Who is Shamima Begum? A villain of our choosing or a victim of her own deeds?
Will it be ever possible to look through the kaleidoscope of time and see a different Shamima? A version of her who is more mature, more sensible, and a lot more compassionate? Can she ever be perceived as just another British girl, back to her roots and most importantly, redeemed?
Or will she forever be defined by the choices she made as a naive and misguided young girl?
However you choose to paint the canvas of her personality, her psyche will be too complex to be painted in black and white.
An average British girl, in her teenage years, Shamima fled Britain and went on to join the so-called caliphate. She was only 15, a minor at the time when she was smuggled to join the Islamic death cult.
Shamima was born in 1999 in east London to parents of Bangladeshi heritage. In 2015, she, along with two other schoolgirls traveled to Syria, to join ISIL.
Shamima made headlines in 2019 after giving an interview in which she was seen as an unrepentant teenager, stripped of her British nationality by the government. There was no remorse and it seemed she stood by her decision to join the Islamic State.
Yet despite her apparent lack of remorse, Shamima made a plea to return to her homeland. Not out of a newfound sense of responsibility or guilt, but rather because life had become too difficult for her in the war-torn region of Syria.
It was all about Shamima. She wanted the people of Britain to feel sympathy for her and for everything she has been through. But she didn’t feel sorry for betraying her parents, her country, and her people to join a militant group. There was no regret.
Another reason for her to leave Syria was fear for her unborn child. That baby, named Jarrah, ultimately died from pneumonia later that year. An innocent child who had nothing to do with this charade died because of some poor decision a 15-year-old took.
Looking at her past interviews and the choices she made for herself, it’s not hard to interpret the type of person she is.
Yes, Shamima is stupid, ignorant, and most importantly a narcissist. She is out of touch with reality. But we can’t overlook the social, cultural, and psychological contexts that shaped her worldview and behavior.
So how does one get influenced into joining a terrorist group, especially when you have a liberal western upbringing?
Shamima Begum has claimed she was groomed by friends and older men online before fleeing to Syria to join Islamic State, as she insisted she “didn’t hate Britain”.
Shamima slipped out of her east London home at the age of 15 together with Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, two of her friends. They took a trip to Istanbul, Turkey, and from there they traveled to the Syrian border.
Ten days after arriving in the country, Shamima Begum marries Yago Riedijk, a Dutch-born convert to Islam and an ISIL fighter. Together they had three children, all of whom died due to malnutrition and lack of treatment in Syria.
Shamima Begum’s whereabouts in Syria were unknown until Anthony Loyd, a war correspondent for The Times, discovered the then-19-year-old Shamima in the al-Hawl refugee camp in northern Syria. She wanted to return to the UK and raise her child quietly, leaving her past behind.
That interview with Anthony Loyd, stirred up some controversy when she said she had been “unfazed” by seeing the head of a beheaded man as he was an “enemy of Islam”. But Shamima also believed that Isis did not deserve victory.
In 2019, her British citizenship was stripped on national security grounds.
During an interview, she said she has “no plan B” if her British citizenship is not reinstated and described accusations she was involved with terrorism activities as “all completely false”.
Speaking from a detention center in northeast Syria, she insisted she “didn’t hate Britain”, when she fled her Bethnal Green home but hated her life as she felt “very constricted”.
It is surely hard to decipher what was going on inside her head or how she was brainwashed, influenced, or groomed.
On the 22nd of February of this year, Shamima lost her appeal against the decision to revoke her British citizenship. She was left stateless.
Her lawyers criticized the ruling as a “lost opportunity to put into reverse a profound mistake and a continuing injustice.”
“Begum remains in unlawful, arbitrary, and indefinite detention without trial in a Syrian camp. Every possible avenue to challenge this decision will be urgently pursued,” it continued.
Rights group Amnesty International described the ruling as a “very disappointing decision.”
The power to banish a citizen like this simply shouldn’t exist in the modern world, not least when we’re talking about a person who was seriously exploited as a child,
Steve Valdez-Symonds, the group’s UK refugee and migrant rights director, said in a statement.
What does it take to forgive and how much time does it take to repent?
While it is important that individuals who have committed crimes to be held accountable for their actions, it is also important to recognize the potential for rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
Shamima surely made some mistakes, and she needs to face prosecution. Her actions shouldn’t go unpunished. But she also deserves a chance for redemption like many others.
Banishing Shamima Begum from Britain and leaving her stateless is a decision that raises serious questions about the values and principles that underpin the British legal and moral framework.
As a nation that prides itself on upholding the rule of law and protecting human rights, Britain has a responsibility to ensure that their actions are consistent with these values. By depriving Shamima of her citizenship and effectively rendering her stateless, the UK risks perpetuating the very injustices and inequalities that we seek to prevent.
Did she commit such a crime that it warranted a punishment only fit for the barbaric times of the stone age? Even the great philosopher Socrates opted to drink hemlock rather than endure a life of banishment as an old man.
Our citizenship is not merely a contractual obligation we have with society. It signifies both our place and identity within a community. It speaks to our sense of belonging and connection, defining who we are and where we come from.
Stripping someone of their citizenship also takes away the culture, language, history, and everything that we treasure and love about our country. Our citizenship remains our anchor as individuals.
Rendering someone stateless is not just wrong but it’s also unethical. Taking away our identity as a citizen, we exist outside the reach of laws that are meant to safeguard our various rights, including legal, political, constitutional, and other inherent rights that citizens usually enjoy in any institutionalized and structured political community.
Shamima is a product of Britain, and as such, the British government cannot simply wash its hands of the responsibility and accountability they have towards her. She is a problem that Britain needs to fix.
Leaving her stranded in the middle of a desert will only demonstrate weakness rather than strength.