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Shamima Begum was ‘the author of her own misfortune’: Court of Appeal’s 42-page ruling denying her UK citizenship says she made a ‘calculated’ decision to join ISIS – after her lawyers argued she was a victim of trafficking and was left ‘stateless’


Shamima Begum was the ‘author of her own misfortune’ who made a ‘calculated’ decision to join terrorists in Syria, an appeal judge declared – as the ISIS bride’s battle to regain her British citizenship was dismissed.

Ms Begum ran away from her London home to Syria to join ISIS in 2015 aged 15 and her citizenship was revoked on national security grounds shortly after she was found in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019.

Last year, the 24-year-old lost a challenge against the decision at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), which said the removal of her citizenship was lawful. 

In a last-ditch effort, Ms Begum’s lawyers brought a bid to overturn that ruling at the Court of Appeal, insisting she had been a victim of trafficking’ who had been left ‘stateless’ by the determination. But the Home Office opposed the challenge.

And today, three judges unanimously threw out her appeal. In a 42-page judgment, Lady Chief Justice Baroness Carr said Ms Begum ‘may well have been influenced and manipulated by other’ but that she still made a ‘calculated decision’ to join ISIS.

‘It could be argued the decision in Ms Begum’s case was harsh. It could also be argued that Ms Begum is the author of her own misfortune,’ the judge added.

‘But it is not for this court to agree or disagree with either point of view. Our only task is to assess whether the deprivation decision was unlawful. 

‘We have concluded it was not and the appeal is dismissed.’

ISIS bride Shamima Begum today lost a Court of Appeal challenge over the removal of her British citizenship in the latest chapter in her battle to return home

ISIS bride Shamima Begum today lost a Court of Appeal challenge over the removal of her British citizenship in the latest chapter in her battle to return home

Begum was just 15 years old when she ran away to Syria to join ISIS with two friends from school

Just ten days after arriving she was married to a Dutchman named Yago Riedijk and the couple had three children

Ms Begum has been battling to come back to Britain since 2019 after she was discovered in a Syrian refugee camp

Lady Chief Justice Baroness Carr handing down her judgment in the Court of Appeal today

Lady Chief Justice Baroness Carr handing down her judgment in the Court of Appeal today  

Baroness Carr, sitting with Lord Justice Bean and Lady Justice Whipple, said any arguments over the consequences of the unanimous judgment, including any bid to appeal at the Supreme Court, will be adjourned for seven days.

The decision came as Ms Begum’s lawyers today vowed to ‘keep fighting’ until she is ‘safely back home’ after the court heard she had been a victim of trafficking.  

Speaking outside the Royal Courts of Justice after today’s short hearing, her representatives said they were processing the judgment, but her solicitor Daniel Furner insisted they would ‘not stop fighting’. 

The jihadi bride’s legal team could now ask permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, and if this fails they could seek to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. 

However, today’s decision was hailed by Tory MPs including Robert Jenrick, who said ‘national security comes first’ and ‘people who hate our country, threaten it, associate with those who murder our citizens’ should not be allowed to return. 

Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary who took the decision to deprive Ms Begum of her British citizenship, today greeted the judges’ ruling.  

‘I welcome today’s court ruling, which has again upheld my decision to remove an individual’s citizenship on national security grounds,’ he wrote. 

Ms Begum's lawyers today vowed to 'keep fighting' until she is 'safely back home' after the court heard she had been a victim of trafficking I

Ms Begum’s lawyers today vowed to ‘keep fighting’ until she is ‘safely back home’ after the court heard she had been a victim of trafficking I 

One of Ms Begum's lawyers, Gareth Peirce, claimed her 'indefinite arbitrary detention' ran contrary to international law

One of Ms Begum’s lawyers, Gareth Peirce, claimed her ‘indefinite arbitrary detention’ ran contrary to international law 

Today's decision was hailed by Tory MPs including Robert Jenrick , who said that 'people who hate our country, threaten it, associate with those who murder our citizens' should not be allowed to return

Today’s decision was hailed by Tory MPs including Robert Jenrick , who said that ‘people who hate our country, threaten it, associate with those who murder our citizens’ should not be allowed to return

Timeline: How Shamima Begum’s dream of joining ISIS saw her exiled

2015

  • February 17 – Kadiza Sultana, Amira Abase and Shamima Begum leave their east London homes at 8am to travel to Istanbul, Turkey, from Gatwick Airport. Begum and Abase are reported missing by their families later the same day.
  • February 18 – Ms Sultana is reported missing to the police.
  • February 20 – The Metropolitan Police launch a public appeal for information on the missing girls who are feared to have gone on to Syria.  The Met expresses concerns that the missing girls may have fled to join ISIS. 
  • February 21 – Four days after the girls went missing, police believe they may still be in Turkey. 
  • February 22 – Ms Abase’s father Abase Hussen says his daughter told him she was going to a wedding on the day she disappeared. 
  • March 10 – It emerges that the girls funded their trip by stealing jewellery.

