United Kingdom official criticized after baby dies in Syrian camp

Geraldine Edwards
March 11, 2019

Asked on The Andrew Marr Show why no one had gone out to Syria to rescue the baby from the refugee camps he was in, the Foreign Secretary said it is too unsafe to send government officials into the war-torn country to bring back British citizens.

Reema and Zara Iqbal, sisters who between them have five sons under the age of eight, have had their British citizenship removed since marrying Isis fighters in Syria.

The infant son of Shamima Begum, a teenager who left London to join the group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has died, a spokesperson for the US -backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Friday.

Begum's son was born on February 17, days after she was tracked down heavily-pregnant in a refugee camp in Syria.

After Ms Begum was stripped of her citizenship, her family wrote to the home secretary to say they planned to challenge the decision and asked for assistance to bring her baby to the UK.

CCTV of Shamima Begum leaving at Gatwick Airport in 2015
Camera IconCCTV of Shamima Begum leaving at Gatwick Airport

Legal sources cited by The Times have identified the two women whose return to Britain has been effectively blocked as 30-year-old Reema Iqbal and her sister, 28-year-old Zara Iqbal.

She later said she regretted talking to the media and was moved to another location in Syria after she and her child received threats in the refugee camp.

He told BBC's Newsnight: "The family reached out to the Home Office and requested help". A spokesman for the Home Office told CNN that the Home Secretary can deprive someone of their British citizenship "where it would not render the individual stateless".

Home Secretary Sajid Javid came under renewed scrutiny on Saturday for stripping Ms Begum of her United Kingdom citizenship after it emerged her baby son had died in a Syrian refugee camp.

"It is possible the death of this baby boy and others could have been avoided", said the group's Syria response director, Sonia Khush.

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It reported that the sisters left for Syria in 2013.

Jarrah died of pneumonia on Thursday, according to a medical certificate.

Begum and her family argue the government has rendered the British-born woman stateless.

The infant's father, a Dutch ISIS fighter who was captured and is being held in a nearby prison, was informed of the baby's death.

Dal Babu, a former Metropolitan Police chief superintendent and friend of the Begum family, described it as an "entirely avoidable death of a British citizen".

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But Mr Hunt said Ms Begum, 19, knew the risks when she ran away from home in east London aged 15 to marry a Daesh militant.

The baby's death has caused a public outcry with some members of the public including some British leaders criticizing Javid for revoking her citizenship.

"The security services came to speak to me and I was honest, I told them my whole story so now it's up to them to judge".

"It is against worldwide law to make someone stateless". Begum has since returned to the camp and her child was buried there on Friday.

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