Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
Probably the most talked-about topic in the past week, second only to Brexit, is that of Shamima Begum. A 19-year-old, now (apparently) desperate to return to the UK after spending four years with Islamic State, or Daesh, in Syria. Part of me is tempted to say this is a complex case, both morally and legally. Yet I find that myself, and many around me, completely lack any sympathy for Shamima.
There are multiple questions to be answered in this extraordinary case. We should be clear that there is a difference between “Should we allow her back into the UK?” and “Should we help her return to the UK?”. The latter I am firm in that we should do nothing of the sort. We have before us a teenager who has absolutely no remorse or regret for joining Islamic State (ISIS). By her own admission (naive or not) she says she knew exactly what she was doing, travelling to Syria at the age of 15. She had the right “mentality” to make decisions of such gravity. There cannot possibly be any reason why the UK should risk the lives of officials to aide her return.
Alternatively, however, is whether she should be allowed back into the UK. Shamima Begum (pictured within the picture above) has now had her British citizenship revoked. Before that, I believed the UK had a legal obligation to allow her to return. Of course, this didn’t mean she would live happily ever after. The appropriate course of action would be for her to be arrested upon arrival, utilised as an intelligence source by the relative authorities, and then imprisoned for being a member of ISIS. Now, the situation has changed. Contrary to what was originally reported, Shamima Begum does have dual nationality, with Bangladeshi citizenship, meaning the Home Secretary has been able to strip her of her British citizenship. Victory! She has no basis to be able to return to this country.
Is she a threat to national security? If I’m honest, I don’t see this as a judgement that an ordinary person, like myself, can make. I leave that to the intelligence services of the UK and allied countries to determine. If they say she is, then I would 100% agree with them. Does the fact she has a baby make a difference? Not for Shamima’s fate. It is incredibly harsh that her baby has been born into what couldn’t possibly be a worse situation. Unfortunately, of course, the baby is not capable of travelling back on its own. I stand by my opinion that we should not risk the lives of British officials in aiding Shamima or her baby to return to the UK – but hypothetically speaking, the baby has done nothing wrong and should be allowed to grow up in the UK with no strings attached. If only it were feasibly possible.
I’ll finish off by warping this situation with an analogy. Some have emphasised that Shamima was 15 years-old when she decided to travel to Syria, in some kind of attempt to win her sympathy and to argue that she was too young and impressionable to understand what she was getting into. The age of criminal responsibility in the UK is 10. For all crimes. Not just a select few. In 2018, two 15-year-olds, among others, were sentenced to 14 years each in prison for torturing a boy to death. Their age didn’t matter then, rightly so. Shamima’s case should be no different. If an individual had joined a banned neo-Nazi, far-right terrorist group, I doubt we’d be having a debate about the illegality of their actions and appropriateness of subsequent punishment. Just because Shamima travelled out of the UK to join a banned terrorist group, it’s no different. She broke the law. She was old enough to know what she was doing. Actions have consequences. Now she’s got to pay the price.