We previously explored how the issue of so-called British jihadist bride Shamima Begum became politically explosive in the UK after she demanded of British authorities to be repatriated last month, and at a moment that President Trump demanded allies take custody of their foreign fighters from the Syrian battlefield. The now 19-year old joined Islamic State in 2015 after fleeing the UK when she was just 15. She had also recently given birth in a Syrian refugee camp and had demanded safe return to Britain for fear that she and her child could die in the camp, so near the war zone. Britain’s response was to formally revoke her UK citizenship on national security grounds.
As much contentious debate as that move sparked, some are now blaming the UK government after this week Begum’s three-week old baby died, reportedly of pneumonia in the wartime conditions of the northern Syria refugee camp in which they were stuck after fleeing the last Islamic State enclave of now besieged Baghouz. In media interviews British ISIS bride Begum has blamed everyone but herself for her dire plight, and while expressing some minor regrets over traveling to Syria still extolled “the good life” under ISIS and noted she had been inspired by ISIS beheading videos.
The opposition Labour party has called the infant’s death, the third child of Begum’s to have died since she joined the Islamic State “morally reprehensible” while one ruling Conservative party lawmaker called it a “stain on the conscience” of the government.
However, as Reuters reports, the decision to strip the woman of her UK citizenship was popular among Britons according to polls. Reuters reports the Begum has become the face of the raging Europe-wide debate over just what to do with the hundreds of European foreign fighters seeking to exit Syria, which presents a major threat of jihadist terror presence:
Found in a refugee camp in February, an unrepentant Begum sparked a debate in Britain and other European capitals as to whether a teenager with a jihadist fighter’s child should be left in a war zone to fend for herself.
More broadly it has shown the predicament that governments face when weighing the ethical, legal and security ramifications of allowing militants and their families to return.
Most Conservative leaders in Britain, such as Interior Minister Sajid Javid have previously argued “dangerous individuals” coming back to the UK from battlefields in the Middle East should be stripped of their British citizenship.
He said this option has already been “so far exercises more than 100 times,” otherwise he also advocates prosecution of apprehended returning suspects “regardless of their age and gender.”
#ISIS wives trow bottles with drinking water at #SDF member. Earlier these bottles were given to them and their children to quench their thirst. However they didn't even use this water. pic.twitter.com/AXbRsKl5zO
— SMM Syria (@smmsyria) March 9, 2019
The Home Office had Begum stripped of her citizenship on Feb. 19 and she and her family were notified by official government letter.
Just prior to that the interior minister had told MPs that he would not “hesitate to prevent” the return of Britons who set off for the Middle East to join ISIS.
“I was troubled by the decision. It seemed driven by a populism, not by any principle that I recognized,” Phillip Lee, a former justice minister and member of May’s party, told BBC Radio, but added that it remains, “Clearly Shamima Begum holds abhorrent views.” All of which suggests internal debate and controversy across party lines.
Begum spent 4yrs actively supporting ISIS, the world’s most barbaric & inhumane terrorist organisation. Her three children all died because she chose to bring them into the despicable world she chose for herself. To now blame Britain, the country she denounced, is disgusting. https://t.co/1A5sWeDwHm
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) March 9, 2019
Last month Trump had issued provocative tweets wherein he urged European countries to “take back” and prosecute some 800 ISIS foreign fighters as US forces withdraw from Syria, or else “we will be forced to release them.”
The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial. The Caliphate is ready to fall. The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them……..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2019
The message was met with a mix of shock, confusion and indifference in Europe. Trump had warned European leaders that the terrorists could subsequently “permeate Europe” if their governments didn’t take active charge of them.
With the last small ISIS enclave now being emptied out of its terrorists by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and with SDF battle field jails now overflowing, the clock is ticking on the issue of the foreign jihadists’ fate. This as the White House still says it has initiated a partial troop draw down, though now without timetable.