London, Feb 20 (IANS) Shamima Begum, a British teenager of Bangladeshi descent who ran away in 2015 to become an Islamic State (IS) jihadi bride, has been stripped of her UK citizenship, a move she called “unjust” and “hard to swallow”.
An official Home Office letter on the decision was delivered to Begum’s family on Tuesday, ITV News reported. Her family members said they plan to challenge the government’s decision.
The government’s decision came after Begum showed no remorse for joining the terror group and likened the deaths of 22 people in the Manchester Arena terror attack to the civilians being bombed in the IS territory.
“Please find enclosed papers that relate to a decision taken by the Home Secretary, to deprive your daughter, Shamima Begum, of her British citizenship,” the letter read.
“In light of the circumstances of your daughter, the notice of the Home Secretary’s decision has been served of file today (February 19), and the order removing her British citizenship has subsequently been made.”
The letter went on to urge Begum’s family to make her aware of the decision, but added that she had a right to appeal.
The BBC cited government officials as saying that it was possible to revoke her UK nationality as she was eligible for citizenship elsewhere. Her parents are Bangladeshi nationals which means under Bangladesh law Begum would be too, they said.
The 19-year-old, who gave birth to her third child on Sunday at a refugee camp in northeastern Syria, on Wednesday called the Home Office’s decision “unjust” and “hard to swallow” after she was shown a copy of the government’s letter.
“I am a bit shocked. It’s a bit upsetting and frustrating. I feel like it’s a bit unjust on me and my son.
“It’s kind of heart-breaking to read. My family made it sound like it would be a lot easier for me to come back to the UK. It’s kind of hard to swallow,” she said.
Begum denied having a Bangladeshi passport and said she had never been to the country, the BBC said. Her family’s lawyer Tasnime Akunjee called her “a sole British national” and tweeted that they were “considering all legal avenues to challenge this decision”.
Akunjee told the Independent that the Bangladesh government “does not know who she is”, and added, “our position is that to all practical purposes she has been made stateless”.
The Home Office declined to comment on Akunjee’s claims, but said: “We do not make people stateless.”
Begum, who fled the UK when she was 15, was found in a refugee camp last week by the Times’ reporter after she reportedly escaped Baghuz, the Islamic State’s last stronghold. The teenager told the daily that she wanted to return home.
Following the UK government’s decision, she said that she may try for citizenship via her Dutch husband and IS fighter Yago Riedjik, whom she married in Syria and had two children. Her kids later died from malnutrition and illness.
Dal Babu, a former Metropolitan Police Chief Superintendent and friend of Begum’s family, told the BBC they were “very surprised” by what seemed to be a “kneejerk reaction” by the Home Office.