Shamima Begum ruling raises hope for families of others stripped of UK citizenship

Lawyers for the family of a London couple who joined Islamic State in Syria have written to the Foreign Secretary demanding they are returned to the UK, following a court decision to allow Shamima Begum to do the same.

The letter to Dominic Raab was sent on Friday in response to a Court of Appeal ruling that Ms Begum, one of the ‘Bethnal Green schoolgirls’, should be allowed to come back to Britain to challenge the decision to strip her of UK citizenship.

Similar requests from the families of other British people detained in Kurdish prisons and refugee camps are expected to follow.

Shamima Begum was seen in a Kurdish camp the day after the Court of Appeal made its ruling. Credit: ITV News

Mehak Aslam left London for Syria in 2014, shortly after her husband, Shahan Choudhury.

He was located by ITV News to a Kurdish prison last year, where he said he had been arrested after leaving Islamic State.

Choudhury claimed to have worked as an IS gravedigger shortly before the group’s territorial defeat, burying the dead from the battle for Baghouz.

His wife, Ms Aslam, is being held at a refugee camp nearby with their five children. Both have had their British citizenship withdrawn. 

Families lawyers wrote to the Foreign Office the day after a court decision to allow Shamima Begum to return to London to appeal against the deprivation of her citizenship.

Ms Begum, now 20, was one of three classmates who left the country during a half term holiday to join the Islamic State group in 2015.

Shahan Choudhury, a former IS gravedigger, has been held in prison.

The government has said it intends to appeal against the court’s decision. Like Ms Aslam, she is currently being held in a refugee camp in Syria with no access to legal advice.In a letter sent to Mr Raab on behalf of the Aslam and Choudhury families, Imran Khan QC said the decision in the Begum case compelled the government to explore how it could bring them home:

“It therefore clearly follows that our clients, who wish to pursue appeals against the deprivation of their British Nationality, be permitted to return to the United Kingdom with their children in order that they can fairly challenge the decision made against them in accordance with judgement of the Appeal Court.

"Not only do we request that Ms Aslam, Mr Choudhury and their children are permitted back to the United Kingdom but further, that the Government of the United Kingdom facilitate their safe return”.

Shamima Begum one of three east London schoolgirls who travelled to Syria. Credit: ITV News

As a teenager, Choudhury spent 18 months on remand in Belmarsh prison in relation to a gang-related stabbing incident over which he was later acquitted.

He met his wife shortly afterwards. The pair are thought to have been radicalised in London by the hate preacher, Anjem Choudary

Ms Aslam’s father, Mohammed Aslam, contacted the police to say he was alarmed that his daughter appeared to have fallen under the influence of the notorious hate preacher. 

“After hearing the High Court’s decision [in the Shamima Begum case] I am quite hopeful that one day this nightmare will come to an end” Mr Aslam told ITV News.

Choudhary’s family revealed that he became radicalised after falling under the influence of followers of Anjem Choudary. Credit: PA

“The way that I see it the government themselves are breaking the law… The law is equal for everyone whether you’re a factory worker like myself or the Prime Minister.

“At the moment they’re stuck in those war-torn camps. They’ve got no facility to fight their case. They’ve got no support, no help, no means of defending themselves.“What they have done is so stupid, especially with babies of that age, going to this hell on earth, Syria."

  • 'I think my daughter has learned her lesson. She deserves a second chance.'

Mr Aslam only discovered where his daughter and son-in-law were when ITV News contacted him last year.

In January we revealed the government had said it would “urgently investigate” the possibility of repatriating the four British children, but only if their mother agreed that she did not return with them.

The families of the pair said it would be wrong for the government to “split up a mother and her young children”.