Shamima Begum has lost her appeal against the Home Office’s decision to strip her of her UK citizenship in 2019.
The 23-year-old’s citizenship was revoked after the Home Office claimed she presented a security risk. Her legal team had argued that she should be treated as a victim of child trafficking, and that being stripped of her citizenship failed to respect her human rights.
Begum was just 15-years-old when she along with her two school friends, Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase left their homes in Bethnal Green to travel to Syria in 2015. The three young schoolgirls married ISIS fighters, with Begum wedding Dutch national Yago Riedijk. But who was her husband, what happened to him and where is he now? Here’s everything you need to know.
Who is Yago Riedijk?
Yago Riedijk is a Dutch national who joined Islamic State in Syria in 2014. He married Begum in Syria in 2015, when he was 23-years-old and she was just 15. In an interview on the BBC Podcast The Shamima Begum Story, he explained that they had only known each other “ten minutes max” before getting married.
He said: “Our meeting was 10 minutes max. We decided we wanted to try it. We don’t have such a thing as dating or going out and having a meal together. You get to know each other a bit and then if you click you decide to take this step.”
Riedijk fought in Kobani and was injured, after he married Begum he was imprisoned by ISIS for six months after he was accused of being a spy.
Where is he now?
Riedijk has been held in the al-Roj prison in northern Syria since 2019.
What has Shamima Begum said about her marriage to Yago Riedijk?
Begum spoke about marrying Riedijk at just 15-years-old in the BBC Podcast. When asked if she was comfortable marrying him, she said: “Before I married him I guess he was. I mean I thought he was doing the right thing. I thought he was fighting for his religion and the state.”
During a hearing in her challenge against the Home Office at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) in November 2022, Begum’s lawyers said that the Home Office had a duty to investigate whether she was a victim of trafficking before stripping her of her British citizenship. Her lawyers said that she was “recruited, transported, transferred, harboured and received in Syria for the purposes of ‘sexual exploitation’ and ‘marriage’ to an adult male”.
Following the decision on Wednesday 22 February, the SIAC concluded that there was “credible suspicion” that she had been trafficked to Syria for “sexual exploitation” and that there were “arguable breaches of duty” by state bodies in allowing her to travel. However, Justice Jay said in a summary of the commission’s decision that the existence of this suspicion was “insufficient” for her to succeed on her argument that the deprivation of her British citizenship failed to respect her human rights.
What happened to their children?
Begum and Riedijk’s had three children, all of whom have died. Begum gave birth to her youngest son, Jarrah at the al-Roj camp in northern Syria in 2019. Records show that he died at three weeks from pneumonia, with her other two children reportedly dying from malnutrition and disease. At the time of her son’s birth, Begum had appealed to the Home Secretary to allow her to return to the UK over fears for her baby’s safety, Yahoo News report she said: “I was hoping maybe for the sake of my child they would let me back. I can’t live in this camp forever.”