2016

  • August 2016 – Ms Sultana, then 17, is reported to have been killed in Raqqa in May when a suspected Russian air strike obliterates her house.

2019

  • February 13 – Ms Begum, then 19, tells Anthony Loyd of The Times that she wants to return to the UK to give birth to her third child.
  • Speaking from the Al-Hawl refugee camp in northern Syria, Ms Begum tells the paper: ‘I’m not the same silly little 15-year-old schoolgirl who ran away from Bethnal Green four years ago. And I don’t regret coming here.’
  • February 15 – Home secretary Sajid Javid says he ‘will not hesitate’ to prevent the return of Britons who travelled to join IS.
  • February 17 – Ms Begum gives birth to her third child – a baby boy, Jarrah – in Al-Hawl. Her two other children, a daughter called Sarayah and a son called Jerah, have both previously died.
  • February 19 – The Home Office sends Ms Begum’s family a letter stating that it intends to revoke her British citizenship.
  • February 20 – Ms Begum, having been shown a copy of the Home Office’s letter by ITV News, describes the decision as ‘unjust’. 
  • February 22 – Ms Begum’s family write to Mr Javid asking for his help to bring her newborn son to Britain. Her sister Renu Begum, writing on behalf of the family, said the baby boy was a ‘true innocent’ who should not ‘lose the privilege of being raised in the safety of this country’.
  • Late February – Ms Begum is moved to the Al-Roj camp in north-eastern Syria, reportedly because of threats to her life made at Al-Hawl following the publication of her newspaper interviews.
  • March 7 – Jarrah dies around three weeks after he was born.
  • March 19 – Ms Begum’s lawyers file a legal action challenging the decision to revoke her citizenship.
  • April 1 – In a further interview with The Times, Ms Begum says she was ‘brainwashed’ and that she wants to ‘go back to the UK for a second chance to start my life over again’. 
  • May 4 – Bangladesh’s foreign minister Abdul Momen says Ms Begum could face the death penalty for involvement in terrorism if she goes to the country, adding that Bangladesh had ‘nothing to do’ with her.  
  • September 29 – Home secretary Priti Patel says there is ‘no way’ she will let Ms Begum return to the UK, adding: ‘We cannot have people who would do us harm allowed to enter our country – and that includes this woman.’ 
  • October 22-25 – Ms Begum’s appeal against the revocation of her British citizenship begins in London. Her barrister Tom Hickman submits the decision has unlawfully rendered her stateless, and exposed her to a ‘real risk’ of torture or death.

2020 

  • February 7 – SIAC rules on Ms Begum’s legal challenge.
  • July 16 – Court of Appeal rules on the case and finds in Ms Begum’s favour.
  • November 23 – Supreme Court hears case. 

2021

  • February 26 – Supreme Court denies her right to enter UK to fight for British citizenship. 

2022

  • August 31 – The BBC trails its new ten-part podcast series, I’m Not A Monster: The Shamima Begum Story. 
  • November – At a five-day hearing at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), Ms Begum’s lawyers argue she was a child trafficking victim. 

2023 

  • February 22 – Ms Begum loses her appeal to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) against the bid to strip her of her British citizenship. 

2024 

  • February 23 – Court of Appeal judges dismiss Ms Begum’s appeal. 

‘This is a complex case but Home Secretaries should have the power to prevent anyone entering our country who is assessed to pose a threat to it.’  

Former immigration minister Mr Jenrick said: ‘This is the right decision. British citizenship is a great privilege. People who hate our country, threaten it, associate with those who murder our citizens and armed forces should not rely upon its blessings. National security must always come first.’

But one of Ms Begum’s lawyers, Gareth Peirce, claimed her ‘indefinite arbitrary detention’ ran contrary to international law. 

