The Supreme Court of the UK today ruled against Shamima Begum’s appeal to return home to fight her citizenship case, leaving her in a camp in Northern Syria where the guards won’t allow her access to lawyers.
Shamima Begum has been failed over and over by the British state. She was targeted by the Islamic State while living in the UK. She was denied safe passage back to the UK having been married as a child and grieving three lost children. She was stripped of her citizenship and abandoned to a refugee camp and now the Supreme Court has upheld the Government’s decision to stop her returning to appeal for her citizenship with access to legal advice and support.
Shamima Begum was groomed into travelling to Raqqa, becoming a bride within ten days of arriving in Syria as a 15-year-old child. Under UK law she was a victim of forced marriage and sexual exploitation yet she has been treated solely as a criminal and stripped of her citizenship.
When women commit the kinds of crimes Begum has admitted to they are often punished more severely than men because we are, as a society, more shocked that they can have acted out such violence. But as we at Solace know from experience, women who act out violence and aggression usually have a history of being subjected to violence and abuse themselves.
Survivors of violence, abuse and exploitation are rarely perfect victims.
The fact that Begum is of Bangladeshi heritage fits into lazy stereotypes and makes the Government’s removal of her citizenship particularly cynical, because she is already seen as less British than her white counterparts would be. But the removal of her citizenship is a breach of Begum’s human rights.
If Begum has committed offences, and if she poses a security risk, she should be given the right to a fair trial and monitored by our national security services. Instead, she is being used as a warning and perpetuating the myth that victims of grooming, coercion and exploitation have themselves to blame and therefore do not deserve humanity and support