LONDON — Shamima Begum, a woman who traveled to Syria from London as a schoolgirl to join ISIS, should be allowed to return to appeal the government’s decision to strip her of her British citizenship, a court ruled on Thursday.
The Court of Appeal ruled that the only way Ms. Begum would be able to pursue a “fair and effective appeal” was “to be permitted to come into the United Kingdom.”
Ms. Begum, now 20, spent years in Islamic State territory, but fled to a refugee camp in northeastern Syria after the group lost control in the region, and had expressed a desire to return to East London.
Her case is a prominent example of the challenges faced by many Western governments with citizens who joined the group, and who some argue would pose a national security threat if they were repatriated.
Through a spokesman, Britain’s Home Office, the government department responsible for migration and security, said it would appeal what it called “a very disappointing decision.” Ms. Begum’s lawyer, Tasnime Akunjee, praised the court’s ruling, writing on Twitter, “Good sense prevails.”
Ms. Begum made headlines five years ago when she and two classmates, who came to be known as the “Bethnal Green girls” after the neighborhood in London where they had lived, boarded a flight to Turkey and then traveled to Syria to reach territories of the Islamic State at a time when the terrorist organization was at the height of its power.
Ms. Begum married a young Dutch fighter weeks after her arrival and gave birth to three children. All have since died.
In February last year, a British journalist located Ms. Begum in the al-Hol refugee camp in northeastern Syria, where the families of thousands of Islamic State fighters had fled. She told the reporter that she was “willing to change,” and asked the authorities “to re-evaluate my case, with a bit of mercy in their heart.”
But that same month, her family was informed that she would be stripped of her British citizenship, in a letter from Sajid Javid, then the country’s home secretary.
Ms. Begum appealed, but a special tribunal ruled the decision was lawful because she was “a citizen of Bangladesh by descent” from her mother. Since then, she has pleaded with the British authorities to repatriate her to stand trial in her home country, something the government has vowed never to do.
Governments in Britain, France and other countries have so far refused repatriation in most Islamic State-linked cases, only taking back some children and families on a case-by-case basis.