The facts have become casualties in the war of words over pregnant IS teenager’s bid to return to UK

Shamima Begum: Commenters who rushed to defend her on the basis of wild speculation are encouraged to consider the facts of the matter.

No issue in recent memory has riled Vox Political readers as much as the case of Shamima Begum – apart from accusations of anti-Semitism, and they were based on inaccurate information or speculation as well.

I must admit I was surprised at the vehemence of the response to yesterday’s article about the teenage defector to IS. I had tweeted a request for opinions, the day before, that received only one response – at a tangent to the main issue.

The diversity of information and opinions on this has been fascinating. It seems a vociferous proportion of you have very solid opinions on the facts of this case – but you can’t agree on what many of those facts are.

We know that Ms Begum was encouraged to leave the UK for IS-held territory with two other schoolgirls, at the age of 15. There, she married a Dutch IS fighter and had two children with him, both of whom died shortly after they were born. She is now pregnant with his third child and is living in a refugee camp outside IS control but in which she is said to be surrounded by IS sympathisers. Those are the facts as we know them.

She has said she still supports IS; that she saw decapitated heads in a basket but the sight did not “faze” her; that she fears her unborn child may not survive if it is born at her current location; and that she wants the UK government to intervene and bring her home, so she and the child can enjoy NHS health care.

Commenters who think she should be brought home have poured doubt on her support of IS, but insisted that the fears she has expressed for her unborn child are genuine, and that she is sincere in her desire to live peacefully in the UK with her child after being brought back. Those are interesting choices, considering they have no evidence to support any of those assertions.

The head of MI6 has already pointed out that Ms Begum may present a threat to people in the UK if she returns and that a “very significant level of resource” would be required to ensure public safety because she is likely to have acquired “certain skills or connections”.

He said: “We are very concerned about this because all experience tells us that once someone has been put in that sort of position, or put themselves in that sort of position, they are likely to have acquired the skills or connections that make them potentially very dangerous.”

It is possible that, if she does manage to have her unborn child in the UK, it would be taken away from her – at least until her intentions are established – for its own safety.

Some of the other issues in this case appear a little more vague:

  • In my previous article I implied that she would be a health tourist. Many, many people have written in to assert that she is entitled to free NHS care because she is British.
    It seems this is not true. Here‘s the NHS’s own guidance: “If you are moving abroad on a permanent basis, you will no longer automatically be entitled to medical treatment under normal NHS rules. This is because the NHS is a residence-based healthcare system.”
    This leaflet (and I dare say others from other NHS trusts) indicates that any UK citizen who has lived abroad for more than three months may be charged for health care, unless they can prove that they have been working (note that word: working) abroad for less than five years and have lived in the UK continuously for at least 10 years at some point. Anyone coming to the UK from a non-EEA country with which the UK does not have a bilateral healthcare agreement will normally be expected to pay for treatment.
  • It has been claimed that the unborn child is innocent of any wrong-doing by either of its parents and this is true. But this does not provide it with an automatic right of residence in the UK. The father is Dutch. What are the laws in that country regarding parenthood? Do his family not have a say in the future of their descendant? Who gave commenters on Facebook and Twitter the right to decide that they don’t?
  • It has been claimed that, under international law, Ms Begum cannot be prevented from returning to the UK – as she is a UK citizen and her citizenship cannot be revoked because it is an offence to leave anybody stateless. But this raises significant questions, because she deliberately left the UK with the intention of becoming a citizen of “the Caliphate”, as she describes the land controlled by IS. The UK has never recognised IS as a legitimate country, and it is this that allows Ms Begum to return, if she can. But (again), her comments lead one to conclude that she does not want to be a citizen of the UK, but is simply – cynically – playing on this point of law to get free medical care for herself and her child. Is the UK now the kind of country that forces individuals to be British citizens, whether they want to or not? It isn’t so very long since we condemned the former Soviet Union for such behaviour.
  • It has been suggested that she cannot express remorse because she is in an IS refugee camp (she isn’t); and because she is in a Syrian refugee camp but surrounded by members of IS who could beat her and endanger the child. There is no evidence to suggest this is true.
  • It has been suggested that she was groomed by IS – the evidence suggests she wasn’t. She was radicalised. Grooming is a practice carried out by paedophiles for predatory sexual purposes and the evidence is that she was persuaded to join IS because she was led to believe in its culture and purpose. Once there, the evidence suggests that she applied to marry an English-speaking IS fighter aged between 20 and 25, and did so within a matter of weeks. It has been asserted that this shows sexual impropriety as she was still a minor – but this is according to UK laws and she was now living according to the rules of IS. What is the age of consent there? I don’t know but the evidence – again – suggests that it is lower than in the UK. I’m not supporting that; it is what it is.
  • It has been suggested that those who don’t think she should return – 76 per cent of us according to Sky News – support child grooming, want the unborn child to die, and are racists who would not respond the same way if Ms Begum was white. These are simple personal insults, nothing more. The claim about racism is completely wild. And there is no reason to believe we know that the unborn child will die, now that her circumstances have changed and she is not under IS rule now.

