In 2015, 15-year-old British citizen Shamima Begum ran away from her life in Bethnal Green, London, with two other classmates to join so-called Islamic State (IS). This month a British reporter from The Times found her at a Syrian refugee camp after fleeing war-torn Baghuz. She’s now 19 and has made a plea to the British government to help her return home so she can bring up her newborn baby in a safe country. Yet she seems to have no regrets for what she’s done.
After claiming in a Times interview she was ‘not fazed’ by ‘severed heads’ in bins, some of the British public deemed her a terrorist sympathiser. However, while she has promoted terrorism, she is primarily a victim of it.
It’s harsh to condone someone for the choices they’ve made after being groomed at such a young age by terrorists. She didn’t indoctrinate and make herself think to leave her family and marry a terrorist soldier. IS did that to her. Ms Begum and her family were let down by the British government when it failed to educate and protect the potential victims of terrorist recruiters.
Donald Trump has called for the UK to allow her to return so we can put her on trial. UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid has other ideas. He’s decided to revoke her British citizenship. As her parents are both from Bangladesh, she can technically apply for Bangladeshi nationality so as not to become a stateless person. In this way Javid’s act abides by international law.
But even though she is now not a British citizen, it’s unclear whether or not her son is. The law is hazy. Javid has even proposed making changes to the 650-year-old treason law so the government can prosecute jihadi fighters returning to Britain.
But what many have not considered is the fault of the IS recruiter and the UK government’s failure to protect the community she lived in. The government should rehabilitate Ms Begum. It needs to protect and nurture her mental health, which must have suffered from experiencing such atrocities.
Unfortunately for Ms Begum’s safety, her image has been plastered all over the media. Some may say this could determine her fate prematurely if she were to appeal and be allowed back in the UK. But this shouldn’t scare us. The most powerful tool that we have is education. Although it failed Ms Begum, we have to hope it won’t do so again.
Security minister Ben Wallace said, ‘I’m not putting at risk British people’s lives to go and look for terrorists or former terrorists in a failed state.’ But again this statement ignores the fact it’s the government’s fault she left to join so-called Islamic State. Britain’s failure to educate and protect Ms Begum from terrorist ideologies is the root of the problem. We can’t forget Shamima Begum is a victim of terrorism. We must find compassion to help her and her family. Denying her entry into the country, or threatening her with prosecution will not solve the source of the problem.
We need to offer her and her newborn son aid to prove ourselves as a humanitarian country. We cannot pride ourselves on being a nation that protects our people if we abandon victims like Ms Begum.