The Bangladeshi father of a now stateless woman stuck in a Syrian refugee camp, after she joined the Islamic State group as a teen, welcomed a British court’s ruling that she could return to fight for her U.K. citizenship, which was revoked on national security grounds.
Shamima Begum was 15 when she traveled to Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate, along with two friends in 2015. While there, she married a Dutch fighter with IS and converted to Islam.
“I am pleased with the court’s decision. My daughter will face trial if she committed the offenses, I have nothing to say about that,” her father, Ahmed Ali, told BenarNews by phone on Thursday from his home in Sunamganj, a district in northeastern Bangladesh, as he reacted to a decision by the Court of Appeal in England earlier in the day.
“I think she deserves the legal right to defend herself in the court.”
Ali said he wanted to travel to the England to support his daughter.
“I will fly to London if I get a ticket,” he said, adding that tickets were scarce.
“My daughter made a mistake. Correction of such a mistake is very difficult. Which parents want their children to go the wrong way?” he said.
Ali, a Bangladeshi, first went to London in 1975.
“I have not taken British citizenship due to my family problem. I live both in London and Bangladesh and my wife is a British national,” he said.
Shamima Begum, who was born in Britain, ended up in a refugee camp in Syria following the March 2019 collapse of IS by U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.
Earlier this year, the Special Immigration Appeal Commission (SIAC) ruled that the British government’s decision last year to revoke Begum’s citizenship was lawful.
On Thursday in London, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal agreed unanimously that she be permitted to return so her appeal would be fair.
“The Court acknowledges that there are national security concerns about Ms. Begum but the Court reaches the conclusion … that, notwithstanding those concerns, the only way in which she can have a fair and effective appeal before SIAC is for Ms. Begum to be permitted to come into the U.K. to pursue that appeal,” the court said in its six-page ruling.
Begum’s case came to light last year through an interview she gave to BBC News from a Syrian refugee camp.
In the TV interview, Begum, then 19, pleaded to British authorities to allow her to return to the country of her birth. But she was criticized for making comments during the interview, where she seemed to justify an IS-linked suicide bombing that killed 23 people at a concert hall in Manchester in May 2017.
After the BBC interview, Britain’s Home Office announced that it was stripping Begum of her citizenship and barring her from returning to the country.
Meanwhile on Thursday, Bangladesh government officials said Begum was not welcome in their country.
“Shamima has never been a Bangladeshi citizen. Her mother is a British national. We have nothing to say about Shamima and her family,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told BenarNews.
“But what I can assure you is that she would not be allowed to enter Bangladesh. Even if she comes to Bangladesh, she would face a terrorism charge under the anti-terrorism law because she is an IS militant,” he said.
Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen agreed that Bangladesh should not allow Begum to enter the country.
Bangladesh’s former law minister, on the other hand, made a case for her being welcomed in.
Shafique Ahmed, a member of the ruling Awami League who served as the law minister, said Begum would be eligible for Bangladeshi citizenship because of her father.
“Bangladesh does not revoke the Bangladeshi citizenship if any of its nationals accepts British citizenship,” he told BenarNews.
“The British laws do not allow a person to be stateless. Shamima should be tried for her offense, but this is unacceptable that a country would cancel its citizenship of a person and ask them to adopt citizenship of another country,” Ahmed said.