Shamima Begum loses British citizenship appeal as ‘She’s British’ trends online

The UK government’s decision to revoke the citizenship of Shamima Begum, who travelled to Syria to join the Islamic State (IS) group, was upheld after her appeal was dismissed.  

The ruling means Begum will not be eligible to reclaim her British citizenship, but her lawyers vowed to fight on.

The Special Immigrations Appeals Commission (Siac) acknowledged there was “credible suspicion” that Begum was trafficked to Syria for the purposes of sexual exploitation “as a child.”

It also said that state bodies, such as the police, school and local authority, had failed by “permitting Ms Begum to leave the country as she did and eventually cross the border from Turkey into Syria.”

But the commission, which deemed the case to be of “great concern and difficulty”, determined that despite all that, it was still “insufficient” to declare the home secretary’s decision unlawful.

Begum was 15 when she left east London for Syria with two classmates in 2015. In February 2019, the then-home secretary Sajid Javid revoked her British citizenship.

“Reasonable people will profoundly disagree with the secretary of state, but that raises wider societal and political questions which it is not the role of this commission to address,” said Mr Justice Jay, who wrote the judgment.  

Jay said, “the idea that Ms Begum could have conceived and organised all of this herself is not plausible” and that the judges were “concerned” the then secretary of state’s “apparent downplaying of the significance of radicalisation and grooming in stating that what happened to Ms Begum is not unusual”.

He also made the point that there was nothing in open session to allay concerns that “many right-thinking people in this country’s Muslim communities (and beyond) feel that they are being treated as second-class citizens, and/or that their welcome is somehow contingent”.

The government argues that Begum is eligible for Bangladeshi citizenship through her parents.

“Legal battle is far from finished”  

Begum’s lawyer, Gareth Pierce, told journalists outside: “The implication [of this case] is that no British child who is being trafficked outside the UK will be protected by the British state if the home secretary invokes national security.

“The findings show that the commission found credible suspicion that Shamima Begum was trafficked, credible suspicion that she was harboured by the traffickers until 2019, credible suspicion that there were extraordinary failures within the UK in preventing her and her friends from travelling

Daniel Furner, who represents Begum, stated the “legal battle is far from finished” and confirmed they plan to contest the verdict.

Maya Foa from Reprieve called on Britain to accept responsibility for Shamima Begum and asserted that the government’s policy of revoking citizenship is a “political posture, more concerned with headlines than British lives.”

“Britain is the only G20 country that strips citizenship in bulk and the last of our allies refusing to repatriate its nationals from North-East Syria,” Foa added.

The ruling comes two months after Begum’s lawyers told the court she was a victim of human trafficking. According to a book released last year, a Canadian spy smuggled the schoolgirl and her friends into Syria, and Britain then helped Canada cover up its role.

The UK government said it was “pleased that the court has found in favour of the government’s position in this case.”

“The government’s priority remains maintaining the safety and security of the UK and we will robustly defend any decision made in doing so.”

The country refuses to repatriate its citizens from refugee camps in northeast Syria, unlike the US and other European countries. Last month, Spain started the process of repatriating families of IS fighters from these camps.

‘She’s British’

The decision prompted outrage on social media, with the hashtag ‘She’s British’ trending on Twitter.

Here’s what people said.


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