Shamima Begum: how the case developed

By Jamie Grierson

The case of Shamima Begum, the now 20-year-old woman who fled to Syria to join Islamic State as a child, has sparked fierce debate over how the UK should deal with “foreign fighters”.

Opponents of her return say she is a threat to the country’s security and must live with the consequences of her actions, while critics of her exile say greater human rights principles are at play, and the UK must not shirk its responsibility to administer justice for any alleged crimes she may have committed.

Here is a timeline of events in Begum’s story:

August 1999

Shamima Begum is born in England to parents of Bangladeshi heritage.

February 2015

British counter-terrorism police launch an international hunt to find Begum, then 15, and two other girls, who slipped out of their homes in east London and caught a flight to Istanbul, Turkey, in an attempt to reach Syria.

By late February, the Metropolitan police confirm Begum and her companions have reached the conflict-torn country.

It is understood Begum has entered the country with the intention of swearing allegiance to Isis, and 10 days after arriving in Syria she marries Yago Riedijk, a Dutch-born convert to Islam and a convicted terrorist.

October 2017

The Syrian city of Raqqa, once considered the de-facto capital of the Isis’s self-declared caliphate, falls to US-backed forces.

The capture of the city marks a symbolic victory against the terror group, which has been diminished to pockets of remaining fighters spread across Syria and Iraq.

13 February 2019

After a silence of nearly four years, an interview with Begum appears in the Times. The newspaper’s correspondent had found Begum, then 19, in al-Hawl refugee camp in north-east Syria.

Begum reveals she is nine months pregnant and hopes to return to the UK to raise her child, but does not regret her decision to join Isis. She reveals she had two other children who died of malnutrition.

15 February 2019

A couple of days after the interview is published, Begum gives birth to her third child, Jarrah.

19 February 2019

The UK government serves notice it intends to strip Begum of her citizenship and a deprivation order is made.

The then home secretary, Sajid Javid, writes to her family informing them he has made such an order, believing the fact her parents are of Bangladeshi heritage means she can apply for citizenship of that country – though Begum says she has never visited it.

1 March 2019

Begum’s lawyer in the UK, Tasnime Akunjee, confirms Begum has been moved from al-Hawl camp to a different location nearer the Iraqi border following threats made against her.

7 March 2019

Begum’s baby son dies in al-Roj camp, sparking a debate over the impact of stripping her of her UK citizenship.

19 March 2019

Her family formally starts court challenges against the home secretary, saying Javid’s decision to strip the teenager of her citizenship is unfair.

3 May 2019

Begum applies for “leave to enter” the UK. This is a process under which a person who is neither a British citizen nor a Commonwealth citizen can apply to enter the UK. A limited period and various conditions can be imposed on the individual.

13 June 2019

The government refuses the leave to enter application.

25 June 2019

Begum appeals against the decision to refuse leave to enter.

October 2019

Begum starts appeal against the Home Office’s move to revoke her citizenship and prevent her from returning to London.

At a partially secret hearing before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac), lawyers for Begum allege she has been left stateless, is unable to mount a “fair and effective” legal challenge and is at risk of “death, inhuman or degrading treatment”.

February 2020

Begum loses the initial stage of her appeal against the Home Office’s decision to revoke her UK citizenship.

A unanimous judgment by Siac finds against her on three preliminary grounds, including that she had not been improperly deprived of her citizenship. The judgment prevents her from returning to London.

June 2020

Begum’s lawyer’s challenge Siac’s ruling that she has not been rendered stateless because she is entitled to Bangladeshi citizenship.

At a two-day online hearing at the court of appeal, her lawyers argue she cannot effectively challenge the government’s decision to deprive her of British citizenship while she is in the detention camp in northern Syria.

July 2020

Court of appeal judges rule that Begum should be allowed to return to the UK to challenge the Home Office’s decision to revoke her British citizenship in person, partially overturning the earlier ruling by Siac.

The government says it will appeal against the ruling and applies for the court’s judgement to be stayed until then.

The case continues.