The best information we have shows that Ms Begum left the UK of her own free will and everything she has done since then was intentional and unforced, so it is possible that she will face prosecution and imprisonment if she is allowed back. She is not entitled to free healthcare from the UK’s NHS and her eligibility to return cannot be supported on that basis. If she has the baby in the UK, it may be taken away from her, for its own safety. And the wishes of the father (if he is still alive and can be traced) and his family must also be researched; the child will be a descendant of theirs as well.

Perhaps those who rushed to criticise This Writer had not taken all the elements of this case into account.

It is also possible that I was hasty in saying that Ms Begum should be prevented from returning to the UK. But she should certainly be briefed on what to expect. Her response could provide a very clear indication of who is right in this case.

Will she still want to come back, knowing what might happen if she does?

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33 thoughts on “The facts have become casualties in the war of words over pregnant IS teenager’s bid to return to UK

  1. Chris Davison

    You wrote “heads” instead of “head”. Your willingness to change that fact to suit you narrative is revealing about your true intention

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      “When I saw my first severed head in a bin it didn’t faze me at all.”

      Clearly she has seen more than one severed head in a bin.

      It seems clear that YOU are willing to change the facts to suit YOUR narrative. Am I to conclude that this is revealing about YOUR true intention?

      1. Bob Vant

        RIPOSTE! Well said, Mike. Interesting to see how some folk will only see/hear what fits in with their rather self-satisfied self-image of themselves as reasonable?

  2. Ultraviolet

    “Is the UK now the kind of country that forces individuals to be British citizens, whether they want to or not? It isn’t so very long since we condemned the former Soviet Union for such behaviour.”

    Or is it the kind of country where politicians can decide, without any legal process or checks and balances, that you are NOT a British citizen anymore? Because that is what you are, astoundingly, arguing for. Politicians should never have that power.

    You seem to be taking a hard case and making a very, very bad law out of it.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I can’t make law. But I can point out issues with the laws we have.

      In that respect, this is no different from my arguments about the genocidal behaviour of the DWP.

      1. Ultraviolet

        But if the issue were dealt with in the way you are arguing it should be, a politician could declare that YOU are no longer a citizen, and there would be nothing you could do about it.

        That is not a power I would EVER argue that politicians should be allowed to have.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        Why? Have I travelled abroad under false pretences, joined a terrorist organisation, burned my passport, and contributed to efforts to destroy the civilisation that raised me? No, I haven’t. This woman renounced her UK citizenship and now she knows the side she chose is losing, she is trying to take advantage of the fact that international law says we cannot honour her decision.

    2. eli

      To my mind, if you leave England to join a violent, barbaric, totalitarian religion willingly, marry a violent, barbaric, totalitarian man in that religion, have no remorse on what that husband did to other human beings, or what inhumane things done to other human beings you saw, a, you are simply not English and not entitled to English or live in England. She joined this violent, vile religion that advocates such vile, barbaric acts be perpetrated on us here, and overthrow our government and laws, subjugate non-muslims, then she deserves nothing, not even to come back. I think you will find, many, many sensible English people do not want her back and know she is a danger. She has been gone long enough to be trained to kill, be sick and twisted. No, she is not entitled to come back. She made her bed, she should lie in it. After all, she is old enough to be fairly sensible and mature. She knew what she was doing and committing to. After all, the age of being responsible for a crime, is much young in England! You would have to be in a secluded bubble without a TV, radio…. to not know who Isis was or stood for, what atrocities they committed. She knew this and still went out and married a terrorist. Innocent, my arse.

