The Family of Shamima Begum Is Appealing the U.K. Government's Decision to Revoke Her Citizenship

Hillary Leung
A solicitor said the decision puts Begum's life at risk and leaves her stateless

The family of a British schoolgirl who married an ISIS fighter in Syria is formally appealing the government’s decision to revoke her U.K. citizenship, the Guardian reports.

Tasnime Akunjee, a solicitor for the family of Shamima Begum, said the revocation violates the European convention on human rights.

“We are arguing the decision is wrong because it renders Shamima Begum stateless, it puts her life at risk, exposes her to inhumane and degrading treatment, and breaches her right to family life,” Akunjee told the Guardian.

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid wrote in a letter to Begum’s family that he believed that because Begum’s parents are Bangladeshi, she would be eligible to apply for citizenship in Bangladesh. But the country’s ministry of foreign affairs has said that there was “no question” of her being allowed into Bangladesh.

Begum fled her London home in February 2015 and escaped to Syria with two other girls from her school after being radicalized online. She was 15 at the time.

She subsequently married a Dutch terrorist fighter and had three children, all of whom have died through illness and malnutrition. Begum told a journalist at a refugee camp in in February that she wanted to return to the U.K. so she could care for her third baby, but that child died in early March at about a month old.

The family’s appeal states that the decision to strip Begum of her citizenship is unfair because hundreds of U.K. citizens who went to I.S. territory have been allowed back into Britain.

“The government has accepted that 400 people have picked up a gun and actively fought for Isis and then been allowed back to Britain,” Akunjee said. “So how can it be proportionate for a 19-year-old girl who had a child not to be allowed to return, when the others have been allowed to return?”

In an interview with Sky News last month, Begum said she “never did anything dangerous” and that she was “just a housewife for the entire four years.” She added, however, that she did not regret joining ISIS.

With the terror group facing defeat at its last remaining stronghold, governments are grappling with whether to permit the return of citizens who went to ISIS-controlled areas and are now hoping to come back.

President Donald Trump tweeted last month that an Alabama woman, Hoda Muthana, will not be allowed to return to the U.S. with her toddler son.