Courts are for real Britons. For brown girls – life as a stateless person in a refugee camp.

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Shamima Begum is a London-born girl, who some years ago, aged 15, ran away from her parents to join ISIS. She wanted to be a mother to the children of martyrs. On 23 February 2024, the British court decided that stripping her of British citizenship is a rightful decision. I believe this is a day of great shame for Britain. Why?

I lived in Scotland for 17 years. I love this country and I would be honoured if I could become a citizen of the Republic of Scotland. But I never tried to get a British passport. Becoming a subject to Elizabeth II somehow was not appealing to me. Because her country was not a country that I wanted to be a citizen of. And this case confirms it again.

Shamima Begum was stripped of her citizenship in line with some laws introduced in the 1980s, which allow government to deprive people of British citizenship if they are a security risk. But there is a caveat: you can only be stripped of your citizenship if you are naturalized, or if you have a dual citizenship. So if you came to Britain later in your life, you can be kicked out, even if that would make you a stateless person. But if you are born British, and a British passport is the only one you have, you can feel safe.

In theory…

…because Shamima Begum was born in London, and she never had any other citizenship but British. But the court, and then minister Sajid Javid, decided that “since her father came from Bangladesh, she can apply for citizenship there”. This says a lot about today’s Britain because it means that even if you were born a citizen, the state can still see you as a second-category citizen.

And there is one more thing. Let’s imagine we don’t talk about an unassuming girl of South Asian heritage. Let’s imagine her name is Emily O’Connor, she is of Irish heritage and she looks like this:

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What do you think? Would the British state be so so keen to take away her passport? Would they argue “She can only try to apply for the Irish one?”. I suspect not. We would be talking about an innocent girl who fell victim to evil radical Muslim groomers. Begum was not so lucky: she was not born white.

The argument “she or he might be born in Britain, but she/he is not really British” can be used by a large part of British society. Rishi Sunak, Kemi Badenoch, Suella Braverman, James Cleverly, Claire Coutinho – just in the current government we have several ministers whose parents were born elsewhere (and I have to admit I cheated a bit and just checked the ones that have darker skin).  Can we imagine that one of them would be stripped of British citizenship? It’s not such a made-up problem. Nadhim Zahawi, for example, had to step down in disgrace after it emerged he cheated on his taxes. Surely this is a fraud, he is not a proper citizen believing in his country. Should he be kicked out because he was born in Iraq?

Or let’s take Boris Johnson [born in New York, USA]. He is completely irresponsible. It was during his government that Brexit – which was a bad idea to start with – ended up being a total disaster for the country. And he believes that the return of Donald Trump as the US president would be “what the world needs”. This guy is clearly a liability. Maybe Britain should strip him of his citizenship on the grounds of national security, too? His grandfather was Turkish, so he could always ask Erdogan for a passport… How far could we extend “he or she is not really British, because her or his ancestors came here from elsewhere”?

But let’s go back to Shamima Begum. As I mentioned, I never applied for a British passport. But many of my European friends did. And I can bet that every single Eastern European person in Britain heard – or read – at least once in their life, that “you can get a British passport but you’ll be never one of us”. I am pretty sure that Begum, as an Asian girl growing up in London, heard it many times. As we can see it’s not just a thing that racist gammons say: for the state, also, some citizens are more equal than others. Under such circumstances is it a surprise to anyone that she was so prone to being groomed by Islamic radicals with the idea of the world where it’s Muslims who are the better people?

There is one more aspect to that case. A few years back, when her case was all over the media, her Bangladeshi heritage was often mentioned. The media referred to this country as a “former part of the British empire”. I remember my Croatian friend going ballistic about it. “If I happen – for some reason – to fall in scope of interest of the British press, would they refer to my country of origin as the former part of the Austro-Hungarian empire” – she wondered. This also tells us a lot about how Britain sees the world.

Shamima Begum did wrong when she ran away from home to join ISIS. There is no doubt about it. Does she truly regret it today? Or perhaps she is still secretly a radical Islamist? We don’t know. And we won’t know. Because even though she is (was) a British citizen, her own country, the country where she was born and bred, refuses her right to stand up in front of the court and be trialled for her crimes.

The courts and jails where human rights have to be observed are for us, true Britons. For you, brown-skinned little shit, is life as a stateless person in a refugee camp somewhere in Syria.

Someone argued to me on Twitter, that this law, which was used to strip her of her citizenship is good, as it allows taking away a British passport from a Russian oligarch. But was that law ever used for this? Russians, even those accused of being KGB agents, are not being kicked out of Britain. They are given peerages and everyone has to address them as lords. But, even if Great Britain one day decided it no longer wanted to benefit from dirty Russian money and expelled all oligarchs, they would just move to Cyprus, Monaco, Israel or some tropical country. That would achieve nothing. If Great Britain had something on them, they should face justice in court. If it has not, then – as the basic rule is innocent until proven guilty – why should they have their citizen’s rights taken away?

Shamima Begum destroyed her life with one stupid decision that she made when she was still a child. But it’s Britons who should be ashamed. Luckily, I don’t have to be. I never got the passport.