Why is Shamima Begum’s citizenship up for debate?

Shamima Begum, born in the UK, left to join the Islamic State group in Syria back in 2015. She was groomed and a victim to child marriage aged just 15. A traumatising four years followed for the teenager, who lost two children whilst under the control of her husband. She eventually left her Dutch partner and ISIS, finding refuge in a Syrian camp. In response to her plea for a safe return to the UK, she was stripped of her citizenship by Sajid Javid, then Home Secretary, “for the public good.” This reckless act rendered her stateless and is illegal under international law, yet it was justified due to her Bangladeshi heritage. Despite her never possessing a Bangladeshi passport and being refused entry into Bangladesh, the UK government proceeded to abscond from their responsibilities. 

Last July, the Court of Appeal ruled that Shamima Begum should be allowed to return to the UK to fight for her citizenship, from London. The Home Office appealed this decision to the Supreme Court, which unanimously ruled against her return today. This ruling is immoral and unjust even if Shamima’s actions do fall criminal under anti-terrorist laws. Potential criminal behaviour does not rationalize leaving a person stateless- all beings deserve this basic human right. 

Anyone with the slightest hint of British heritage is quickly claimed if they exhibit sporting prowess or are a critically acclaimed entertainer, yet here a fully-fledged British national has been thrown into no man’s land. This nation continues to shamelessly distance itself from the ugly symptoms of its racial injustice and Islamophobic foundations. The case of Shamima Begum further proves that Britishness is conditional for Black and Brown folk. Those wanting to have a productive conversation on race relations and anti-terrorism need to ask how we prevent undervalued people from turning to extremism, focusing on rehabilitation rather than mere retribution. Cracking down hard and revoking citizenship is truly lazy, Shamima Begum deserves to be treated as the British citizen she is. 

Featured image via BBC.