Shamima Begum says her "world fell apart" when British citizenship was rejected

16 February 2020, 20:33

Shamima Begum has emerged in a camp in north-east Syria
Shamima Begum has emerged in a camp in north-east Syria. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Shamima Begum has emerged once again in north-east Syria and said her "whole world fell apart" when her British citizenship was rejected.

Begum is now living in al-Roj camp, close to the Iraqi border, with Kimberly Polman, a US/Canadian citizen who joined ISIS.

Their tent is furnished with beds from the UN refugee agency, but their pair have also be able to get hold of extras.

In the corner of the small space is a space heater, and the two women have decorated the walls with heart-shaped fairy lights.

They also have a working TV with satellite and cooking appliances, and knitted cushions with the flags of the countries they travelled from.

Begum told ABC reporter James Longman: "When my citizenship got rejected, I felt like my whole world fell apart right in front of me. You know, especially the way I was told.

Begum will appeal her citizenship being rejected
Begum will appeal her citizenship being rejected. Picture: PA

"I wasn't even told by a government official. I had to be told by journalists.

"I kind of saw it coming because I did do my research just before I came out. I thought I would be a bit different because I had not done anything wrong before I came to ISIS."

ABC reporter James Longman asked about her previous media interviews, in which she appeared to be unrepentant about joining the terror group, saying it made her "tougher and stronger".

She told him: "I had just come into the camp. I had just given birth.

"I was hearing all these stories about women threatening other women, you know, folk uncovering their faces or speaking to men or doing interviews or anything like that.

"I just was afraid for my life."

This is the first time Begum has been pictured without her usual black burqa.

The SDF, who maintain security in the camp, have banned the wearing of them in an effort to de-radicalise the women, according to Telegraph Middle East Correspondent Josie Ensor.

Begum was one of three schoolgirls from Bethnal Green who joined ISIS in 2015
Begum (centre) was one of three schoolgirls from Bethnal Green who joined ISIS in 2015. Picture: PA

Ms Begum, now 20, was one of three east London schoolgirls who travelled to Syria to join so-called Isis in February 2015.

Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, then 16 and 15 respectively, and Ms Begum boarded a flight from Gatwick Airport to Istanbul, Turkey, on February 17 2015, before making their way to Raqqa in Syria.

She had three children - two boys and a girl - whilst in Syria after being married to a Dutch convert shortly after arriving, but all three infants perished.

She was found at the end of her third pregnancy in a Syrian refugee camp in February last year, prompting then home secretary Sajid Javid to strip her of her British citizenship.

Her lawyers argued that the decision was unlawful as it rendered her stateless, and said the move breached the Home Office’s “extraterritorial human rights policy by exposing Ms Begum to a real risk of death or inhuman or degrading treatment”.

But in a ruling last week the tribunal found that, at the time Ms Begum’s British citizenship was revoked, she was “a citizen of Bangladesh by descent” and was therefore not rendered stateless.

The tribunal found that the decision did not breach the Home Office’s policy on the extraterritorial application of human rights.

Begum's lawyer has said she will appeal against the ruling.