  3. trev

    Looking back I suppose I made some bad choices myself and did some stupid things at age 15 – 19. I skipped school, engaged in under – age drinking, stuck safety pins in my ears, got a motorbike and hung out with the local tearaway Greasers, but I didn’t emigrate to a foreign land to join an armed Revolutionary murderous terrorist movement. I suppose we all make mistakes when we’re young and impressionable and think we know it all, but lets keep it in perspective. Sometimes you have to live by your mistakes.

  4. anon

    How is this a debate? Her only nationality is British. International law says we cannot make a person stateless. If she comes to the UK we have no choice but to let her in.

    If you think international law should be changed, how would you change it? Where are criminals supposed to go, if not to a state? Mars?

    If you think international law should be broken then your are in the company of Trump, Bush, Blair and countless other disgraced world leaders.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Hmm. How to respond to someone whose email address describes them as “fakeyfake”?

      You are selecting very carefully the parts of my argument that you think you can undermine. I made it very clear that she renounced her UK citizenship and it may be considered an act of oppression to force it on her. She is married to a man from the Netherlands and so her status – and certainly that of her unborn child – is not as clear-cut as you pretend. That’s according to international law.

      1. anon

        (I’m just choosing to comment anonymously, apologies for the fake email address)

        It is not legally possible for us to deport her to a country of which she is not a citizen. Even if she asks us to.

        Your moral arguments are interesting, but merely academic, because there are laws that force our hand here.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        We cannot deport her anywhere because she is not in the UK.
        We have no duty to fetch her either.
        And the issue of her citizenship – and certainly that of her unborn child – is cloudy because she is married.
        My opinion remains the same: She does not qualify for free NHS treatment. And my opinion is that she is a proven security risk to the UK who should not be allowed into the country. If international law says we cannot forbid it, then international law should be changed.

    2. trev

      If she pledged allegiance to ‘Islamic State’ then she’s not Stateless. She’s made her choice to not be a British citizen and chosen to define the so-called State that she believes in. And she doesn’t even seem to be repentant. Apparently 360 people have already been allowed back in to Britain, why I don’t know, because I wouldn’t have let any of them back in.

  5. Bob Vant

    I saw your original posting on this, Mike, and thought “Brave! Bet he gets a lot in the neck for this.”

    And that’s how it’s turned out. As you say here, your critics don’t seem to have taken the wider view of the issues. They’ve ignored aspects, so that they can feel comfortable in their self-righteousness.

    Now, I’m sorry to have to say this….but…..that’s what I think you’ve done elsewhere, on Anti-semitism and plots against Jeremy Corbyn. I’ve asked, in effect, “Yeah, but what about X,Y,Z?”


      1. Bob Vant

        Er….some confusion here, Trev? Have you followed what I’ve said to Mike? I haven’t denied either that there are plots against JC, nor that he isn’t anti-semitic. What I have said is that there are other factors which complicate matters.

        1/ JC has, for example, been amazingly clumsy in his dealings with concerns from Jewish quarters. Have you seen the report from Hope Not Hate?

        “The family history of so many members of the British Jewish community includes first-hand experience of persecution. Many people in the Jewish community therefore identify with a sense of the precariousness of their safety, where material security and educational attainment are not seen as guarantors of security and safety. The inability of the Labour Party leadership to understand and acknowledge this experience is particularly chilling when the Labour Party and the left in general hold values of equality and antiracism as core to their identity.”

        JC has associated with anti-semites (eg, calling Hamas
        “friends” when their Charter was viciously anti-semitic). He needs to clear up his own mess and make a proper apology for that. Vague claims about being against all racism won’t cut the mustard.

        2/ Nish Kumar put it well on tonight’s (repeated) Mock The Week. As he said, if you say there are anti-semites in the Labour Party, then some of JC’s supporters will say you have clearly fallen for a Zionist, Israeli conspiracy. GUESS WHAT? That’s what anti-Semites say….

