Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 15 November 2019

ISIS teen 'a bit shocked' after UK revokes her citizenship

Meanwhile, the US government is blocking former Alabama resident Hoda Muthana from coming home

In this file photo taken on February 22, 2015 Renu Begum, eldest sister of British girl Shamima Begum, holds a picture of her sister who left the UK to join ISIS. AFP
In this file photo taken on February 22, 2015 Renu Begum, eldest sister of British girl Shamima Begum, holds a picture of her sister who left the UK to join ISIS. AFP

A legal battle is looming over the British government’s decision to revoke the citizenship of Shamima Begum, the London teen who travelled to Syria to join ISIS but is now seeking permission to return.

Tasnime Akunjee, the lawyer for her family, said Ms Begum’s relatives were “considering all legal avenues to challenge this decision”.

Any challenge is likely to take time and she would probably have to stay in northern Syria for at least two years, a former independent reviewer of UK terrorism laws, Alex Carlile, told the BBC.

Ms Begum's mother received a letter on Tuesday telling the family that the Home Secretary had decided to strip her daughter's citizenship.

She was told she had 28 days to appeal against the decision to an immigration court.

Ms Begum, who gave birth to a baby boy on Monday, said she was “a bit shocked” and suggested she might seek the nationality of her husband, an ISIS fighter from the Netherlands.

Yago Riedijk reportedly surrendered to SDF allies two weeks ago.

“It's a bit upsetting and frustrating. I feel like it's a bit unjust to me and my son,” Ms Begum told ITV News.

"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.

"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."

Ms Begum ran away to Syria with two friends in 2015. One of the other girls is reportedly dead, while the other was last heard of in a dwindling pocket of ISIS territory, Ms Begum said.

The UK introduced laws in 2014 that allowed it to revoke the citizenship of anyone suspected of “conduct seriously prejudicial to vital interests of the UK”.

"Most people stripped of their citizenship under the provision concerned have not been convicted of a crime," Prof Matthew Gibney, director of the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford, told The National.

"That is one of the advantages of this provision in the law. It allows the Home Secretary to use their discretion to deprive citizenship as effectively an administrative power.

"Certainly, virtually all people who have lost their citizenship while overseas have done so without being convicted of a crime in a UK court.

"The UK has claimed that the power is useful in cases where evidence is hard to gather and when national security issues are at stake."

Middle East Minister Alistair Burt said that nobody could be made stateless. But legislation allows the UK to act if a person could become a national of another country.

Ms Begum could become a Bangladeshi citizen but Mr Akunjee said on Wednesday that the teenager was not a dual citizen and had never had a Bangladeshi passport.

Prime Minister Theresa May told MPs on Wednesday that it was important to make “very clear” that the government would take action against anyone involved in terrorism.

Questions have also been raised about the status of Ms Begum’s son. A report from the Henry Jackson Society found that 156 children are subject to care proceedings for extremism concerns, with 48 per cent of those reviewed having one or more family member joining ISIS.

Nikita Malik, director of the Centre on Radicalisation and Terrorism and the report’s author, warned that the UK’s courts were not ready for what was coming.

“The UK faces a real and imminent prospect of a wave of women from ISIS returning to the UK with babies and children in tow,” Ms Malik said.

“They return to a family courts system that is not up to the task of handling the serious challenges of extremism.”

She said the system required that reform of extremists' children could “remain in the hands of their potentially dangerous parents".

In another ISIS bride’s case, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday closing the door on readmitting Yemeni citizen and former Alabama resident Hoda Muthana to the US.

Mr Pompeo said Ms Muthana, who fled Alabama in 2014 and joined ISIS, “is not a US citizen and will not be admitted".

“She does not have any legal basis, no valid US passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the US,” he said.

Ms Muthana was a student in Alabama and fled the US at age 20 as an ISIS bride. She conceived a child during her stay with the terror group.

Now, she has also been appealing through media outlets to return to the US with her child, and says she “deeply regrets” joining ISIS.

Two hours after Mr Pompeo’s decision, President Donald Trump tweeted that it was per his instructions that Ms Muthana is not to be admitted to the country.

“I have instructed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and he fully agrees, not to allow Hoda Muthana back into the Country!”

The campaign to admit Ms Muthana back into the United States was backed by the Florida branch of the Council on American-Islamic relations (CAIR). It tweeted today that Ms Muthana wants to help in de-radicalisation efforts. CAIR is designated as terrorist organisation by the UAE.

The legal debate on whether Ms Muthana is a US citizen also intensified on Wednesday.

Previous reporting had indicated she is a dual American and Yemeni citizen, but Mr Pompeo’s statement said that she is not. New York Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi, who interviewed Ms Muthana this week, said the ISIS recruit had two US passports, one from her birth and one to flee in 2014.

Her legal team as Ms Callimachi reported now believes the US government is using a loophole to deny her citizenship, and therefore legal rights, because her father was a Yemeni diplomat.

Updated: February 21, 2019 03:06 AM

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