So-Called ‘ISIS Bride’ Shamima Begum Cannot Return to Britain

The 21-year-old left for Syria as a teenager but will not be allowed back to challenge the removal of her citizenship, the UK's highest court has ruled.
February 26, 2021, 11:18am
Shamina Begum, so-called 'ISIS bride'
Photo: Laura Lean / WPA Pool / Getty Images

A woman who left the UK for Syria to join ISIS as a teenager will not be allowed to return to Britain to challenge a decision to revoke her citizenship.

The UK’s highest court unanimously ruled on Friday that it was dismissing Shamima Begum’s appeal against a decision preventing her from returning to the UK to challenge the Home Secretary’s removal of her British citizenship.

Begum, now 21 and detained in a camp in northern Syria, left the UK to join ISIS in February 2015 along with two other British schoolgirls, known as the “Bethnal Green trio”.

Announcing today’s ruling decision, Supreme Court president Lord Reed said: “The right to a fair hearing does not trump all other considerations, such as the safety of the public. If a vital public interest makes it impossible for a case to be fairly heard then the courts cannot ordinarily hear it.”

In February 2019, a Times journalist found Begum, who was pregnant, in a Syrian camp following the fall of ISIS in the country. After she made a plea to return to the UK, then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid revoked her citizenship, denying her the opportunity to return.  

Advertisement

Last year, the Court of Appeal ruled that Begum hasn’t been granted a fair opportunity to challenge the decision, as she was and remains unable to make her case from the detention camp. 

At the time, the court ruled that “the only way in which she can have a fair and effective appeal is to be permitted to come into the United Kingdom to pursue her appeal”.

However, the Home Office challenged the appeal, claiming that Begum’s return “would create significant national security risks” and leave the public at “an increased risk of terrorism”.

Begum gave birth to three children while in Syria, all of whom have since died. Her youngest child died of a lung infection in March 2019.

“That is not a perfect solution,” Lord Reed said today announcing the ruling. “But there is no perfect solution to a dilemma of the present kind.”