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        As long as you continue pushing the lie that Jeremy Corbyn was a friend of Hamas (you know perfectly well why he said what he did) and the lie that his supporters claim there isn’t any anti-Semitism in Labour at all, people like us will be able to ignore what you have to say.

        Perhaps you might try again, with a little less prejudice?

      3. Bob Vant

        Hm. I can’t see a REPLY thingy after your “As long as you continue..” posting, so I’m copying it to avoid confusion, Mike…..

        “As long as you continue pushing the lie that Jeremy Corbyn was a friend of Hamas (you know perfectly well why he said what he did) and the lie that his supporters claim there isn’t any anti-Semitism in Labour at all, people like us will be able to ignore what you have to say.
        Perhaps you might try again, with a little less prejudice?”

        First, I’ve complimented you on the way you usually deal thoroughly with the evidence when you make your case/s. I have pointed out, however, that it looks to me as if you try to ignore what will not fit in with your viewpoints.

        Sadly, you’ve taken things further here. I hope some who read this know that when the word “lie” is chucked around, it’s a sign of the weakness of what’s being said.

        I’ll do my best to show that I am not a liar.

        1/ Will you show us where I’ve said that JC’s “….supporters claim there isn’t any anti-semitism in Labour at all”? I’ve looked. Can’t see owt.

        2/ As for JC saying he was friends with Hamas….all I’m doing is to quote the man himself.

        As he realised, he’d dropped major clangers here…..

        I don’t understand why you think it’s relevant to tell me “….(you know perfectly well why he said what he did).” It’s not about what I think he meant. It’s not about what YOU think he meant. It’s about what he – as a leading politician – said. He CLAIMS that he said it to encourage the peace process. He later admitted that he wishes he hadn’t said it. BUT HE DID. THAT IS INCONTROVERTIBLE. If HE can see that he made a mistake, why do so many of us struggle with accepting that? Why, instead, do we thrash around trying to evade accepting that he got this very badly wrong, calling each other “liars”?

        (Here’s a few of the juiciest bits of the Hamas Charter when JC called them “friends.” Would it not have been a good idea for JC to check some basic facts like this before spouting off? Bound to give ammo to his cynical opponents……and make Jewish people who should be supporters a bit worried?

        “Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’ “)

        Add to this Seumas Milne’s speech praising Hamas’ “……spirit of resistance…
        …they will not be broken,” and then for a bit of balance try Peter Tatchell’s view…. ?

        To sum up, Mike, JC told us all Hamas and Hezbollah were his “Friends.” Can’t argue with it unless you want to sound evasive? He has apologised for that…..but I don’t think he’s gone far enough. As some critics say, he HAS “…associated himself with anti-semites.” He’s associated ME, as well, as a Labour Party member. I don’t like that.

        He’s got some mess to clear up. Until he does, vague claims about being against all racism won’t wash. How about, “You know, I finally get it! It DOES look as if I have associated with anti-semites! Where and how do I start apologising for that?”

        3/ “…..people like us will be able to ignore what you have to say.” Ooops. Which sort of people are “us”, Mike? There was me, all naif, working on the principle we’re all members of the same party, y’know? Clearly, I’ve missed out on summat. I look forward to you putting me right.

      4. Mike Sivier Post author

        Sorry, I got bored about halfway through. This is nothing but self-justifying, mealy-mouthed rubbish and I can’t be bothered with it. Bob, if you’re going to keep on in this manner I’ll just trash your comments.

  6. eli

    Mike, under islam, there is no age limit for marriage. A man can marry a new born baby, but he should wait until she is 9 when allegedly she can take the weight of a man, to have sex with her. That’s nasty sharia law for you. All in the quran and hadiths.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I’ve just looked this up in our old friend Wikipedia, which says: “Sahih Muslim permits marriage once a person reaches sexual maturity. Sexual maturity in Sharia law is typically understood to mean puberty. At the same time, intercourse is forbidden until they are able to physically bear it.”

