UK home secretary criticised over death of Shamima Begum’s baby

The United Kingdom‘s Home Secretary Sajid Javid has faced criticism following the death of the baby son of a British teenager stripped of her citizenship for joining the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) in Syria.

Shamima Begum’s three-week old son Jarrah died in a camp in Syria on Thursday, according to spokesperson for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Mustafa Bali. A medical certificate pointed towards pneumonia as the cause of death, reported the BBC.

Following the incident, British politicians and members of the public criticised the Home Office for calling Begum a “security risk” and revoking her citizenship, with some even blaming Javid for the baby’s death.

Dal Babu, a former Metropolitan Police chief superintendent and friend of Begum’s family, told BBC Newsnight on Friday: “We’ve failed, as a country, to safeguard the child.”

“This was an entirely avoidable death of a British citizen,” said Babu.

“There was no attempt to help by the Home Office. I think it’s shocking how the home secretary has treated this situation.”

Blaming Javid for the baby’s death, British journalist Ash Sarkar tweeted: “Whatever Shamima Begum may have done, her child was innocent and a British citizen.” 

UK’s shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott also criticised the home secretary’s move.

“It is against international law to make someone stateless, and now an innocent child has died as a result of a British woman being stripped of her citizenship. This is callous and inhumane,” tweeted Abbott.

Begum was discovered last month in a refugee camp in Syria by a reporter with the UK-based newspaper, The Times, four years after she was last seen, aged 15, fleeing from her East London home.

She, along with two of her female friends, left the UK to join the ISIL armed group in 2015.

Now 19, Begum had told journalists she wanted to raise Jarrah in the UK, alleging that she had lost two other children in Syria to malnutrition and disease.

The UK government, however, moved to revoke Begum’s citizenship, effectively blocking her return by claiming she was a dual-national with access to Bangladeshi citizenship.

After Begum was stripped of her citizenship, her family tried to challenge the decision and asked for help in bringing her baby back to the UK. 

While Home Secretary Javid confirmed Begum’s son was a British citizen, he said it would be “incredibly difficult” to facilitate the return of a child from Syria.

Begum’s family denied she is a dual citizen and said it plans to challenge the UK’s decision. A Bangladeshi foreign affairs official also told Al Jazeera that Begum is not a Bangladeshi .

International law forbids countries from making people stateless by revoking their only citizenship.

The case of Begum has highlighted a dilemma facing many European countries, divided over whether to allow ISIL members or sympathisers home to face prosecution or bar them as the armed group’s so-called “caliphate” collapses.

UK sends message by stripping ‘ISIL bride’ of citizenship

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