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UK to revoke citizenship of IS bride

Chase Winter
February 19, 2019

Shamima Begum, a London teen who left to join the "Islamic State" group in 2015, is set to lose her UK citizenship. The case has spurred debate about how Britain will deal with former IS fighters, brides and children.

Shamima Begum
Image: Reuters/L. Lean

Lawyers for a British teenager who joined the "Islamic State" (IS) at age 15 and now wants to return from a refugee camp in Syria said the family was "very disappointed" with the UK Home Office's plans to strip her of her citizenship.

Shamima Begum's family received a letter from the Home Office notifying them that the government intended to revoke the 19-year-old's citizenship, a development first reported by ITV News. 

Read more: Germany preparing to prosecute dozens of IS fighters: report

"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 from the Home Office obtained by ITV states.

The letter was sent to the family instructing them to notify their daughter, who gave birth to a baby on Sunday. The decision can be appealed.

The family's lawyer made a statement on Twitter condemning the Home Office decision and saying there would be an appeal.

"Family are very disappointed with the Home Office's intention to have an order made depriving Shamima of her citizenship. We are considering all legal avenues to challenge this decision," lawyer Tasnime Akunjee wrote.

IS fighters, wives and children back to Europe?

Begum's case has launched a debate in the UK over how to handle citizens who joined IS and want to leave now that the extremist group "caliphate" has nearly collapsed in Syria. It also raises questions over the future of the children of IS fighters and brides.

It comes days after US President Donald Trump pressured European countries by calling on allies to take back IS fighters captured in Syria.

After Begum was found in a Syrian refugee camp last week, UK security officials said they couldn't prevent the woman from returning because she had not been convicted of a crime. However, they signaled that she could be prosecuted upon arrival in the UK.

Begum and two schoolgirls from Bethnal Green in London fled to Syria from the UK via Turkey in 2015, where they married IS fighters.

Shamima Begum
CCTV footage from February 2015 shows 15-year-old Amira Abase, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Shamima Begum, then 15, at London's Gatwick airport before departing to TurkeyImage: picture alliance/empics

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