‘She and others, other women and children, are in what is not a refugee camp but a prison camp, and that is conceded by the United Kingdom, which has stated to the UN that it agrees that Geneva Convention articles apply,’ Ms Peirce said. 

‘Unlawful as that is, there is no exit. There is no way that she can escape from unlawful imprisonment.’

Ms Peirce later said that conditions in the al-Roj camp where Ms Begum remains had worsened. The Red Cross has described the camp as ‘grim’ and ‘extremely volatile’. 

Dr Marianne Wade, a Reader in criminal justice at Birmingham Law School, said Ms Begum’s legal team would seek an appeal. 

She told MailOnline: ‘Her team will it seems fight on. This is perhaps as much a political as legal argument and at its heart a battle between the Government and judiciary.’

At the appeal hearing in October, Samantha Knights KC told the court the Government had failed to consider the legal duties owed to Ms Begum as a potential victim of trafficking or as a result of ‘state failures’ in her case.

However, in the 42-page public judgment, Baroness Carr said: ‘We are not persuaded that there was any obligation on the Secretary of State to take into account the possibility that there might be a duty to investigate the circumstances of Ms Begum’s trafficking, alternatively, to consider whether any such investigation as might be required would be enhanced by her presence in this country.’

She continued: ‘In our judgment, SIAC was entitled to find, as the specialist tribunal established by Parliament, that the issue of whether and to what extent Ms Begum’s travel to Syria had been voluntary was within the expertise of the intelligence agencies advising the Secretary of State.

‘Ms Begum may well have been influenced and manipulated by others but still have made a calculated decision to travel to Syria and align with Isil,’ Baroness Carr added.

Sir James Eadie KC, for the Home Office, had argued that the ‘key feature’ of Ms Begum’s case was national security.

He told judges: ‘The fact that someone is radicalised, and may have been manipulated, is not inconsistent with the assessment that they pose a national security risk.’ 

In its ruling last year, the SIAC concluded there were ‘arguable breaches of duty’ by state bodies – including the Metropolitan Police, Tower Hamlets Council and Ms Begum’s school – in not preventing her from travelling to Syria.

Following today’s decision, Reprieve director Maya Foa said: ‘This whole episode shames ministers who would rather bully a child victim of trafficking than acknowledge the UK’s responsibilities.

‘Stripping citizenship in bulk and abandoning British families in desert prisons is a terrible, unsustainable policy designed to score cheap political points. Rather than demonise Shamima Begum, ministers should reckon with the institutional failures that enabled Isis to traffic vulnerable British women and girls.

‘What the courts have recognised today is that this was a political decision. It is now a political problem, and the government holds the key to solving it.

‘If the government thinks that Shamima Begum has committed a crime, she should be prosecuted in a British court. Citizenship stripping is not the answer.’

The Home Office said: ‘We are pleased that the Court of Appeal has found in favour of our position in this case.

‘Our priority remains maintaining the safety and security of the UK and we will robustly defend any decision made in doing so’.

A No10 spokeswoman said the government ‘welcomed the decision’ by the Court of Appeal.

She declined to comment on the case specifically any further but added: ‘We are please the court has fund in favour of the government. Our priority remains maintaining the safety and security of the UK.

‘We will always take the strongest possible action to protect our national security. We never take decisions around deprivation (of citizenship) lightly.’

Ms Begum was a Primark-loving teenager when she travelled to Istanbul, Turkey, from Gatwick Airport to join ISIS with her close friends at Bethnal Green Academy – Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Amira Abase, 15. 

Ignoring her family’s warnings that Syria was a ‘dangerous place’, the ‘straight A student’ married a jihadi and began life inside one of the most savage terror groups in history. 

In a 2019 interview, the BBC‘s Middle East correspondent, Quentin Sommerville, asked Ms Begum the terror group’s ‘beheading videos’ were one of the things that attracted her. 

She replied: ‘Not just the beheading videos, the videos that show families and stuff in the park. The good life that they can provide for you. Not just the fighting videos, but yeah the fighting videos as well I guess.’

