UK court hears IS bride teen Shamima appeal for citizenship

Aditi Khanna, London
Published : 21:54, Oct 22, 2019 | Updated : 21:56, Oct 22, 2019

Renu Begum, sister of teenage British girl Shamima Begum, holds a photo of her sister as she makes an appeal for her to return home at Scotland Yard, in London, Britain February 22, 2015. REUTERS/File PhotoLondon-born Islamic State (ISIS) recruit Shamima Begum on Tuesday launched an appeal against the UK government’s revocation of her British citizenship on security grounds.
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 stateless.
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.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam is on record as saying: "She is a British citizen. There is no question of her being a Bangladeshi citizen as she never visited the country.
"The current government of Bangladesh maintains a zero-tolerance policy on terrorism."
The lawyer representing Begum on behalf of her family, Tasnime Akunjee, said the arguments for her 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.
Shamima 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 her return to the UK.
Begum, whose new-born son Jarrah died days after being born from a chest infection, has continued to plead with the UK authorities to allow her to return to her family in the UK.