Entitled to return?

Should Shamima Begum be allowed to return to the UK?

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1Forget it , says Colleen Cumbers

In 2015, Shamima Begum chose to leave the UK to join the Islamic State. From that moment, she became a traitor to our country, an enemy of British citizens and a threat to all that the Western world stands for.

That she now wants to return to the UK would be humorous if only there were not a real risk of this actually happening.

The most important thing to note here is that Begum does not show remorse for her decision to join IS.

Aged only 15 when the left the UK, some people argue that she was a naïve, brainwashed girl, unaware of what she was getting involved with.

The reality is that Begum knew exactly what Daesh stood for and this was what attracted her to the terrorist group. In her recent interview with Sky News, Begum admits that she was aware of the beheadings and executions carried out by IS and that she “was okay with it”.

Have Begum’s views changed? No. She does not want to return to the UK because she has had a sudden realisation that IS is evil, but because IS has lost its strongholds and so life has become more difficult.

Begum is a classic example of somebody who hates western culture and wants it destroyed, yet also wants to benefit from the positive aspects of this society, i.e. to raise her child in better conditions.

Whilst Begum claims that she was not directly involved in any acts of violence, she is nevertheless a threat.

She maintains strong links to IS: she is still in love with her husband, an IS fighter, and in her interview, she used the pronoun “we” when discussing IS – “when we lost Raqqa” – she still considers herself a member of the organisation. She is dangerous. Should IS or another similar organisation’s fortunes improve again, Begum would seemingly be the first to join back in. Begum recently said that seeing a severed head of an IS enemy in a bin “didn’t faze [her] at all”.

She believes that the Manchester Arena attack where children as young as eight were murdered was “justified”. Begum is an evil, dangerous woman who cannot be reintegrated into British society. She has no place here and to bring her back would be a major security concern for British citizens as well as an enormous insult to victims of IS brutality.

If she must return to the UK, life-impris- onment for treason is the only solution, with her child being taken into care. The cost of this to taxpayers however means that, ideally, Begum will be left where she is.

She states that “a lot of people should have sympathy” for her. I personally will not be shedding any tears.

2Forgive her, says Joe Davies

It goes without saying that if you go and fight for a terrorist organisation that throws gay people off of buildings and sells women into sex slavery and commits genocide and wants to bring ‘death to the west’, you must pay the price for that. That’s why I completely understand the instinct that says we should never allow this woman to return. But should we always listen to instinct? Being only fifteen years old when she left, Begum was brainwashed. Yes, she was the age of legal responsibility; but are we really going to give somebody a life sentence – and, yes, forcing her to remain where she is is a life sentence – for making a terrible, terrible decision when they were 15, and faced with incredibly persuasive propaganda? That is a difficult call to make.

Indeed, as far as I understand it, there is no legal basis for denying her return. In the words of Chris Daq QC, ‘she is a UK citizen and we do not make our citizens stateless’. You must be 18 and of sound mind to renounce your citizenship, meaning that she was still a British citizen when she left – and therefore presumably still is. From my understanding, there is no law that says we can deny re-entry to people for leaving the UK – and it is both illegal and a human rights violation (Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights grants us all protection from retrospective legislation) to subject somebody to a law that didn’t exist when they have committed the act in question: I don’t see how we can legally prevent her return.

Linked to this point is the moral argument that what separates us from Daesh is our belief in the rule of law; this woman must pay the price for what she has done, but she must do so with all of the normal protections offered to those facing criminal prosecution. Should she not be brought to justice, rather than left to die in a desert?

However you feel about these arguments, there is one point that I think settles this debate, and that is Begum’s newborn child. The child of a native-born British citizen is automatically a British citizen themselves, so – even ignoring the clear ethical obliga- tion that we have towards an innocent, vul- nerable child – we have an obligation to this child as a British citizen. Let us be clear: Shamima Begum’s previous two children died in Syria. If she is not allowed to return home, we should be under no illusion that her latest child will face the same fate.

How can it possibly be right to allow a child, a British citizen, to die in Syria because their mum is a terrorist? This child needs to be placed in a safe, secure and caring environment. That is never going to happen if Shamima Begum is not allowed to return. Forget everything else if you must, but we cannot turn our backs on this child.

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