Begum's Dutch jihadi husband Yago Riedijk, who died fighting for ISIS in Syria

Begum’s Dutch jihadi husband Yago Riedijk, who died fighting for ISIS in Syria

The Londoner was 15 when she ran away with Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Amira Abase, 15 (they were all pictured at Gatwick airport in 2015)

The Londoner was 15 when she ran away with Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Amira Abase, 15 (they were all pictured at Gatwick airport in 2015) 

Sultana (left), 15, and Abase (right) are both believed to have died in Syria. Begum is pictured in the middle

Sultana (left), 15, and Abase (right) are both believed to have died in Syria. Begum is pictured in the middle 

Appearing later on BBC podcast The Shamima Begum Story, she claimed she had not been aware of ISIS atrocities and ‘fell in love’ with the idea of the terror group as a ‘utopia’.

She said she was told to ‘pack nice clothes so you can dress nicely for your husband’. 

The podcast described how Ms Begum was transferred from Turkey to ISIS-controlled Syria by a smuggler called Mohammed Al Rashed – who at that time was working as an agent for Canada. 

This information was allegedly covered up by Canada even while the Metropolitan Police was leading an international search for the trio. 

After Britain was eventually informed, it was then also persuaded to keep quiet, it is claimed.

Ms Begum insisted she would have ‘never’ been able to join ISIS without Rashed’s help.

‘He (Rashed) organised the entire trip from Turkey to Syria… I don’t think anyone would have been able to make it to Syria without the help of smugglers,’ she told the BBC. 

‘He had helped a lot of people come in… We were just doing everything he was telling us to do because he knew everything, we didn’t know anything.’

Asked by journalist Joshua Baker whether she ever considered going back on her plan to join the death cult, she said: ‘No, not along the journey.’

Recalling the moment they reached the border, she said: ‘There were Syrian men waiting for us who helped carry our bags and the smuggler told us to go with them across the border. It was very easy.’ 

Just ten days after arriving in the city of Raqqa, Begum, who is of Bangladeshi heritage, was married to a Dutchman named Yago Riedijk, who had converted to Islam. 

They had three children together, who all later died from malnourishment or disease. They were a one-year-old girl, a three-month-old boy and a newborn son.

Begum left Raqqa with her husband in January 2017, but they were eventually split up, as she claimed he was arrested for spying, and tortured.

She was eventually found nine months pregnant in a refugee camp in Al-Hawl in February 2019 by a Times journalist.

Ms Begum told the BBC it ‘didn’t faze me at all’ when she saw her first ‘severed head’, but would ‘do anything required just to be able to come home’.

But the runaway schoolgirl said she did not regret travelling to ISIS-controlled Syria, saying she had a ‘good time’.

Ms Begum was thrust back into the spotlight in February 2019 when she resurfaced at the Al-Hawl refugee camp in Syria, where she had fled following the collapse of the ISIS ‘caliphate’. 

That same month she was stripped of her British citizenship by then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid after announcing her desire to return to the UK with her unborn third child. He later died of pneumonia at less than three months old.     

Since 2019, Begum has been embroiled in a legal battle with the British government to win the right to return. 

The former jihadi bride has combined her legal fight with a PR campaign aimed at convincing the British public she is safe to return.

Interviewed by Good Morning Britain in 2021, she begged for forgiveness and insisted she was a victim – not a terrorist or a criminal. 

‘No one can hate me more than I hate myself for what I’ve done and all I can say is I’m sorry and just give me a second chance’, she said, before adding she was ‘groomed and taken advantage of and manipulated’.

She had drastically changed her appearance – wearing a Nike baseball cap, a grey vest, Casio watch and painting her fingernails pink. 

Photos from inside her tent showed a Union flag cushion in the background. 

 

Kadiza Sultana

Amira Abase

Sultana – believed to have been killed in an airstrike – and Abase, whose whereabouts are unknown 

Ms Begum was smuggled into Syria by Mohammed Al Rashed - who at that time was working as a spy for Canada

Ms Begum was smuggled into Syria by Mohammed Al Rashed – who at that time was working as a spy for Canada

Ms Begum denied her Western physical appearance – which was in stark contrast to the traditional Islamic dress she previously adorned – was a publicity stunt.

‘I have not been wearing hijab for maybe more than a year now. 

‘I took it off for myself, because I felt very constricted in the hijab, I felt like I was not myself,’ she said. 

‘And I feel like it makes me happy to not wear the hijab. I’m not doing it for anyone but myself.

‘I’ve had many opportunities to let people take pictures of me without my hijab on, but I did not.’ 

Asked to again justify his decision to ban her from the UK Mr Javid said: ‘I won’t go into details of the case, but what I will say is that you certainly haven’t seen what I saw.’

