Shamima Begum says her world ‘fell apart’ after losing British citizenship

Chiara Giordano
Shamima Begum: BBC

Shamima Begum has said her “whole world fell apart” the day she found out she had lost her British citizenship.

The former east London schoolgirl, now 20, was one of three friends who boarded a plane five years ago to join Isis in Syria.

She was stripped of her British citizenship by former home secretary Sajid Javid after she was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp last year.

Ms Begum is now living in al-Roj camp, in northeastern Syria, where she shares a tent with US-Canadian Kimberly Polman, who also travelled to Syria to join Isis.

She was pictured wearing a maroon head scarf and blue jeans at the weekend instead of her usual black burqa – which is banned from the camp as part of deradicalisation efforts.

Her tent, which has heating and a television, was decorated with hearts and fairy lights for Valentine’s Day and adorned with a bible verse about love and inspirational quotes.

Speaking for the first time since she lost her appeal against Mr Javid’s decision earlier this month, she told ABC News reporter James Longman: “When my citizenship got rejected, I felt like my whole world fell apart right in front of me.

“You know, especially the way I was told. I wasn’t even told by a government official. I had to be told by journalists.

“I thought I would be a bit different because I had not done anything wrong before I came to Isis.”

When asked about previous comments she has made about not regretting her decision to join Isis, Ms Begum said she was “afraid for my life”.

She added: “I had just come into the camp. I had just given birth.

“I was hearing all these stories about women threatening other women, you know, folk uncovering their faces or speaking to men or doing interviews or anything like that.”

Ms Begum, who was born in the UK and is of British-Bangladeshi heritage, took legal action against the Home Office at the High Court and the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) last year.

But on 7 February the tribunal, led by SIAC president Ms Justice Elisabeth Laing, ruled Ms Begum was “a citizen of Bangladesh by descent” and was therefore not rendered stateless.

Ms Begum was 15 when she boarded a flight from Gatwick airport to Istanbul, Turkey, with fellow Bethnal Green Academy students Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Amira Abase, 15, on 17 February 2015.

Another schoolfriend, Sharmeena Begum, had previously travelled to Syria in December 2014.

Ms Begum claims she married Dutch convert Yago Riedijk 10 days after arriving in Raqqa, Syria.

All three of her schoolfriends also reportedly married foreign Isis fighters.

Ms Begum's three children she had with Mr Riedijk all died.

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