Shamima Begum loses British citizenship in landmark test case

Shamima Begum
Maryam Jameela

Shamima Begum has failed to restore her British citizenship after the Supreme Court ruling that she’d lost her case.

21-year-old Begum was infamously groomed as a 15-year-old child. She was a minor when she entered Syria and also when she married an ISIS fighter. All three of her children have since died.

Begum was born in the UK. The government has cited her Bangladeshi heritage as proof of her claim to statehood in Bangladesh. However, Bangladesh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has refused entry and citizenship for Begum.

Begum hasn’t been allowed to return to the UK over the course of the trial. According to the Guardian:

Lord Pannick QC, representing Begum, said [he] was unable to put her side of the case properly from al-Roj detention camp where she is held. He told the court she would be at risk of physical harm if she spoke by mobile phone to her British lawyers.

This latest ruling has sparked concerns of civil liberty and human rights.

Threat to democracy

The Canary reached out for comment to civil rights organisation Liberty. Liberty lawyer Rosie Brighouse said:

The right to a fair trial is not something democratic Governments should take away on a whim, and nor is someone’s British citizenship. If a Government is allowed to wield extreme powers like banishment without the basic safeguards of a fair trial it sets an extremely dangerous precedent.

The threat to democracy is apparent in this case, as Brighouse continued:

The security services have safely managed the returns of hundreds of people from Syria, but the Government has chosen to target Shamima Begum. This approach does not serve justice, it’s a cynical distraction from a failed counter-terror strategy and another example of this Government’s disregard for access to justice and the rule of law.

National security

The Canary also spoke to Muhammad Rabbani, managing director of advocacy organisation CAGE, who said:

The Home Office deliberately circumvents the right to a fair trial for those exiled and stripped of their citizenship by only doing so when they are not in the country. National security is used as a ruse to suspend long established legal norms.

Rabbani pointed to politically motivated decisions as the reason for Begum’s treatment:

The Supreme Court has not only upheld the Home Office’s politically motivated decision to deny a girl who was groomed as a child the right to return home but has provided cover for the deeply racist citizenship deprivation policy, and failed to address how the secret SIAC [Special Immigration Appeals Commission] fundamentally upend any semblance of a fair trial.

Concerns for the future

Several commenters also considered the implications of the case:

Labour councillor Shaista Aziz asked who was responsible for Begum:

Others drew comparisons to cases that didn’t see defendants stripped of citizenship.

Precedent

Stripping Begum’s citizenship is yet another sign that Britain won’t allow international condemnation to stop it from behaving callously. If some people – in this case UK-born citizens with dual citizenship – can have their citizenship revoked, ‘citizenship’ itself is under attack.

Conditional citizenship for some is conditional citizenship for all.

We should all be gravely concerned.

Featured image via PA

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  • Show Comments
    1. She commited treason. Period. Let her rot in her own consequences.
      I bet if I’d gone over to Dombass to fight for Russia, for example, I wouldn’t have got this kind of bleeding heart liberal sympathy when I was stripped of my citizenship. Being a white man.

      1. I doubt you have any idea what treason is, or how a 15 year old girl would meet that description. And it’s Donbass, and the people there in Eastern Ukraine are not “fighting for Russia”, but against literal fascists who revere Stepan Bandera the Ukrainian Nazi puppet.

          1. What on earth _could_ ‘your own country’ as a notion even mean? Aristocrats and businessmen own everything; the nature of what we have in place of democracy is decided by them and obscured in its workings by them. Doing the right thing if you find yourself in possession of a healthy consciousness towards what is deliberately hidden will often involve siding with countries other than the one we find ourself living in, because our true kin are there and not the ones calling for a war or an air strike or failing to assert sanctions.

            I don’t know anyone who talks in your terms who isn’t a racist obsessed with sport, with the two creating a feedback loop. They talk of being ‘proud’ of ‘their country’ because they have no talents or achievements and their own deeds are nothing to be proud of.

            Going to Syria isn’t in itself an act against the country Shamima had grown up in and though she had made a serious mistake, as a victim of grooming, I don’t blame her for the aspects of her mindset that will have contributed to making her prone to being groomed. England is vile, absolutely vile, and it has come out of its closet totally in the last few years if anyone had any doubts. I despise England and I am what you would call a white English man, for the sake of filling out forms written by people who understand nothing. I have a small amount of pride for a couple of things I’ve achieved despite being a victim of institutional abuse at several points of my life – a victim of the English (not the British) state. But I will do whatever I can for the rest of my life to play a part in destroying what of the English state I know to be against us and I’ll side with anyone like Osime Brown or Shamima Begum whose fate has been decided by people deserving of being called perverts.

            I hope one day you get a few shocks to show you how misplaced your allegiances are. You really need it.

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