Shamima Begum is to appeal today against the ban on her return to Britain. The case is being heard by an immigration appeals tribunal but the ultimate decision lies with the Home Secretary. Suella Braverman may stick with the view that Begum is a danger to national security.
I say she should return. It is hard to believe that she poses a real threat to national security. And I say this from a rather different perspective than her lawyers that she was a child when she was trafficked to Syria. She was undeniably manipulated online by Islamic State. Her journey was arranged by a fixer who was also working for Canadian intelligence but that doesn’t quite tell the whole story. She was, it would seem, an idealistic recruit to the Islamist project.
In Britain, she would be treated quite differently on account of her age in taking her criminal responsibility into account. But there is a spectrum of moral responsibility even when it comes to minors. And a 15-year- old has some moral agency, even if it is very different from that of the adult jihadists who went to Syria at the same time.
The reason she should return to Britain is that it is in this country and not Syria that she was born and brought up. Begum is the product of this society and this society should come to terms with that. Britons went willingly to fight for IS and in doing so they participated in genocide.
There was no doubt about the nature of IS when Begum signed up.
She wasn’t a fighter but she was part of the IS project; it is alleged that she was one of the IS morality police who made life hell for other women in Raqqa. There are still people who lived under the IS regime who will remember her, who can bear witness to what she did; we should be gathering evidence from them to produce, probably remotely, in a court of law.
Begum has paid a price, of course; her children died young and she was stuck somewhere she desperately doesn’t want to be. And it is not really credible to think that she poses a genuine risk to national security — given her experience, that’s unlikely.
Former jihadists wanting to return home from their Syrian exile should be treated on an individual basis. And Shamima Begum should face justice here.