UK Supreme Court to decide whether Shamima Begum can return

Begum was 15 and one of three east London schoolgirls who travelled to Syria in 2015, to live under ISIL’s rule.

In this still taken from CCTV issued by the Metropolitan Pol in London on Feb. 23, 2015, 15-year-old Amira Abase, left, Kadiza Sultana,16, center, and Shamima Begum, 15, walk through Gatwick airport,
In this still taken from security camera footage issued by the Metropolitan Police in London on February 23, 2015, then-15-year-old Amira Abase, left, Kadiza Sultana, 16, centre, and Shamima Begum, 15, walk through Gatwick airport, south of London, before catching their flight to Turkey [Metropolitan Police/AP]

The United Kingdom’s Supreme Court is set to decide whether a woman who ran away from her London home as a child to join the ISIL (ISIS) group in Syria can return to her country.

The British government is fighting to keep Shamima Begum, who left at 15, from coming back to the country where she was born.

At a hearing beginning on Monday, it is challenging a lower court’s ruling that Begum can return to Britain to mount a legal challenge aimed at restoring her UK citizenship, which was revoked on national security grounds.

The Court of Appeal said in July that “the only way in which she can have a fair and effective appeal is to be permitted to come into the United Kingdom”.

But James Eadie, a lawyer acting for the UK government, told the Supreme Court justices that Begum “is considered to pose a real and current threat to national security”.

Begum, now 21, was one of three east London schoolgirls who travelled to Syria in 2015 to live under ISIL’s rule. She says she married an ISIL member from the Netherlands and had three children, all of whom have died.

While Kadiza Sultana, another of the girls, is believed to have been killed in Syria, the fate of a third, Amira Abase, is unknown.

She resurfaced at a refugee camp in Syria in 2019 and told reporters she wanted to come home, but was denied the chance when then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid revoked her citizenship. He argued that she was Bangladeshi by descent and could go there.

The situation has thrown into sharp relief the larger question of how Western societies deal with people who joined ISIL but want to go back to their home countries.

Begum challenged the decision, arguing she is not the citizen of another country and that Javid’s decision left her stateless.

Bangladesh’s state minister for foreign affairs told Al Jazeera Begum would not be accepted in the South Asian nation.

“She is a British citizen,” Shahriar Alam said in 2019. “There is no question of her being a Bangladeshi citizen as she never visited the country.

“The current government of Bangladesh maintains a zero tolerance policy on terrorism.”

The hearing in front of five Supreme Court judges is scheduled to last two days, with the court likely to give its ruling at a later date.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies