Shamima Begum ‘does not have to be a bomber to be a threat’ to Britain: Home Office lawyer suggests ‘brainwashed’ jihadi bride’s ‘prolonged exposure’ to horrors of ISIS is an ‘almighty problem’ – as she fights to win back citizenship
- Shamima Begum fled the UK for ISIS-controlled territory when she was 15
- Her British citizenship was revoked after she was found in a refugee camp
- She is challenging the Home Office over decision to remove her UK citizenship
- Her lawyers argue that the jihadi bride was ‘brainwashed’ by the Islamic State
- The Home Office says ‘brainwashed’ people can still be national security threats
Ms Begum fled to territory controlled by the so-called Islamic State terror group when she was 15.
The Government revoked her British citizenship was revoked on national security grounds shortly after she was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019.
Lawyers for Ms Begum, now 23, are challenging the Home Office at the Special Immigration Appeals Tribunal (SIAC) over the decision to remove her British citizenship.
Sir James Eadie KC, for the Home Office, today said that people trafficked to Syria and ‘brainwashed’ can still be threats to national security. Ms Begum’s lawyers argue that the jihadi bride was ‘recruited, transported, transferred, harboured and received in Syria for the purposes of ‘sexual exploitation’ and ‘marriage’ to an adult male’.
‘You can be trafficked in the most ghastly, unacceptable way, exposed in the most unacceptable way, desensitised in the most unacceptable way and yet unfortunately… still be a security threat,’ Sir James said.
‘No one disputes that it is entirely possible for a person to have been trafficked or manipulated or brainwashed or similar and yet be the most serious danger to the public. A threat to national security means someone who poses a threat to the public.’
Shamima Begum was 15 in 2015 when she fled the UK to join IS in Syria and become a jihadi bride
The mother of Shamima Begum (pictured at the Al-Roj refugee camp in Syria last year) has said she hopes her daughter will be allowed to return to the UK
Shamima Begum’s mother speaks for first time since her daughter fled to Syria aged 15
In her first words since her daughter fled in 2015, Asma Begum said she worried about her youngest child’s plight ‘almost every hour of every day’ and still hoped for her to be allowed to return to Britain.
Mrs Begum has never spoken publicly about the then 15-year old’s decision to travel to Syria, where she married an IS recruit and had three children, all of whom later died.
But extracts of her witness statement were read at a hearing of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, where lawyers for Miss Begum are challenging the decision to revoke her British citizenship.
In the statement, Mrs Begum, a mother-of-four, described how her daughter’s school blazer was still hanging on a door at the family’s home in Bethnal Green, east London, where they have celebrated her birthday each year while she has been in Syria.
SIAC has heard that, according to the security services, people who travelled to Syria to align with IS ‘were likely to have been radicalised, to have contributed to the continuance of Isil as an entity and may have received military training, fought with Isil or taken part in terrorist attacks’.
‘They were exposed to routine acts of extreme violence, which would be likely to have had the effect of desensitising individuals and encouraging them to view violent terrorist activity as an ‘acceptable and legitimate course of action’,’ the court was told in written submissions.
Sir James today said that Ms Begum was exposed to four years in IS-controlled territory prior to the removal of her British citizenship in 2019.
He later referenced statements Ms Begum made to the media, including in an interview where she said she was not ‘fazed’ about seeing a head in a bin, and added: ‘If you have been exposed for prolonged periods there is an almighty problem.’
The barrister also said the security services have identified several potential risks from people who have returned to the UK from IS-controlled territory, including being involved in the planning or execution of terror attacks.
‘Simply providing support, couriering, providing funds and logistical support… They do not have to be bombers themselves,’ Sir James added.
Sir James previously said then-home secretary Sajid Javid was aware of Ms Begum’s ‘age and circumstances of her travel to Syria’ when he made the decision to deprive her of her British citizenship.
The barrister later said Ms Begum travelled to Syria ‘with her eyes open’ about the brutality of IS.
He said: ‘She travelled for the purpose of aligning with Isil and once in Syria she did align with Isil.
‘The assessment is that she did that with her eyes open. The ideology of Isil and their uncompromising brutality had been widely covered in the media.’
Begum (centre) was one of three UK teenagers at Bethnal Green Academy who travelled to join ISIS in February 2015, with Kadira Sultana (left), 16, and Amira Abase (right), 15. Sultana is believed to have died in an airstrike in May 2016 while Abase’s whereabouts are unknown
Ms Begum’s lawyers argued she was ‘persuaded, influenced and affected with her friends by a determined and effective Isis propaganda machine’.
Samantha Knights KC continued in written submissions: ‘What evidence is available shows that rather than viewing the appellant as a victim, a child that was manipulated and exploited, the Home Secretary proceeded on the basis that she acted ‘voluntarily’ in travelling to Syria and aligning with Isis.’
The hearing in London, before Mr Justice Jay, is due to finish tomorrow, with a decision expected in writing at a later date.