Intelligence briefings in 2019 suggested Begum had been stitching ISIS terrorists into their suicide vests – ensuring that the devices could not be removed without detonation.

But she insists she only ever stayed at home and looked after her husband. 

Ms Begum with her friends Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana at Istanbul bus station

Ms Begum with her friends Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana at Istanbul bus station 

Interviewed by Good Morning Britain in 2021, the former jihadi bride begged for forgiveness and insisted she was a victim - not a terrorist or a criminal

Interviewed by Good Morning Britain in 2021, the former jihadi bride begged for forgiveness and insisted she was a victim – not a terrorist or a criminal

Shamima Begum: From straight-A London schoolgirl to stateless jihadi bride  

Ms Begum crossed into Syria with the help of a Canadian spy named Mohammed Al Rasheed, according to reports

Ms Begum crossed into Syria with the help of a Canadian spy named Mohammed Al Rasheed, according to reports

Shamima Begum was a London schoolgirl until Scotland Yard raised concerns she and two of her fellow pupils had travelled to Syria in February 2015.

The 24-year-old was just 15 when she travelled to Istanbul in Turkey from Gatwick Airport to join the so-called Islamic State (IS) with her close friends at Bethnal Green Academy – Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Amira Abase, 15.

Despite her family’s warnings that Syria was a ‘dangerous place’, the then teenager, described as a ‘straight A student’, crossed the border just days later with the help of a Canadian spy named Mohammed Al Rasheed, according to reports.

In a BBC podcast series, she said she was told to ‘pack nice clothes so you can dress nicely for your husband’.

Just ten days after arriving in the city of Raqqa, Ms Begum, who is of Bangladeshi heritage, was married to a Dutchman named Yago Riedijk, who had converted to Islam.

They had three children together, who all later died from malnourishment or disease. They were a one-year-old girl, a three-month-old boy and newborn son.

Ms Begum pictured with a Union Flag cushion in 2020. It was the first time she was seen without her usual black burka

Ms Begum pictured with a Union Flag cushion in 2020. It was the first time she was seen without her usual black burka 

Ms Begum left Raqqa with her husband in January 2017, but they were eventually split up, as she claimed he was arrested for spying and tortured.

She was eventually found nine months pregnant in a refugee camp in Al-Hawl in February 2019 by a Times journalist.

Ms Begum told the reporter it ‘didn’t faze me at all’ when she saw her first ‘severed head’, but would ‘do anything required just to be able to come home’.

But the runaway schoolgirl said she did not regret travelling to IS-controlled Syria, saying she had a ‘good time’.

The former Metropolitan Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said Ms Begum could expect to be ‘spoken to’ if she returned to the UK.

In the same month, she was stripped of her British citizenship after announcing her desire to return to the UK with her then unborn third child.

The move was deemed only permissible under international law if it did not leave her stateless.

Since then, the former IS bride has been embroiled in a battle with the British legal system – she lost her latest legal challenge over the decision to deprive her of her British citizenship on Wednesday.

Ms Begum described the initial move to revoke her citizenship as ‘unjust on me and my son’.

Sajid Javid said although he would never leave an individual stateless, his priority was the ‘safety and security’ of the UK.

Ms Begum shortly after she was found in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019

Ms Begum shortly after she was found in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019

The then home secretary was criticised by Labour after Ms Begum’s son later died – with Diane Abbott describing the situation as ‘callous and inhumane‘.

Ms Begum lost her first appeal to return to the UK but successfully challenged the decision at the Court of Appeal.

But the Government submitted a fresh appeal, meaning her return was put on hold pending a Supreme Court battle.

She was dealt a fresh blow when the Supreme Court ruled she could not come back to the UK – leading to her begging the British public for forgiveness.

When she appeared on TV screens in September 2021, she had drastically changed her appearance – wearing a Nike baseball cap, a grey vest, Casio watch and with her fingernails painted pink.

Ms Begum said there was ‘no evidence’ she was a key player in preparing terrorist acts and was prepared to prove her innocence in court.

She denied her Western physical appearance on Good Morning Britain – in stark contrast to the traditional Islamic dress she previously adorned – was a publicity stunt.

In the BBC podcast series released last month, she said she understood public anger towards her, but insisted she is not a ‘bad person’.

She told the podcast she accepted she is viewed ‘as a danger, as a risk’, but blamed her portrayal in the media.



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