Jihadi bride Shamima Begum has lost her appeal against a U.K. Home Office decision to revoke her British citizenship on the grounds of national security.
The Special Immigration Appeals Commission had been asked to consider the legality of the move taken by the British government and then Home Secretary Sajid Javid back in 2019, and announced in its judgment delivered on Wednesday it is for politicians and not the judiciary to rule whether an individual poses a national security threat.
Born and raised in East London, Begum along with two other school girls, left Britain in 2015 at the age of 15 and fled to Syria to join the Islamic State. She married a Dutch convert just days after arriving at the Islamic caliphate and subsequently had three children, all of whom have since died.
Following the fall of the Islamic State, Begum pleaded with the British government to allow her to return home, commencing a charm offensive in which she ditched her traditional Islamic clothing for Western fashion, donning jeans and a baseball cap in interviews with Western broadcasters.
Begum was stripped of her British citizenship in February 2019 by then Home Secretary Sajid Javid who told lawmakers at the time of the decision, “If you did know what I knew, because you are sensible, responsible people, you would have made exactly the same decision – of that I have no doubt.”
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The jihadi bride has been exiled in Syria since the UK Home Office revoked her British citizenship in 2019
The U.K. government’s right to revoke Begum’s citizenship was contested and heard by the U.K. Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the government in February 2021.
Begum has resided at the al-Roj camp in northern Syria, run by the Syrian Democratic Forces, since fleeing the jihadi terror group.
Mr. Justice Jay explained that the commission “fully recognized the considerable force in the submissions advanced on behalf of Ms. Begum that the Secretary of State’s conclusion, on expert advice, that Ms. Begum traveled voluntarily to Syria is as stark as it is unsympathetic.
“If asked to evaluate all the circumstances of Ms. Begum’s case, reasonable people with knowledge of all the relevant evidence will differ, in particular in relation to the issue of the extent to which her travel to Syria was voluntary and the weight to be given to that factor in the context of all others.
“Likewise, reasonable people will differ as to the threat she posed in February 2019 to the national security of the United Kingdom, and as to how that threat should be balanced against all countervailing considerations.
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“However, under our constitutional settlement these sensitive issues are for the Secretary of State to evaluate and not for the commission,” Mr. Justice Jay added.
The commission concluded there had been a “credible suspicion that Ms. Begum had been trafficked to Syria,” but held that this “did not compel the Secretary of State to facilitate her return to the United Kingdom, nor did it prevent him from exercising his deprivation powers.”
Begum will now remain in the Syrian refugee camp while her lawyers attempt to find a way to challenge the commission’s decision.
Commenting on the judgment, a Home Office spokesperson said: “We are pleased that the court has found in favor of the government’s position in this case.
“The government’s priority remains maintaining the safety and security of the U.K. and we will robustly defend any decision made in doing so.”