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Tuesday April 23, 2024

Shamima’s story

Shamima was born in the UK to Bangladeshi parents. She is now stateless in Syria

By Editorial Board
February 26, 2024
A British-born woman who went to Syria as a schoolgirl to join Islamic State Shamima Begum. — AFP/File
A British-born woman who went to Syria as a schoolgirl to join Islamic State Shamima Begum. — AFP/File

This decade has helped unmask the much-acclaimed liberal democracies around the world, whose hypocrisies have finally come to light. While political experts have exposed the hypocrisy of the West in the past, the present has been a horrifying reminder of the disdain these democracies carry for people from the Global South, even if they were born and raised in these countries. The UN defines a child as a person younger than 18 years, and by law, any contract a child enters into is void. There is a reason why a minor does not have any agency; their exposure is limited, and they are not trained to deal with complex issues. But apparently, if a child is a descendant of people from the Global South, s/he becomes responsible for every action s/he takes. Take the case of Shamima Begum, a now 24-year-old girl who had her British citizenship revoked in 2019 because of her involvement with ISIS, a terror group. On Friday, a UK court rejected her appeal against the government’s decision, making her stateless. But what makes the case interesting is Shamima’s age at the time of her recruitment to ISIS.

In 2015, an unaccompanied 15-year-old Shamima – a minor – managed to travel to war-torn Syria all by herself. Shamima got married to an ISIS fighter, a Dutch revert, and gave birth to three children, all of whom are now dead. All the circumstances point to one thing: Shamima was a victim of online grooming and got trapped by predators. But the eyes of the Western world do not see that Shamima. In civilized societies, authorities would be providing counselling sessions to Shamima and understanding what led to her radicalization.

Shamima was born in the UK to Bangladeshi parents. She is now stateless in Syria, unable to make things right. In 2019, her father, who now resides in Bangladesh, apologized to the UK government and requested them to forgive her. This incident exposes the apathy the West carries towards brown people in general, and Muslims in particular. Ever since the 9/11 attacks, the West has fanned the sparks of Islamophobia. Miscreants from the Muslim community have been used to collectively punish the entire community. In many ways, the last decade or so has shown how little leaders think about people from the Global South. From former US president proudly declaring a Muslim ban to former UK home secretary Suella Braverman publishing racist and Islamophobic opeds in newspapers, countries that once claimed to be the upholders of human rights and promoted inclusion and diversity have shown that the embrace of a diverse nation was nothing more than a political gimmick. The West should realize that decisions taken in haste are a mockery of the global rules-based order, and its insistence on violating international law will eventually end up isolating these developed countries.