The Shamima Begum Case: As with Brexit, the Dutch are better prepared for what is coming anyway

As has become a tradition over the past decades, the LibDems and Dutch sister party D66 sing from exactly the same hymn sheet on the subject of taking back “ISIS jihad brides” and their children from the Syrian-Kurdish YPG/SDF prisoner camps they’re housed in at the moment.

And just as usual, the ALDE right wing (in the Netherlands, Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s VVD) is fervently opposed to taking back anybody who has moved to the ISIS Caliphate since 2014, thus bending liberal, judicial and humanist principles to populist kneejerk reactions.

In the Netherlands, Rutte and the VVD know they stand alone (among non-populist, centrist, normal thinking parties) in refusing re-entry; and they know they’re ignoring a special article in the Dutch Constitution. The country of Grotius declares in article 90 of our constitution:

The government stimulates the development of the international rule of law and juridical order.

Scrupulous care for human rights, and the welcome (and where necessary judgment) to “lost sons”, are thus part of what Dutch governments and prime ministers must stand for. And D66 has a traditional attitude of caring about such aspects especially.

In a TV election debate in 2015, VVD leader and (then also) Prime Minister Rutte shocked everybody present by agreeing to the statement: “people travelling to the ISIS Caliphate are better off dying there and shouldn’t be allowed to return”.

All other participants in the debate: D66 (Alexander Pechtold MP, leader), PvdA/Labour, CDA/Christian Democrats (Sybrand Buma MP, leader) and SP/Socialists opposed Rutte’s kneejerk abandoning of Dutch citizens (we accepted Dutch SS prisoners of war back from Allied prisoner camps in 1945; so why not these?). The others supported Pechtolds judgement that as a protagonist for rule of law and juridical due process including in case of genocide, the Netherlands cannot take that easy way out. They also supported the plea from the (lawyers of) families of “Jihadi emigrees” that the toddlers female emigrees often took to the Caliphate (and those being born there) were completely innocent.

The consensus of all centre parties against the VVD’s kneejerkism was reinforced at the formation, October 2017 of the Rutte III government (VVD, D66, Buma’s CDA and the orthodox-protestant and “green” Christian Union. An article in the Coalition Agreement states:  “the government should do everything possible to prosecute returning ISIS activists to the fullest extent possible, and gear up the Dutch judicial system so that a genocide accusation (with high evidence norms) can be sustained”. The Dutch childcare (and prisoner resocialization) authorities reported today, 20th of February, that everything is ready to imprison returning “ISIS brides” (including Shamima Begum from London) and to care for their children while the mothers face trials.

Ever since a domestic jihadi killed the popular islamophobe filmer Theo van Gogh in 2004 in Amsterdam, and Dutch police raided the safe house of the jihadi group surrounding that killer, the Dutch prison system has a flexible department for “extremist and terrorist” suspects and convicts; the normal prisons are in good working order (many cells stand empty); so we can incarcerate returning Dutch ISIS jihadis and their brides.

I very much doubt if the dilapidated, overcrowded, understaffed and struggling British prisons and small deradicalization centres can say the same.


* Dr. Bernard Aris is a historian, a D66 parliamentary researcher and a LibDem supporting member.

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  • Which is very interesting but has little bearing on a situation where it seems a Homee Secretary has knowingly acted outside international law.

  • Bernard Aris 21st Feb '19 - 1:53pm

    Not only London, but Triump himself too is trying this trick…
    And Trump is saying he is scared of those ISIS people walking arond the Syrian/Iraqi plains…

  • The issue with Shamina Begum is that she is probably being made an example of as for the sake of broader deterrence (a reminder that the luxuries, freedoms and overall good life as offered in the UK cannot be taken for granted; you’ve got to pick a side).

