Shamima Begum, the woman who ran away from her London home as a teenager to join ISIS in 2015, has won the right to return to the U.K. from a refugee camp in Syria.
Begum, now 20, will be able to appeal in person against the U.K. government’s 2019 decision to revoke her British citizenship, which has been criticized by human rights groups who said she had been denied the right to a fair trial.
Begum was 15 years old when she was radicalized by ISIS recruiters online and flew to Turkey with two school friends, before slipping into Syria where she was married to a militant.
After ISIS was forced to give up most of its territory after a series of military defeats by the U.S.-led coalition in Syria, Begum ended up in a refugee camp where she appealed via the British press to be allowed to return home.
But the U.K. government refused her requests and eventually stripped her citizenship, arguing that the move did not fall foul of international human rights law against making citizens stateless because she was eligible for Bangladeshi citizenship due to her parents’ heritage, despite the fact she had never set foot in the country.
Shortly after the U.K. revoked her British citizenship, her infant son died in the refugee camp they were living in in northeastern Syria. Begum reportedly had two other children during her time living under ISIS, both of whom also died.
In appealing against the U.K. government’s decision, Begum’s lawyers argued that as well as rendering her stateless, the decision exposed her to risk of death or inhuman treatment. They also said she could not effectively contest her case from the refugee camp.
“Fairness and justice must, on the facts of this case, outweigh the national security concerns,” judges on the England and Wales court of appeal ruled.
The British government and security sources have said Begum represents a security risk, and expressed disappointment at Thursday’s decision.
Begum’s lawyer said: “Ms Begum has never had a fair opportunity to give her side of the story. She is not afraid of facing British justice, she welcomes it. But the stripping of her citizenship without a chance to clear her name is not justice, it is the opposite.”