Shamima Begum, the British-born woman who left the country as a teenager to join the Islamic State group in Syria, on Tuesday launched an appeal against the UK government’s move to revoke her citizenship on security grounds and prevent her from returning to London.
Begum, who was 15 years old when she secretly fled her home in east London in 2015 to join the terrorist group in Syria, is living in a camp run by Kurdish forces in northern Syria.
Now aged 20, she is fighting a legal battle to return to
the UK and her appeal is being heard at the Special Immigration Appeals
Commission (SIAC) this week. High Court judge Elisabeth Laing is expected to
consider whether depriving Begum of her UK citizenship rendered her
Under UK law, a person can legally have their citizenship revoked but they cannot be made stateless. The UK government maintains that Begum has access to Bangladeshi dual citizenship through her parents, even though the Bangladesh government has since denied any such rights.
The lawyer representing her on behalf of her family, Tasnime Akunjee, said the arguments for Begum’s appeal will centre around her being a rape victim of her militant husband.
“She was married in an ISIS ceremony within two weeks of reaching Syria to a 23-year-old fighter. Her context is as a rape victim, or a statutory rape victim,” he said.
Begum became known as a so-called ISIS bride because she was married to Yago Riedijk, a Dutch ISIS fighter, soon after arriving in Syria.
During a four-day preliminary hearing that gets underway this week, the court will also be asked to consider Begum being allowed to return to the UK from Syria to give evidence. Her legal team will argue the case cannot be heard without her.
Anyone appealing to SIAC, a special immigration court, usually remains anonymous, but Begum has reportedly waived her right to anonymity.
A heavily pregnant Begum had been discovered at a Syrian detention camp in February this year and Sajid Javid, then UK home secretary, acted within days to strip her of her British citizenship. Last month, his successor as the home secretary, Priti Patel, also backed that decision and ruled out the prospect of Begum’s return to the UK.