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Shamima Begum timeline: From flight to Syria to citizenship legal battle

Amira Abase, Kadiza Sultana and Shamima Begum fled the UK (Metropolitan Police/PA)
Amira Abase, Kadiza Sultana and Shamima Begum fled the UK (Metropolitan Police/PA)

The dismissal of Shamima Begum’s Court of Appeal challenge over the removal of her British citizenship is the latest development in the long-running legal saga that has followed her disappearance to Syria nine years ago.

Ms Begum and two other British schoolgirls who fled the UK to travel to the Middle Eastern country, to join so-called Islamic State in February 2015, made headlines around the world.

After she was discovered in a Syrian refugee camp in 2019, then home secretary Sajid Javid revoked her British citizenship and triggered a years-long legal fight.

Here is a timeline of events that followed the three girls’ disappearance.

– 2015

February 17 – Kadiza Sultana, Amira Abase and Shamima Begum leave their east London homes at 8am to travel to Istanbul, Turkey, from Gatwick Airport. Ms Begum and Ms Abase are reported missing by their families later the same day.

February 18 – Ms Sultana is reported missing to the police.

February 20 – The Metropolitan Police launch a public appeal for information about the missing girls, who are feared to have gone on to Syria.

It emerges the girls are good friends with another 15-year-old girl, Sharmeena Begum, from their school, Bethnal Green Academy, who had already fled to Syria.

The Met expresses concerns that the missing girls may have fled to join IS.

Detectives say that Turkish Airlines did not notify police the three “straight-A students” were on the flight.

Shamima Begum legal case
Shamima Begum was 15 when she travelled to Syria (PA)

February 21 – Four days after the girls went missing, police believe they may still be in Turkey. Officers say they may have been able to intervene before the girls left, had they been notified by the airline.

Then prime minister David Cameron says the situation is “deeply concerning”, adding: “Our authorities will do everything we can to help these girls.”

Police disclose Ms Abase’s identity, and the families of all three girls appeal directly to them to come home.

It is disclosed that at least one of the missing girls had Twitter contact with Aqsa Mahmood, who left her Glasgow home in November 2013 and travelled to Syria after becoming radicalised.

February 22 – Ms Abase’s father, Abase Hussen, says his daughter told him she was going to a wedding on the day she disappeared.

Metropolitan Police officers arrive in Turkey, but refuse to say whether they are involved in the search for the teenagers.

February 23 – Mark Keary, headteacher at Bethnal Green Academy, says police found no evidence the missing students were radicalised there.

Mr Cameron, now Lord Cameron, says airlines and internet companies need to do more to prevent radicalised British teenagers travelling to the Middle East to join IS.

February 24 – Then Turkish deputy prime minister Bulent Arinc criticises British authorities for taking three days to alert the country about the missing schoolgirls.

March 10 – It emerges that the girls funded their trip by stealing jewellery. Then Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Mark Rowley, the national police lead for counter-terrorism, tells MPs: “We think it’s linked to taking jewellery from one of their family members.”

– 2016

August 2016 – Ms Sultana, then 17, is reported to have been killed in Raqqa in May, when a suspected Russian air strike obliterates her house.

– 2019

February 13 – Ms Begum, then 19, tells Anthony Loyd of The Times that she wants to return to the UK to give birth to her third child.

Shamima Begum
Shamima Begum has lost her challenge over the removal of her British citizenship at the Court of Appeal (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Speaking from the al-Hawl refugee camp in northern Syria, Ms Begum tells the paper: “I’m not the same silly little 15-year-old schoolgirl who ran away from Bethnal Green four years ago. And I don’t regret coming here.”

She adds that she saw Ms Abase and Sharmeena Begum alive in Baghuz in June 2018, and had been told that they were still alive in Baghuz two weeks ago.

February 15 – Then home secretary Sajid Javid says he “will not hesitate” to prevent the return of Britons who travelled to join IS.

(About) February 17 – Ms Begum gives birth to her third child, a boy, Jarrah, in al-Hawl. Her two other children, a daughter named Sarayah and a son named Jerah, have both already died.

February 19 – The Home Office sends Ms Begum’s family a letter saying that it intended to revoke her British citizenship.

February 20 – Ms Begum, having been shown a copy of the Home Office’s letter by ITV News, describes the decision as “unjust”.

February 22 – Ms Begum’s family write to Mr Javid asking for his help to bring her newborn son to Britain. Shamima’s sister, Renu Begum, writing on behalf of the family, said the baby boy was a “true innocent” who should not “lose the privilege of being raised in the safety of this country”.

February 23 – In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Ms Begum says she regrets speaking to the media and wishes she had found a different way to contact her family.

Late February – Ms Begum is moved to the al-Roj camp in north-eastern Syria, reportedly because of threats to her life made at al-Hawl after the publication of her newspaper interviews.

(About) March 7 – Jarrah dies at about three weeks old. The news prompts strong criticism of Mr Javid, who is said by then shadow home secretary Diane Abbott to have “behaved shamefully” and is accused of “moral cowardice” by the former director of public prosecutions, Lord Macdonald. A Government spokesman says that “the death of any child is tragic and deeply distressing for the family”.

