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  • Shamima Begum, a British citizen and wife of suspected IS Group fighter stripped of her citizenship.

    Shamima Begum, a British citizen and wife of suspected IS Group fighter stripped of her citizenship. | Photo: Reuters

Published 20 February 2019

Shamima Begum, a British teenager and the wife of suspected IS Group fighter, was stripped of her citizenship raising criticisms from various sections of society.

Britain stripped a teenager who traveled abroad to join Islamic State Group of her citizenship on security grounds, triggering a row over the ramifications of leaving a 19-year-old mother with a religious extremist fighter’s child to fend for herself in a war zone.

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The fate of Shamima Begum, who was found in a detention camp in Syria last week, has illustrated the ethical, legal and security conundrum that governments face when dealing with the families of militants who swore to destroy the West.

Britain’s opposition Labour Party said the government’s decision was wrong.

“If the government is proposing to make Shamima Begum stateless it is not just a breach of international human rights law but is a failure to meet our security obligations to the international community,” Diane Abbott, Labour spokeswoman on home issues.

"What you can’t do is leave them in a camp in Syria being even more radicalized... until they disperse themselves through the world and make their way back here,” he said.

She had pleaded to be repatriated back to her family in London and said that she was not a threat.

But ITV News published a Feb. 19 letter from the Interior Ministry to her mother that said Home Secretary Sajid Javid had taken the decision to deprive Begum of her British citizenship.

“In light of the circumstances of your daughter, the notice of the Home Secretary’s decision has been served of file today, and the order removing her British citizenship has subsequently been made,” the letter said.

The letter asked Begum’s mother to inform her daughter of the decision and set out the appeal process.

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“I don’t know what to say,” she told ITV News. “I am not that shocked but I am a bit shocked. It’s a bit upsetting and frustrating. I feel like it’s a bit unjust on me and my son.”

When asked about the decision, a spokesman said Javid’s priority was “the safety and security of Britain and the people who live here”.

Begum was one of three outwardly studious schoolgirls who slipped away from their lives in London’s Bethnal Green area in February 2015 to fly to Turkey and then over the border into the cauldron of the Syrian civil war.

“I heard that other people are being sent back to Britain so I don’t know why my case is any different to other people, or is it just because I was on the news four years ago?” she said.

Her family’s lawyer said he could seek to challenge the British government’s decision to deprive her of citizenship.

“We are considering all legal avenues to challenge this decision,” said lawyer, Tasnime Akunjee.

Akunjee also pointed out that the British government had allowed many to return who were known as IS group fighters but Begum was the housewife of a suspected fighter who is a Dutch citizen. 

“Home office minister Ben Wallace confirmed just last year that an estimated 400 Britons had returned to the UK from the Middle East having fought for groups like Isis. How Javid thinks that it is proportionate to allow such fighters to return whilst assessing it necessary to strip a young woman with a child of her citizenship is beyond me," he said.

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