Former US ambassador says Shamima Begum poses no threat and must return to Britain

Shamima Begum was 15 when she and two other London schoolgirls fled to Syria via Turkey to join Daesh in 2015. (Screenshot/Sky Documentaries)
Shamima Begum was 15 when she and two other London schoolgirls fled to Syria via Turkey to join Daesh in 2015. (Screenshot/Sky Documentaries)
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Updated 30 June 2021

Former US ambassador says Shamima Begum poses no threat and must return to Britain

Shamima Begum was 15 when she and two other London schoolgirls fled to Syria via Turkey to join Daesh in 2015. (Screenshot/Sky Documentaries)
  • Envoy said Begum has ‘absolutely rejected’ Daesh as her lawyers argue that she may have been victim of trafficking
  • Begum was 15 when she and two other London schoolgirls travelled to Syria 

LONDON: A former US diplomat has argued that Daesh wife Shamima Begum is no longer a security threat and should be free to return to Britain.

Peter Galbraith, who was Washington’s envoy to Zagreb during the Croatian War of Independence, said Begum has “absolutely rejected the Islamic State (Daesh)” and should be sent home from the Al-Roj refugee camp in northern Syria.

Begum was 15 when she and two other London schoolgirls fled to Syria via Turkey to join Daesh in 2015. They were soon married to fighters from the terror group.

Begum is challenging Downing Street’s decision to remove her British citizenship and has asked a specialist tribunal to assess whether she was a victim of trafficking when she fled the country for war-torn Syria.

The Home Office, the UK’s government department that handles law and order and national security, maintains that Begum is a threat to the country and that she should not be allowed to return to Britain or retain her citizenship. 

The department has claimed that she is not stateless because her parents are from Bangladesh.

Galbraith, who has strong ties to the Kurdish administration in Syria, told Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper: “I’ve talked to Shamima — she is part of the group of women who have absolutely rejected the Islamic State — I know enough about her to feel quite confident that she’s not a dangerous person.”

Galbraith said his mediating efforts were vital to recently securing the freedom of a Canadian woman in the same camp where Begum is kept. He claimed that the Canadian woman was able to contact her national embassy from the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

Earlier in June, Begum's lawyers told the Special Immigration Appeals Commission that the Home Office had a duty to assess whether she was a victim of trafficking when her citizenship was revoked.

Her British citizenship was revoked on national security grounds shortly after she was discovered by a British journalist in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019. She was nine months pregnant at the time, having married a Dutch Daesh fighter and had three children, all of whom died.  

Samantha Knights QC said that “the counter-terrorism unit had suspicions of coercion and control” when Begum left Britain, which she argued “gives rise to the need to investigate the issue of trafficking.”

Her legal team accused the Home Office of failing to assess whether she was “a child trafficked to, and remaining in, Syria for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced marriage.”

Knights said conditions were “dire” in Begum’s Syruian camp, claiming that the former terror bride was “living in a situation of serious and present danger.”

David Blundell QC, a lawyer for the Home Office, said: “Begum should not be permitted to amend her grounds again.”

He argued that: “It is significant that the allegation is not that Ms Begum was trafficked, but rather that she ‘may have been’ trafficked.

“Begum herself has never stated that she has been trafficked, despite having given numerous media interviews and provided instructions to her solicitors on a number of matters.”

He added that “the absence of a claim that she has in fact been trafficked means this ground proceeds on an uncertain factual basis,” and that it was “entirely speculative.”