March 19 – Ms Begum’s lawyers file a legal action challenging the decision to revoke her citizenship.

April 1 – In a further interview with The Times, Ms Begum says she was “brainwashed” and that she wanted to “go back to the UK for a second chance to start my life over again”.

She claims she “really regretted everything” and that her previous comments were because of threats she faced from extremists in the al-Hawl camp.

May 4 – Bangladesh’s then foreign minister, Abdul Momen, says Ms Begum could face the death penalty for involvement in terrorism if she goes to the country, adding that Bangladesh had “nothing to do” with her.

September 4 – A judge in London rules that journalists who interviewed Ms Begum cannot be compelled to hand over unpublished notes and footage to counter-terrorism investigators.

Judge Mark Dennis QC, sitting at the Old Bailey, refuses an application by the Metropolitan Police for material from the Times, Sky News, ITN and the BBC to be produced.

September 29 –  Then home secretary Priti Patel tells The Sun that there is “no way” she will let Ms Begum return to the UK.

October 22-25 – Ms Begum’s appeal against the revocation of her British citizenship begins in London. Her lawyers submit the decision has unlawfully rendered her stateless, and exposed her to a “real risk” of torture or death.

The Home Office argues that Ms Begum “has not been placed at risk of ill-treatment” as a result of the decision, and said any risk she did face was the result of having travelled to Syria to join IS.

– 2020

February 7 – Ms Begum loses the first stage of a legal challenge against the decision to revoke her British citizenship. The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) rules that the decision did not render her stateless as at the time her British citizenship was revoked, she was “a citizen of Bangladesh by descent”.

Her lawyer says she will immediately start an appeal. Her challenge to the Home Office’s decision to refuse to allow her to enter the UK in order to effectively pursue her appeal was also rejected.

June 11 – Ms Begum’s lawyers tell the Court of Appeal that her British citizenship should be restored because she cannot have a “fair and effective appeal” against the Government’s decision to strip her of it. They say the citizenship removal exposed her to a “real risk” that she would face the death penalty in Iraq or Bangladesh if sent there.

June 12 – The Home Office’s lawyers tell the court that Ms Begum cannot be “regarded properly at this stage as a victim”.

July 16 – Ms Begum should be allowed to return to the UK to challenge the deprivation of her British citizenship, the Court of Appeal rules. The Government says it is “bitterly disappointed” and the following day says legal aid eligibility rules are being examined in the wake of the decision.

November 23 – The Government tells the Supreme Court that Begum’s return to the UK to challenge the deprivation of her British citizenship “would create significant national security risks” in its challenge to the Court of Appeal ruling.

Ms Begum’s lawyers say the “only effective means available” of ensuring she has a fair and effective appeal is to allow her to return to the UK.

– 2021

February 26 – The Supreme Court rules that Ms Begum should not be allowed to return to the UK to pursue an appeal against the removal of her British citizenship.

June 18 – There is “overwhelming evidence” that Ms Begum was a victim of trafficking when she left the UK, her lawyers tell SIAC, adding that the Home Office had a legal duty to investigate this when her citizenship was revoked.

September 15 – Ms Begum begs the British public for forgiveness during an interview with ITV’s Good Morning Britain, saying there is “no evidence” she was a key player in preparing terrorist acts and is prepared to prove her innocence in court.

November 21 – Speaking to Sky News, Ms Begum says she did not hate Britain when she travelled to Syria and repeated her plea for a chance to fight accusations against her in court.

– 2022

August 31 – A Canadian intelligence agent smuggled Ms Begum and her two friends into Syria, according to reports.

November 21 – During the latest appeal hearing at SIAC, Ms Begum’s lawyers say she was influenced by a “determined and effective Isis propaganda machine” and should have been treated as a child trafficking victim. An MI5 officer tells the court that she “in some respects…would have known what she was doing” when she travelled to Syria.

November 22 – The court is told that Ms Begum’s school and the police both “missed opportunities” before the then-schoolgirl travelled to Syria. MI6’s former director of counter-terrorism says the Government’s approach to her has been “fundamentally misguided”.

November 24 – The Home Office argues in court that people trafficked to Syria and “brainwashed” can still be threats to national security.

– 2023

January 11 – In a series of BBC interviews, Ms Begum says she understands public anger towards her, but that she is not a “bad person”.

February 22 – Ms Begum loses her legal challenge at SIAC against the decision to deprive her of her British citizenship. Her lawyers announce plans to appeal.

March 1 – Jonathan Hall KC, the reviewer of terrorism legislation, says allowing Ms Begum to return to the UK would not be a “moral exoneration” for her, after earlier saying she should be allowed to come back.

March 22 – A BBC investigation says Sharmeena Begum has escaped prison and is now in Syria using a different identity.

October 24 – 25 – Ms Begum’s legal team argue at the Court of Appeal that the decision to deprive her of her British citizenship is unlawful. The Home Office argues that SIAC’s earlier decision was correct.

– 2024

February 23 – Ms Begum loses her challenge over the removal of her British citizenship at the Court of Appeal.