Shamima Begum, the British woman who joined ISIS as a teenager in 2015, is set to be allowed to return to the U.K. in order to challenge the government’s decision to strip her of citizenship.
Begum, 20, had her citizenship removed by the British government on security grounds in early 2019, after she was discovered living in a refugee camp in northern Syria by Anthony Lloyd, a war correspondent for The Times of London. She had fled the U.K. and been married off to an ISIS fighter, four years earlier, when she was 15 years old.
The former ISIS bride had appealed the decision on the grounds that it left her stateless, but in February a tribunal said that because she held dual British-Bangladeshi nationality, the move to strip her of her citizenship was lawful.
Her lawyer had argued that Begum, who remains in the camp in northern Syria, could not successfully challenge the government’s decision as she could not return to the U.K, according to reports in the British media. At the Court of Appeal in London on Thursday, three judges ruled in her favour, saying that Begum could return to the country of her birth to legally challenge the decision.
“The Court acknowledges that there are national security concerns about Ms Begum but the Court reaches the conclusion … notwithstanding those concerns, the only way in which she can have a fair and effective appeal before SIAC [the Special Immigrations Appeals Commission] is for Ms Begum to be permitted to come into the UK to pursue that appeal,” the Court of Appeal said in a statement to the media.
The government has said they will appeal the judgment.
In February 2020 ABC News’ Foreign Correspondent James Longman spoke to Begum, and another ISIS bride, the US-Canadian Kimberly Polman, where they shared a tent. Throughout the interview, both women referred to ISIS as “they.”
Both women said they were different from the other ISIS wives in the camp.
"Some of them celebrated when Baghdadi died, because he wasn't radical enough for them," said Begum, referring to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed in an October 2019 raid.
While Begum is now permitted to return to the U.K., it is unclear as yet how her passage back to the country from northern Syria could be secured. Since her discovery in February 2019, Begum, who had three children during her time with ISIS, all of whom have died, has repeatedly appealed to the public for a return to the U.K.
“This is a very disappointing decision by the Court," a spokesperson for the Home Office, the government body in charge of immigration and policing, said in a statement. "We will now apply for permission to appeal this judgment, and to stay its effects pending any onward appeal. The Government’s top priority remains maintaining our national security and keeping the public safe.”