The big debate surrounding Shamima Begum

Groomed at the age of 15, and now rendered “stateless” — was this the right move?

Written by: Halima K

For the few of you who have somehow managed to escape the topic of Shamima Begum, here is a brief of who she is and what has happened. Shamima is a British woman who left the UK at the age of 15 to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Now 21 with all 3 of her children deceased, her intention to return to the UK in 2019 resulted in a public debate about the handling of returning jihadists.

This is definitely a significant matter and has already been taken to the supreme court. They have ruled she cannot be allowed back into the UK and is now “stateless”.

Photo credit: The Telegraph

But, is this the right decision?

There are many arguments, both for and against, Shamima’s return to the UK. Here I will tackle the biggest concerns many people have about the situation, and provide insights into my understanding.

So, why did she leave?

In an interview with Sky News, she says she was attracted by “the way they showed that you can go [to Syria] and they’ll take care of you. You can have your own family, do anything.”

For a 15-year-old girl, being promised a glamorised lifestyle in which you’re allowed the freedom to do anything, whilst being looked after and nurturing your own family can definitely look appealing.

What have people been saying?

“Shamima left on her own accord, although being a child she was quite naïve, she didn’t have any real mental or general health issues to affect her decision.”

Whilst I completely understand that not every girl going through teenage troubles ends up joining an extremist group in Syria.

This is what grooming does.

Despite being healthy mentally, anyone is capable of being groomed, and in Shamima’s case to an extreme extent. Offenders establish trust and promise children access to everything they desire in return for a favour. In regard to Shamima, the favour was joining ISIS. She was inspired to join, through videos of war and destruction that she viewed as ‘the good life.” This leads us to question, just how bad was her life here, for her to consider that good? Or does this display the extent of her grooming, and if so, can she be wholly blamed?

Others argue:

“Shamima should not be allowed back to set an example to individuals who may consider joining extremist groups, they will see that it is not easy to return, and the court will not be sympathetic.”

However, is leaving Shamima “stateless” really necessary to set an example.

I don’t think so.

Everyone knows about Shamima’s situation, how she left, how she was raped, how all 3 of her kids had died and how bad the conditions of the camp are. If anything, these are the factors that will deter people from joining an extremist group and not the fact that she has been rendered “stateless”.

Photo credit: AFP Photo/Alex Wong/Getty Images

“Why should she be let back in if she’s shown no remorse?”

Her body language and emotions are difficult to understand, she is not begging or crying to be let back into the UK and after the mistakes, she’s made, many argue that she should be. But not everyone is able to show emotion in the same way.

It may be difficult for her to express emotion like the rest of us, she doesn’t shed a tear when speaking about her dead children, so should we really be looking for signs of remorse instead of accepting she acknowledges her mistake?

When asked, “Do you think you’ve made a mistake?” she replies, “In a way, yes, but I don’t regret it because it’s changed me as a person. It’s made me stronger, tougher.”

I’d like to clarify that she said “yes”. She admits she has made a mistake.

From my understanding, when she refers to having no regrets it is in terms of hardship and having suffered from it, which has made her stronger.

We have to remember that Shamima has not been rehabilitated from being groomed so we should be helping her.

The hardships she’s faced whilst at the camp are all she knows. From her understanding, had she stayed in the UK she would not have had the same struggles that “made [her] stronger, tougher”.

Yes, we all know she would have had other struggles in the UK that would have changed her and made her stronger, but in this case, she is talking about what has already happened and trying to view it in terms of development.

“She’s dangerous, she would be a threat to the UK.”

Government barrister Sir James Eadie QC said, “If you force the secretary of state to facilitate a return to the UK… the effect is to create potentially very serious national security concerns. You can’t keep the person out of the jurisdiction — and that is a highly valuable weapon in the armoury of public protection.”

However, whether we have made mistakes or not, we are all entitled under British law to defend ourselves and to have a fair and effective hearing in a court. Shamima is stuck in a dangerous camp and cannot take part in any hearings from there.

How about all the others we perceive as dangerous? The criminals, murderers, paedophiles etc. If they get a chance at a hearing, some argue that the same allowance should be made for Shamima.

What SHOULD be happening?

Rehabilitation should definitely be considered. Shamima is aware that if she does return to the UK things will be very different stating, “There’ll be a lot of restrictions on me, I’ll never be able to the things I used to do.” Therefore, being admitted to a rehabilitation centre will not come as a surprise to her. If criminals get a chance at change, then so should she. Her life will never be what it once could have been. Her potential and quality of life have all been limited, these are the consequences she will have to live with forever. Whether she remains in Syria or comes back to the UK, she will still be viewed negatively and find it difficult to make something of herself. The only difference is that here she will be safe.

We have the chance of providing her with a safer life.

She says that she would tell her family is “sorry for leaving”.

Maybe it’s time we give her that chance.

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