‘ISIL bride’ Shamima Begum says she might seek Dutch citizenship

Shamima Begum, one of the three British schoolgirls who left the UK to live in ISIL’s so-called “caliphate”, has said she will try to seek Dutch citizenship after being told the Home Office had issued an order to revoke her citizenship.

“I don’t know what to say,” Begum, who ran away when she was 15 to live under ISIL, told ITV News on Wednesday.

“I am not that shocked but I am a bit shocked. It’s a bit upsetting and frustrating. I feel like it’s a bit unjust on me and my son”.

The UK’s home secretary, Sajid Javid, wrote to her family on Tuesday informing them that he had made an order revoking her citizenship.

Citing government sources, the BBC reported that it was possible to strip the 19-year-old of her UK nationality as she was “eligible for citizenship” of another country.

However, according to reports, while Begum is believed to be of Bangladeshi heritage, she does not have the Asian country’s passport and has never visited there.

International law forbids countries from making people stateless by revoking their only citizenship.

‘I can just wait for him while he is in prison’

When shown the letter by ITV, Begum said: “It’s kind of heart-breaking to read. My family made it sound like it would be a lot easier for me to come back to the UK when I was speaking to them in Baghouz. It’s kind of hard to swallow.

“I heard that other people are being sent back to Britain, so I don’t know why my case is any different to other people, or is it just because I was on the news four years ago?” she said.

“Another option I might try with my family is my husband is from Holland and he has family in Holland. Maybe I can ask for citizenship in Holland. If he gets sent back to prison in Holland I can just wait for him while he is in prison.”

After arriving in Raqqa in 2015, Begum then aged 15, married to Dutch fighter Yago Riedijk, 12 years her senior. 

Her husband recently surrendered to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as they closed in on Baghuz, a small, remote village in Deir Az Zor province which is the last sliver of territory controlled by ISIL. His fate has since been unclear.

After giving birth this week in a Syrian refugee camp, Begum had said she wanted to return to the UK for the sake of her newborn.

She had previously given birth to two other children, but both died during her time in Syria.

“I’m a 19-year-old girl with a newborn baby,” she told ITV in an earlier interview.

“I don’t know how I would be seen as a danger. I’m not going to go back and provoke people to go to ISIS or anything, if anything I’m going to encourage them not to go because it’s not all as it seems in their videos.”

‘Unfair system’

Amal De Chickera, the codirector of the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, said the baby’s citizenship “was also under a cloud”, saying this was “an additional concern”.

“The UK is following a trend across the world of giving itself the power to strip citizens of their citizenship,” he told Al Jazeera.

“Under the UK’s current legal framework, most of the options will now be down to her lawyer. The challenge, however, is that since she is not in the country that raises a number of questions about the arbitrariness of the decision, her access to justice and due process. It’s an unfair system balanced against her.

“The prospects are not looking great.”

Shiraz Maher, a leading academic and director at the International Centre for Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London, also railed against the government’s decision to revoke her citizenship, calling it “racist”.

“I think it’s a very dangerous decision, it does create this perception that there is a two-tier system and a system that’s frankly racist,” Maher told BBC’s Newsnight.

“And this is the perception that occurring in Muslim communities across the country. It’s a dangerous situation the Home Secretary has created,” Maher added.

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