Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
In 2015 three British schoolgirls, aged 15, departed the UK to join the terrorist group 'Islamic State of Iraq'. In a carefully planned enterprise, they stole and sold family jewellery to fund their trip. Besides, its suspected that family members provided funds although they dispute this.
The girls from Bethnal Green in London allegedly radicalised through contact with an IS recruiter. There is also evidence that they engaged with radicals in a local mosque. How they purchased their air-tickets to Turkey remains unknown. Although it’s certain someone facilitated their departure. Moreover, members of their families didn’t intervene or alert the authorities.
On arrival in Turkey, the girls made their way to Syria to almost immediately marry IS fighters. In effect, the girls were to be broodmares for the fledging Islamic caliphate.
In recent years, IS undertook terrorist attacks across the world including in the UK. The 2017 Manchester Arena bombing during an Ariana Grande concert killed 22 and injured over 800. An IS operative carried out that suicide attack with his specific target young girls enjoying a night out.
IS is now facing defeat on the battlefield. With its territory shrinking, the proposed caliphate has evaporated. The women of IS have fled. One of the British girls, Shamima Begum, has resurfaced in a refugee camp. Until weeks ago she provided active support to IS and this week gave birth to her third child by an IS fighter. Her husband is a Dutch national. His whereabouts are unknown, while her two previous babies died. Begum is seeking to return to the UK.
Of course, Begum’s request to return home is provoking a strong reaction in many quarters. Justifiable so. Katy Hopkins sums it up well here.
Hopkins makes a compelling case, yet there are many fascinating aspects to this situation. For starters, Begum is not helping her situation by the interviews she is giving to the British media. They’ve flocked to the refugee camp, providing her with a great deal of publicity. Begum may come to regret this high-profile approach.
She is now 19-years-old and presents an un-remorseful image. Open enough to assert she has no regrets, nonetheless she expects Britain to take her back. She talks of accepting the IS violence, and of not flinching at finding severed heads in rubbish bins. Begum knew that IS butchered thousands of people and inspired terror attacks in the UK. Still, she opted to remain until the end as their stronghold collapsed. Up to the last moment, she fed the ‘caliphate’, providing logistical support.
Just as crucial, she and her friends helped give IS credibility. They provided an example to others supporting recruitment efforts.
Begum is a collaborator to a terrorist group that murdered innocent British children. With that, Begum forfeited her rights. Only now because her side lost is she seeking to run back to the comfort of Bethnal Green. So, my gut reaction is that under no circumstances should Begum enter the UK. She made her bed - literally - with IS and now needs to lay there.
Yet, matters are not that straight forward because there is a legal position to consider. It appears under international law that Britain is obliged to take her back. The bloggingbarrister makes the case.
In essence, she can’t be stripped of her British citizenship because she’d be stateless. Plus, if Britain is to keep any credibility, it needs to adhere to these international principles. Therein lies the rub.
The Home Secretary, Mr Javid, was all for excluding her. “My message is clear if you have supported terrorist organisations abroad I will not hesitate to prevent your return.”
He's now gone silent on the subject. His legal advisers have probably pointed out that his hands are tied.
Thus in time, Begum may end up back in the UK with her child. If that happens, here is my proposal. First, she must provide the intelligence services with her full and honest cooperation. This process will include a thorough debrief. That debrief will continue until she can give no more useful information. In that process, if evidence for a criminal prosecution emerges, she should face the full weight of the law.
Further, social services should examine her fitness to keep the child. Finally, if released into the wider community, she must have a tag and report to a police station at least weekly. If she does not comply, then immediate detention must be sought.
Of course, the liberal media led by the Guardian and the Observer are already fighting for her return. They and her lawyer are playing the usual ‘victim’ card. Unfortunately for them, Begum didn’t appear in the least traumatised when speaking to the media. She was coherent, controlled and smiling at times. This ‘victim’ status dishonours those killed in Manchester and elsewhere. Though they would not admit it, the Guardian and others are prepared to accept the death of innocent people as a sacrifice to their poisoned agenda.
Meanwhile, Tasnime Akunjee, the lawyer representing the Begum family, is throwing up a smoke screen of accusations. He goes too far to blame everyone else but the girls. For him, it’s the fault of the police, the girl's school and the local council. These assertions are palpable nonsense. If blame lies anywhere, it's with the family and the mosques that failed to deal with radical elements.
Akunjee elects to ignore the stark truth that these girls acted with agency to formulate and then execute their departure. And even now Begum refuses to admit her mistake. Begum had a choice, and she opted to support the killers of the innocent. She must now accept the consequences.
So, I propose that Begum can return home but as a ward of the State. She must cooperate in full and face scrutiny for all her actions. Unless she agrees to that, then leave her to the mercy of the IS fighters she willfully embraced.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.