    I know tools of deterrence aren’t going to naturally cut much ice with liberals, however one must keep in mind that liberal tools on this matter haven’t addressed the problem of not insignificant numbers of citizens resolutely rejecting liberal democratic values that underline the west (which have produced the luxuries, freedoms and generally good life). In fact I’d hypothesise that liberal social policy might actually feed the authoritarianism of these small number of liberal democracy rejectors. For anyone who has met and deeply conversed with those holding deeply engrained authoritarian values (such as Ms Begum and fellow Islamists), one thing that is striking is how little regard or respect they hold for the country and the west that on balance has provided them with opportunity and freedom. Just like the very spoilt and entitled child who shows no regard for its parents who continue to bestow more and more kindness in the face of hautey entitlement, such seeming unconditional kindness can actually make the contempt the child holds its parents even worse. And this is probably what we’re dealing with here with Ms Begum. Not only would a display of unconditional kindness probably further her (and 10,000 or so like minded people in the UK) sense that the UK is not worthy of respect, but the resources required to deal with such a person on their return here would be much better spent on more worthy causes (and people); resources are finite (something some people forget)

  • Deprivation of citizenship is a last resort, necessary in very limited cases of grave threat and only legitimate in International Law if an individual is not left stateless.
    Shamina Begum seems to have three possible claims to citizenship or a right of residence. British by virtue of being born in the UK; Bangladeshi by virtue of being born to a Bangladeshi mother and being under 21; and Dutch by virtue of marriage.
    In practical terms, if none of these countries will accept her she is stuck in Northern Syria, perhaps in a United Nations refugee camp indefinitely.
    Even if she were allowed to return to the UK she is unlikely to be able to resume her former normal family life and may well face ostracism among the Bangladeshi community in Tower Hamlets. Her mother has passed away and I understand her father is thought to be in Bangladesh.
    The primary responsibility lies with her family (principally her father) to give her what assistance they can in finding a new home for her and her baby where they can live without the stain of association with the vile ISIS cult If ISIS prisoners are turned over to the current Syrian authorities (the Assad regime) by the Syrian Defence Forces, it is unlikely to end well.
    She is entitled to come back to the UK and face the consequences of her actions. It may not, however, be the best course of action for her or her child. A spell of reflection during a temporary residence with her father in Bangladesh (or elsewhere in the middle-east) on what she has thrown away; instead of complaints of unfair treatment or appeals for sympathy when so many have met a brutal end at the hands of ISIS; may be the better course at this juncture in time.

  • Helen Dudden 21st Feb '19 - 6:37pm

    I had something sent to me today, an article on the words of a religious person of that persuasion. Christians and Jews are pigs and apes. The article contained more, but I think we can understand it was not positive. Notice Christian believers. That makes a lot of difference to those around you. I would be interested in the comments of Ed Davey. I know Judaism receives comments, I know personally. What ever you feel, it’s not personal the rejection of anyone with a lack of respect.
    I know of someone Jewish, who lost most of his family in the war years, one of them was a doctor. Beaten and tortured.
    In Syria terrible things happened, some learn not to be too trusting. I wish those who have suffered and suffering, Shalom and peace.

  • ‘Ever since a domestic jihadi killed the popular islamophobe filmer Theo van Gogh in 2004 in Amsterdam’. Its hardly a phobia if you end up dead !

  • Lorenzo Cherin 22nd Feb '19 - 4:42pm

    A commitment to human rights seems, often on the libertarian left, to be those of people suspected or already guilty, of terrible evil or wickedness.

    I was full of scathing criticism of Sir Ded , who is a very good man and I hitherto considered a rugged Liberal, when he would not vote for minimum sentences for those carrying knives or even acid.

    If there is to be a blanket criticism of VVd count me perhaps, ou, without the details of each situation.

    Good liberals, Joe and Helen say it here.

    There must be no sweeping or unconditional backing for the return of such transgressors.

    Case by case.

    If we continue as a left libertarian rights for criminals only party that questions patriotism as dog whistle and supports open prisons, and abortion decriminalisation but not patriotism and punishment, its the Independent Group for me and many of this hue who value our liberal democracy even more than, the Liberal Democrats.

    And yet I do want such, ISIS people here, on trial, in jail.

  • Lorenzo Chern 22nd Feb '19 - 4:43pm

    So many online debates have auto edit, not this one, I mean, Sir Ed!!

