Begum verdict emerges from thin arguments of security v humanity

True story of schoolgirl turned Isis member played only a small part in court deliberations
Begum loses first stage of appeal against citizenship removal

Dan Sabbagh Defence and security editor
Fri 7 Feb 2020

THE GUARDIAN

 

Shamima Begum, who is living in a crowded refugee camp in Syria. Photograph: BBC News

Shamima Begum was unable to “play any meaningful part in her appeal”, according to the British court that nevertheless decided her fate, because of the difficulties in communicating with her while she was stranded in a Syrian refugee camp.

The 20-year-old, who fled east London to join Islamic State, was unable to contribute evidence in her own defence, as she was living, her lawyers said, in “squalid” and “wretched” conditions in the crowded al-Roj camp, guarded by Syrian Kurds.

As a result, Begum’s story – and the threat she may or may not pose if she returned to the UK – played only a small part in the largely technical deliberations of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) in a basement courtroom.

Nevertheless, Siac’s decision on Friday – that Begum was not rendered stateless by the previous home secretary Sajid Javid last year – built on the fact that Home Office lawyers had argued she was too dangerous to be allowed to return to the country of her birth.

Aged 15, Begum ran away from home and school in Bethnal Green with two friends, stealing an older sister’s passport to reach Syria as Islamic State emerged from the wreckage of the country’s civil war.

Begum soon married a 23-year-old Isis fighter called Yago Riedijk, from the Dutch city of Arnhem. Over the next three years the couple had two children, both of whom had died, and Begum was nine months pregnant with their third when, last February, she was rediscovered in another refugee camp by a journalist from the Times.

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