Shamima Begum, who left the UK at the age of 15 to join the Islamic State is about to lose her UK citizenship. Her family has received a letter from the Home Office saying that: “In light of the circumstances of your daughter, the notice of the Home Secretary’s decision has been served of file today (19 February), and the order removing her British citizenship has subsequently been made.” Following the Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s decision, the family’s lawyer Tasnime Akunjee said they were considering “all legal avenues” to challenge it.
After Begum had left the UK in 2015 for Syria, she re-appeared last week in a refugee camp in the north of the country. At the weekend, she had given birth to a son and expressed the wish to come back to the UK and face criminal charges. She reportedly said that she never wanted to be a “poster girl” for the IS and did not agree with everything they did but also made clear that she does not regret going to Syria. She had left Baghuz which had been one of the last places controlled by the IS but is now close to being evacuated by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance. Her husband, a Dutch convert to Islam, is believed to have surrendered to Syrian fighters around two weeks ago.
According to international law, a person’s citizenship cannot be taken away if that would make this person stateless. Only those eligible for two citizenships may face such a punishment. Shamima Begum is believed to be of Bangladeshi heritage but does not possess any such passport and has never been to the country. This heritage, however, forms the basis on which her citizenship can be revoked.
The Home Secretary’s decision has been met with mixed public reaction with some critics saying that Begum, as a UK citizen should face trial in the UK and be punished according to UK law.
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