed discussion of her right to keep her British citizenship, the implications of removing it, the status of her child and Britain’s duty to him was lost among the clamour of irrational and unreasonable voices.

As a result, Shamima lost her citizenship and her baby’s future was ignored.

When the matter was raised in the House of Commons, Sajid Javid refused even to name Shamima Begum, saying, “I cannot comment on individual cases”. Well, he will have to now.

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Jarrah was born a British citizen and our country did nothing to ensure his welfare. His mother should have been brought home to face British justice, to be properly questioned as to how she became radicalised, and what support she gave to Isis’s barbaric campaign. Her son would have had the protection and the support that a civilised country provides for all its children.

Instead of playing to the gallery, political leaders should show leadership. They fail to be mature, to explain intricate dilemmas, to make difficult arguments and to act with compassion – values we used to recognise and exercise in our country.

Let’s hope some good comes out of baby Jarrah’s death. Restoring his mother’s British citizenship would be a good place to start.

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