Supreme Court Orders ‘No Regrets’ Jihadi Bride Shamima Begum Cannot Return to UK

Metropolitan Police / AP

Shamima Begum, the teenager who left Britain to join the Islamic State and was subsequently stripped of her UK citizenship after she spoke out about having no regrets about joining the caliphate cannot return to get her citizenship back, the Supreme Court has ruled.

The 21-year-old woman, who went to the Islamic State in Syria aged 15 in 2015 and who married an Islamist fighter in the so-called caliphate had launched a legal challenge against the British government from a prison camp in North Syria, in the hope of getting her UK paper citizenship back.

Britain reacted in revulsion after the so-called Jihadi bride spoke out about her time in the Islamic State, telling a television news crew that seeing the severed head of a non-Muslim in a bin “didn’t faze me at all”. The government caved to pressure and revoked her citizenship on national security grounds.

Begum’s lawyers had argued that she had a right to a fair hearing, and not being able to return to Britain to fight her case impacted on that. The Supreme Court demurred on the point, and ruled that her right to a fair trial did not outrank the rights of Britons to be safe from terrorism.

The President of the Supreme Court in London Justice Robert Reed said of the decision: “The appropriate response to the problem in the present case is for the deprivation hearing to be stayed – or postponed – until Ms. Begum is in a position to play an effective part in it without the safety of the public being compromised… That is not a perfect solution, as it is not known how long it may be before that is possible. But there is no perfect solution to a dilemma of the present kind.”

While Begum made headlines at the time of her departure in 2015, when security footage of her and two other teenage girls walking through a British airport on their way to Turkey, the final stop-off before crossing the border into ISIS-controlled Syria, it wasn’t until 2019 when she reached her height of infamy. Rediscovered in a Syrian Free Democratic Forces prison camp as the Islamic State collapsed, Begum was interviewed by British journalists about her experiences .

Her full and frank admissions about her time in the calpihate sealed her fate, however, as she willingly revealed the extent of her own radical attitudes and even regret that the Islamic State was falling. It was revealed she went to the Islamic State to get married, aged 15, to a Jihadi fighter and tied the knot with Dutch convert Yago Riedijk within ten days of arrival. She subsequently fell pregnant by him three times. While two of her children had already died by the time she was found in the camp, she was heavily pregnant and soon to give birth.

In Feburary 2019, Begum said she wanted to return to the United Kingdom to give birth to her third child, which also subsequiently died in Syria. Speaking to British newspaper The Times, who had got a journalist to the prison camp, Begum said “I don’t regret coming” to the Islamic State and said that she had been “weak” to leave ISIS as it collapsed rather than stay to the bitter end.

Perhaps the most extraordinary attitude of Begum to seeing “a beheaded head in the bin” which had belonged to a captured soldier executed by the Islamists. Noting that the event “didn’t face me at all”, she rationalised the lack of concern for the beheading by saying the man killed had been “an enemy of Islam” and that “I thought only of what he would have done to a Muslim woman if he had the chance.”

Her family defended the comments as an unfair representation of Begum, claiming the jihadi bride had Stockholm syndrome. Some argued she should be allowed to return to Britain to be “rehabilitated”.

The UK Home Secretary of the time Savid Javid ordered Begum’s British citizenship be stripped, arguing due to the laws in her parent’s native Bangladesh she would be eleigible for citizenship there instead. Speaking to media after the decision from her Syrian prison tent, Begum responded to Javid’s decision to say: “I’m a bit shocked… It’s a bit unjust on me and my son.”

Her challenge to overturn that decision — arguing that leaving an individual stateless is illegal under international law — was rejected in 2020. The court found she was “a citizen of Bangladesh by descent”, even though she’d never had a Bangladeshi passport.


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