Shamima Begum: Ex-Bethnal Green schoolgirl’s citizenship appeal is underway
Shamima Begum is challenging the Home Office’s decision to remove her British citizenship and now faces a five-day hearing at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) in London.
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The latest hearing in Shamima Begum’s appeal against the removal of her UK citizenship has begun.
The former Bethnal Green student ran away from home at 15, along with two fellow students to join the so-called Islamic State group in February 2015.
In February 2019, Ms Begum was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp.
Her British citizenship was revoked on national security grounds shortly afterwards.
In July 2020, the Court of Appeal ruled that “the only way in which she can have a fair and effective appeal is to be permitted to come into the United Kingdom to pursue her appeal”.
The Home Office challenged the decision at the Supreme Court four months later.
The Supreme Court ruled in February 2021 that Ms Begum should not be granted leave to enter the UK to pursue her appeal.
Ms Begum is challenging the Home Office’s decision to remove her British citizenship and now faces a five-day hearing at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) in London in the latest stage of her legal bid.
She’s set to base her appeal on claims that she was a victim of child trafficking because she was allegedly smuggled into Syria by a Canadian spy.
Her appeal hearing started on Monday November 21 at 10.30am.
Who is Shamima Begum?
Shamima Begum is a British born woman, who left the UK in 2015 aged 15.
She travelled to Syria to join the so-called Islamic State group, with Amira Abase, also 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16, fellow pupils at Bethnal Green Academy, east London.
At the time, the extremist Islamist group was at the peak of its powers and controlled an area roughly the size of the Republic of Ireland across both Syria and Iraq.
Ten days after arriving in Syria, Begum married Dutch-born Yago Riedijk, a convert to Islam who had arrived in Syria in October 2014.
She gave birth to three children, all of whom died young; her youngest child was born in a refugee camp in February 2019 and, by March 2019, had died of a lung infection.
A book published in August 2022 named Secret History of the Five Eyes claimed that she was helped by Canadian intelligence to cross the border into Syria and that Canadian intelligence asked British authorities to cover up their role.
Fight to retrieve her British citizenship
In February 2019, Sajid Javid, the then Home Secretary, revoked her British citizenship on the basis that Ms Begum’s return would present a risk to national security.
He later stated that she would never be allowed to return to the UK.
Ms Begum has denied involvement in any terror activities when she was living in Islamic State’s former heartland.
The UK Supreme Court last year denied her permission to return to the UK to challenge the stripping of her citizenship in person.
She remains imprisoned in a camp in northern Syria.
Her lawyer, Tasnime Akunjee, previously said in a statement that "one of the main arguments will be that when former home secretary Sajid Javid stripped Shamima Begum of her citizenship leaving her in Syria, he did not consider that she was a victim of trafficking".
"The UK has international obligations as to how we view a trafficked person and what culpability we prescribed to them for their actions," Mr Akunjee added.
The other girls who left for Syria with Ms Begum, Ms Sultana and Ms Abase, are believed to be dead.