Bangladesh’s government said Wednesday it would deny entry for a young woman identified in news reports as a British national of Bangladeshi parentage, who became radicalized and joined the Islamic State extremist group in Syria when she was just 15.
Shamima Begum, a 19-year-old British-born woman, who had reportedly left her London area home four years ago to join the group’s so-called caliphate in the Middle East, pleaded in news interviews in recent days that Britain allow her to return home, amid the imminent elimination of IS in Syria.
Earlier this week, Britain’s Home Office moved to strip her of her citizenship, according to reports, which said Begum was also believed to have Bangladeshi lineage.
Begum, however, was “erroneously identified as a holder of dual citizenship shared with Bangladesh alongside her birthplace,” the Bangladeshi foreign ministry said in a strongly worded statement.
“It has come to our knowledge from different media sources that the Government of the United Kingdom has revoked the citizenship of one Ms. Shamima Begum on account of her radicalization in line with the ISIS outfit in Syria in the recent past,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, asserting that Begum was a British citizen by birth who had never applied for Bangladeshi citizenship or set foot in Bangladesh “despite her parental lineage.”
The statement referred to IS by another acronym.
“So, there is no question of her being allowed to enter into Bangladesh. In this regard, Bangladesh reiterates her firm commitment to adhere to the policy of zero tolerance against terrorism and violent extremism in all its forms and manifestation,” said the statement attributed to Director General Masudur Rahman.
‘Kind of retaliation’
Bangladesh has been targeted in terrorist attacks in recent years, most notably the July 2016 siege of a Dhaka café in which militants hacked to death 20 hostages. IS claimed responsibility for the attack, but Bangladeshi officials adamantly denied that it was linked to Islamic State or that the group had a presence in the South Asian nation.
In an interview with BBC News from a refugee camp in Syria earlier this week, in which Begum pleaded that Britain allow her to return home, she also made controversial comments that appeared to justify a suicide bombing at a concert hall in Manchester, England in May 2017 that killed 23 people and was claimed by IS.
“It’s kind of retaliation. Their justification was that it was retaliation so I thought, okay, that is a fair justification,” Begum told BBC News, comparing the Manchester attack with anti-IS coalition airstrikes in Syria and Iraq.
According to the BBC report, published on Monday, she had given birth to a baby boy at the camp last weekend.
The day after the BBC interview, Britain’s ITV News reported that it had seen a letter addressed to Begum’s mother from the Home Office.
“In light of the circumstances of your daughter, the notice of the Home Secretary’s decision has been served on file today (19th February), and the order removing her British citizenship has subsequently been made,” according to a redacted copy of the letter posted on the news channel’s Twitter feed.
As of late Wednesday, the Home Office had not posted any statements about Begum’s case on its website.
But on Monday, British Home Secretary Sajid Javid brought up Begum’s name as he told parliament that it could not ignore a threat to national security posed by more than 900 Britons who had left their country to join IS in the Middle East.
“Whatever role they took in the so-called caliphate, they all supported a terrorist organization, and in doing so they have shown they hate our country and the values that we stand for,” Javid said during his videotaped remarks to the House of Commons.
“Quite simply, if you back terror there must be consequences,” the secretary warned, referring to comments made in the media by Begum.
He had the power, he added, to ban non-British people from the country and strip “dangerous dual nationals of their British citizenship.”
Meanwhile on Wednesday, the United States announced that it would bar a young Alabama woman, Hoda Muthana, who had travelled to the Middle East to marry an IS fighter, according to reports, from entering U.S. territory even though she had also pleaded to be allowed to come home.
“Ms. Hoda Muthana is not a U.S. citizen and will not be admitted into the United States. She does not have any legal basis, no valid U.S. passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the United States,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. It did not mention her reported connection to Islamic State but urged all American citizens not to travel to Syria.
However, an attorney for the woman’s family claimed that the 24-year-old was born in New Jersey and had a valid American passport, according to the Associated Press.