21 Feb 2019

Shamima Begum who fled UK to join Islamic State will not be allowed into Bangladesh

10:09 am on 21 February 2019

A teenager who was stripped of her British citizenship after leaving to join Islamic State is not a Bangladeshi citizen and there's "no question" of her being allowed to enter the country, the foreign ministry in Dhaka says.

Shamima Begum speaking to the BBC on 18 February.

Shamima Begum speaking to the BBC earlier this week. Photo: BBC / Screengrab

The ministry added it was "deeply concerned that she has been erroneously identified as a holder of dual citizenship shared with Bangladesh alongside her birthplace, the United Kingdom."

Shamima Begum, 19, left to join Islamic State when she was 15 but now wants to return. Her UK citizenship was revoked on security grounds.

"She is a British citizen by birth and has never applied for dual nationality with Bangladesh," the Bangledeshi foreign ministry said in a statement.

Ms Begum was a schoolgirl when she left London in 2015, and was found in a Syrian refugee camp last week after reportedly leaving Baghuz - IS's last stronghold.

She gave birth to a son at the weekend and now wants to return home.

Ms Begum said she only has "one citizenship" and it was wrong for the UK to revoke it without speaking to her first.

It is only possible to strip someone of their UK nationality if they are eligible for citizenship elsewhere, the BBC reported.

The 19-year-old said she had hoped the UK would understand she made a "very big mistake" by joining IS.

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid said he would not comment on individual cases but has suggested Ms Begum's baby could still be British.

He told the House of Commons "Children should not suffer. So, if a parent does lose their British citizenship, it does not affect the rights of their child."

Ms Begum's mother is believed to be a Bangladeshi national, and lawyers have told the BBC that under Bangledesh law this means Ms Begum is automatically a citizen of the country as well.

But Ms Begum told the BBC said her only citizenship was in the UK.

"I wasn't born in Bangladesh, I've never seen Bangladesh and I don't even speak Bengali properly, so how can they claim I have Bangladeshi citizenship.

"I have one citizenship... and if you take that away from me, I don't have anything. I don't think they are allowed to do that.

"I was hoping Britain would understand I made a mistake, a very big mistake, because I was young and naive."

She said she changed her mind about IS after they imprisoned and tortured her Dutch husband - an armed jihadi.

Escape was impossible, she claimed. "They'd kill you if you tried."

She added that she understood the anger about her wanting to come home.

"I understand why you don't want to be sympathetic because of everything IS did... and claiming it's all for the sake of Islam... it's really not," she said.

Mr Javid said the power to deprive a person of citizenship was only used "in extreme circumstances", for example, "when someone turns their back on the fundamental values and supports terror".

"We must put the safety and security of our country first," he added.

But shadow home secretary Diane Abbott accused him of breaching the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that "no-one shall be arbitrarily deprived of their nationality".

- Reuters / BBC