By: Chandrashekar Bhat
AN INDEPENDENT reviewer of terrorism legislation has advocated allowing Shamima Begum to return to the UK, arguing that not doing so means Britain will be out of step with other western nations.
Begum who travelled to Syria from London in 2015 to join Daesh was stripped of her British citizenship in 2019 on national security grounds.
On Wednesday (22), the Special Immigration Appeals Commission dismissed her latest appeal against the government’s decision.
Begum, 23, is currently held in the al-Roj detention camp in north-eastern Syria and her lawyers claimed she was a “child victim of trafficking” – she was aged 15 when left London.
Jonathan Hall KC, who was reappointed in 2022 to scrutinise and report on terrorism legislation, said if she was a terror risk, she continued to remain so despite being in a foreign country.
In his speech at King’s College London, Hall said the “status quo does not eliminate risk” because “plotting in detention may be easier than plotting at home.”
He said Begum’s gender should be taken into consideration while dealing with her case, arguing that “women are far less likely to carry out attacks or any other sort of terrorist offending”.
He cited the UK’s data which showed there 1,004 men were convicted of terrorism in the 20 years to September 2022 compared with 89 women.
Women were less likely to have travelled for fighting and were less likely to have played battlefield roles, he said.
Women “may well have had less autonomy in being able to leave – and now make up a majority of those UK-linked individuals detained,” Hall said.
About 900 people are estimated to have travelled from the UK to Syria and Iraq to join Daesh and the British citizenship of around 150 of them is believed to have been removed.
Begum, now 23, who left her Bethnal Green home with her two school friends, reportedly married a Daesh fighter in Syria with whom she had three children who all died young.
Her case has been the subject of a heated debate in the UK – some people saying she willingly joined a terrorist group and others claiming she was trafficked into the war-torn country as a child.