Shamima Begum was just 15 years old when she left her home in Bethnal Green, London, to join Islamic State in Syria. Now, four years later, she has witnessed two of her children die of illness and malnutrition, and fears for the life of her third child, born in a refugee camp in Eastern Syria, from where she’s requested to return to the UK, having shown no remorse for her dealings with ISIS.
The ‘punishment’, if we can call it that, is to strip of her of UK citizenship, which the Home Secretary can only do in this case because he believes Begum has the right to apply for Bangladeshi citizenship, even though she has never visited Bangladesh.
Interestingly, the UK government isn’t simply allowed to strip an individual of their citizenship and render them stateless, they are only allowed to do so in begum’s case because her Bangladeshi heritage allows her to apply for citizenship there. However, the Bangladeshi authorities say she won’t be allowed in.
This article in The Conversation provides an accessible insight into the legality of revoking citizenship.
Even if the UK government is legally allowed to strip Begum of citizenship, this still feels like the UK government is somehow denying responsibility for Begum – surely it would be more appropriate to bring her back to the UK, put her on trial, and actually punish her as the UK citizen she really is, rather than trying to revoke it.
The argument that she’s ‘our responsibility’ is rooted in the fact that she was radicalised in the UK and managed to leave without any effective ‘safeguarding intervention’.
What the UK government’s response shows is just how difficult it is for nation states to deal with such international criminals…. Maybe it’s because we’ve got no long-term solutions? Maybe the government doesn’t want to bring her back because the population would be so against it, as 78% of the population believe she should have had her citizenship revoked.
This could very well (probably is) an example of popular punitiveness, despite the fact that she’s not really being punished as such!
However, just passing the buck onto another country because of a legal technicality doesn’t seem right, and what kind of message does this send out about how to deal with international criminals more generally?
Whatever your opinion on the Shamima Begum case, it certainly illustrates a the problems of dealing out justice where international crimes which cross boarders are concerned, and maybe suggests that nation states are too small to deal with such criminals?
Maybe we need to take a lesson from Escape to LA? Rather than nation states dealing with them in country of origin, we just put by stateless regions on earth, and build a wall round them, and see how they get on…?
We could also film it with drones and turn it into a form of entertainment….. the scary thing is this doesn’t actually sound that far-fetched, I can actually see most people getting on board with the idea!