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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 April 2019

Now Bangladesh washes its hands of Shamima Begum

Foreign ministry in Dhaka rejected that the teenage Londoner could be eligible for automatic citizenship

Shamima Begum left the UK in 2015. EPA
Shamima Begum left the UK in 2015. EPA

The London teen who joined ISIS in on Wednesday faced the prospect of statelessness after Britain revoked her citizenship and Bangladesh, from where her family hails, said it would not take her in.

Shamima Begum travelled to Syria in 2015 aged just 15, but after giving birth in a refugee camp last weekend, she wants to go home.

Now 19, Ms Begum said she was “shocked” at the decision by Britain to revoke her citizenship, a move announced in a letter to her family in Britain, their lawyer said.

It was reported that she could be eligible for automatic citizenship in Bangladesh, where her mother is believed to have been born, but the Foreign Ministry in Dhaka rejected it.

“She is a British citizen by birth and has never applied for dual nationality with Bangladesh,” it said.

“It may also be mentioned that she never visited Bangladesh in the past despite her parental lineage. So there is no question of her being allowed to enter Bangladesh.”

Speaking to the BBC in the refugee camp in eastern Syria, where she arrived after fleeing fighting between the ISIS and US-backed forces, Ms Begum said she was British.

“I have one citizenship and if you take that away from me, I don’t have anything. I don’t think they are allowed to do that,” she said.

Ms Begum earlier told ITV News that Britain’s decision was unjust, but that she might consider applying for citizenship in the Netherlands.

Her husband, an ISIS fighter believed to be held by Kurdish forces in Syria, is Dutch.

“Maybe I can ask for citizenship in Holland,” Ms Begum said. “If he gets sent back to prison in Holland I can just wait for him while he is in prison.”

The Dutch authorities refused to comment but experts said she stood little chance of being accepted because she would have to satisfy a stringent list of requirements.

Her family’s lawyer, Tasnime Akunjee, said he was “considering all legal avenues to challenge” Britain’s decision.

Ms Begum’s fate has stirred controversy since she and two school friends fled east London to join the terror network four years ago.

The case highlights a dilemma facing many European countries, divided over whether to allow fighters and ISIS sympathisers home to face prosecution or bar them over security concerns.

Interior Minister Sajid Javid told MPs on Wednesday that revoking citizenship was “a powerful tool” not used lightly.

“But when someone turns their back on our fundamental values and supports terror, they don’t have an automatic right to return to the UK,” Mr Javid said.

He has said that more than 100 people have been deprived of their British citizenship.

Mr Javid said on Wednesday that international law meant Britain could only do this if it did not leave the person stateless, if they were dual nationals or “in some limited circumstances they have the right to citizenship elsewhere”.

He hinted that Ms Begum’s newborn son – her third child, after a another son and a daughter who recently died – could be treated differently.

“Children should not suffer so if a parent does lose their British citizenship it does not affect the rights of their child,” Mr Javid said.

Ms Begum appealed to British authorities to show compassion by allowing her to raise the baby in Britain.

But she inflamed public opinion by saying in her first interview with The Times last week that she had no regrets about joining ISIS.

In her latest BBC interview, Ms Begum expressed more remorse.

“I was hoping Britain would understand I made a mistake, a very big mistake, because I was young and naive,” she said.

Ms Begum was born in Britain, has never had a Bangladeshi passport and is not a dual citizen, Mr Akunjee said.

But the BBC reported she might have automatic right to Bangladeshi citizenship until she is 21, through a parent.

Updated: February 21, 2019 03:01 AM

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