Shamima Begum, the former schoolgirl who travelled to Daesh*-controlled territory in Syria when she was 15 years old, has lost the first stage of her citizenship stripping case at the Special Immigration and Appeals Commission (SIAC). SIAC hears national security related cases (often in closed courts and with secret evidence) and those that relate to depravation of citizenship (also known as de-nationalisation).
Begum left the country with two other 15 year old friends, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana, the latter of which was reportedly killed in an airstrike in 2016. All three girls attended Bethnal Green Academy in East London before traveling to join the Islamist terrorist group in February 2015.
Born and raised in the UK as a British citizen Begum is of Bangladeshi ancestry, though it is disputed whether she holds citizenship from the country. In February 2019 then Home Secretary Sajid Javid stripped Begum of her citizenship, using powers granted to him by parliament.
Under international law it is illegal for a state to make anybody stateless and her lawyers have argued that that is what has happened. But SIAC rejected the argument that Begum has been made stateless saying that the 20-year-old can travel to Bangladesh. The court did recognise that the process of citizenship stripping was not fair given her inability to properly challenge the decision.
“We accept that, in her current circumstances, [Begum] cannot play any meaningful part in her appeal and to that extent, the appeal will not be fair and effective”, the SIAC judgment says according to The Guardian.
But the judges went on to say that the power used was nonetheless legal because parliament had explicitly made it so.
SIAC’s judgement said that Begum effectively holds, or is otherwise entitled to, Bangladeshi citizenship by way of her ancestry. Bangladesh does not permit its citizens to hold dual citizenship and Bangladeshi law requires a person to apply to retain any citizenship (that they may hold by ancestry), by the age of 21 or they will lose it.
Tasnime Akunjee, Begum's lawyer, said that, "This is a judgment on preliminary matters, given its content and reasoning an appeal against the decision is being formulated presently".
In 2019 the Bangladeshi Foreign Minister said that Begum would not be permitted into the country and her lawyers have claimed she is at risk of “death, inhuman or degrading treatment” if she is forced to go to Bangladesh or if she is forced to remain in Syria in.
The Home Office has refused to comment on the decision other than to express their pleasure over it given Began may appeal SIAC's decision.
*Daesh, also known as ISIS/IS/Islamic State, is banned in Russia and many other countries as a terrorist organisation.
** This article was amended to correct the spelling of Shamima Begum's name towards the end of the article on 14 December 2020.