  7. Ed Delicata0

    I have followed your blog for years because you so often expressed my thoughts and feelings much more eloquently than I could (and from a deeper pool of knowledge). For this and other reasons I have promoted it widely to friends and acquaintances. I thought I knew you – more fool me, I guess. I cannot find the words to adequately express the scale of my shock and disappointment on reading your original post on this subject. Your follow up does nothing to dispel this, even quoting ‘the head of MI6’ and Sky News – as if either were ever a reliable source! The rug has been well and truly pulled from under my feet. Sorry Mike, you’ve lost me on this one.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      What a shame. My arguments on this are as strongly based on fact as with all the other articles. Are you sure you are not simply disagreeing on an emotional level? Can’t we just agree to disagree on this, at least until such time as one of us can demonstrate a stronger argument? If you think not, what does that say about our different points of view?

  8. jeanette wyatt

    I am so disappointed by the whole tone of your argument and especially by the fact that you seem much more excited by point-scoring than by attempting to understand some of the very complex emotional issues which underpin this issue. I can imagine that my idealistic but immature daughter might well embark on such a dangerous and wrong-headed exercise and would probably very quickly realise her mistake. I think it is unimaginable that either I or her country should close the door to her return. Obviously there are considerations around her current mental state that need to be addressed but surely that is one of advantages of being a citizen of a supposedly liberal country.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Why are you trying to say I’m “excited” by any part of this? I can see you say that you are disappointed but please don’t try to attribute any emotion to me. I have grasped the issues which underpin this matter – and it is clear that emotion is getting in the way. If you think your daughter might try something similar to Shamima Begun, you now have an excellent way of impressing on her the pitfalls of such a course. And you are ignoring several legal points about Ms Begum’s case, including the fact that she is married to a Dutch national and has a child whose parenthood is by people of different national origins. From what we can tell, her current mental state is entirely rational. It would be handy (for some) to say it isn’t but there is no evidence to suggest it.

  9. Robin Baldock

    She evidently conflicted about her situation and her role in it, on the one hand critical of and on the other only speaking against it in qualified ways, is probably dangerous, yes . and should be treated as such but we have many dangerous people in the uk. and whether she is more dangerous here being cared for or in a refugee camp being neglected is an unknown.

    She was groomed at 15 and is still only 19, of course she’s screwed up.

    If she were your daughter you’d want her back.

    Its a weird situation where you are more to the right on this than the security officials who’s job it is to assess these matters..

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I don’t see that she’s conflicted in any way at all. She’s trying to manipulate people’s feelings, I think – and has apparently succeeded in some cases. But look what she said in her latest interview, quoted in the Telegraph: “I had a good time there.” She said there was “no evidence” she had done anything wrong, which is hardly a ringing endorsement of her own good character! It is not clear whether her other comments about why she should be allowed to come home – “I feel a lot of people should have sympathy for me, for everything I’ve been through” – are about her life with IS or her current situation in a refugee camp. She continues: “I can’t live in this camp forever. It’s not really possible.”

      You say she was groomed but there is no evidence at all to suggest that this is true.

      She isn’t my daughter. You are appealing to emotion that is not appropriate in this case. Of course her family wants her back. But we must consider what is best for the country.

      It isn’t a matter of being right- or left-wing. It is a matter of making the correct choices. I think if you were to try to take some of your own emotions out of this issue, you might feel different.

  10. Tony Harms

    If she comes back here she will be UK citizen who is a resident and entitled to NHS care. Your leaflet applies to non-residents who come back for treatment. Even if she does not intend to stay here she has been absent for less than 5 years and lived here for over ten. You seem to be a bit het up about this case which needs careful thought. How will you react when we get the “Beatles” back ?

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      You appear to have misread my article. She is not entitled to NHS care as it is based on residency and she has been out of the UK for too long. She is a UK subject, but her child may not be. Yes, the leaflet applies to non-resident UK citizens who come back for treatment – as that is what Shamima Begum is. She has not been abroad working for the period stated.
      I’m perfectly calm about this case. But I must ask: Are you okay?

  11. jennybn

    She should be handed over to face justice in the country she chose to commit her crimes, Assad is no more a “butcher” than any of the people running this country,

    it’s regime change baby!! it’s butchers and babies…. just like it was with Qaddafi and Saddam, just as it’ll be in Venezuela!

    the UK gvmnt would have to admit too many things though, so to save face for Sajid Javid – she’ll more than likely die in an “accident” attacked by her peers…. or that’s what’ll be reported!

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