  • Lorenzo Chern 22nd Feb '19 - 4:44pm

    I mean, Sir Ed!!

  • Andrew Daer 22nd Feb '19 - 6:36pm

    James Pugh says we have to pick a side. I don’t really agree, but if pushed I’d swap him with Shamima Begum, and let him stay in a refugee camp for the next five years. Shamima should be shown compassion and forgiveness.

  • Peter Martin 23rd Feb '19 - 10:33am

    @ Bernard,

    If the Lib Dems are ALDE’s representative party in the UK and are also the “sister party” to D66, how is it that there’s an “ALDE right wing” which is “in the Netherlands is …Mark Rutte’s VVD.”

    Are they in ALDE too?

    I didn’t quite follow all that. Would you mind explaining? Thanks.

  • Peter Martin 23rd Feb '19 - 10:48am

    I suppose the UK could apply enough pressure, and maybe dangle a few carrots, to ‘persuade’ Bangladesh to give Shamina Begum a passport and so legitimise taking away her UK passport. However, is anyone really saying that this is a just solution? We shouldn’t accept the principle that the Home Secretary, or any other politician, can hand out punishments to anyone in this way. If this young person has committed any criminal offence that has to be a matter for the courts and the judicial system to act upon in the usual way.

    I don’t normally agree with George Osborne but he’s got it absolutely right in this reply to a reader’s letter.

  • Laurence Cox 23rd Feb '19 - 12:17pm

    @Peter Martin

    If you look at the ALDE group page on Wikipedia you will see that most EU countries have more than one party within the ALDE Group.

  • Helen Dudden 23rd Feb '19 - 3:34pm

    I’m not a good Liberal. For many years I was, even helping Don Foster many years ago. Things change, I was in the Labour Party, but found that was not in my interest.
    I have no political leanings anymore.

  • Andrew Daer 22nd Feb ’19 – 6:36pm…..James Pugh says we have to pick a side. I don’t really agree, but if pushed I’d swap him with Shamima Begum, and let him stay in a refugee camp for the next five years. Shamima should be shown compassion and forgiveness………

    So Shamima should be shown compassion and forgiveness after supporting the rape, mutilation and murder of ‘unbelievers’ whist James Pugh should be incarcerated, among those who believe as Begum does, for a moderate questioning of her beliefs?

    A true liberal!

  • Indeed Expats. It is concerning that a Lib Dem would suggest that he/she would put anyone in a refugee camp in Jordan. If anything, I would put it down to a wish to make a strong point, largely ironic and in jest, against an illiberal counter view, without fulling thinking how it could be portrayed.

    However, i think it was a misconception on Andrew’s part that led to him making the suggestion in the first place. From my reading of James Pugh’s original comment, all of his first sentence (including the bit in brackets) is entirely a summation of the point of view of the Conservative government wanting to deter/punish such behaviours – It was not a statement of his view.

    The rest of James’ post is a liberal making an assessment of the unintended consequences that liberal behaviour can have – How should a tolerant, compassionate liberal treat strong supporters of a intolerant, uncompassionate and illiberal ideology? It is after all easy to be nice, liberal and easy going, but when it makes our enemies stronger and ourselves weaker – surely that is where a different balance needs to be sought. However, it is one that most Lib Dems are appallingly bad at. Too often we try to identify one single, potential, redeeming feature to be optimistic about and then ignore all the bad bits as if they will magically go away.

    According to Bernard, the Dutch are much better prepared. We should be too, but remembering we have had the uncaring and incompetent Conservatives in charge of the Home Office for nearly nine years now, it is no surprise to find that we aren’t.

  • @ Andrew Daer

    Interesting perspective

    I think in general, before someone can be forgiven, they need to acknowledge they have done something wrong. As the initial interviews with Ms Begum show, she had no sense of wrongdoing and no sense of remorse. She was clearly unbothered by the beheading of innocent people and showed support for the Manchester bombing.

    It is very telling that the time she has flinched in her outlook is only AFTER she was notified that her citizenship had been revoked by Sajid Javid (she now claims she will think about changing). Just like the spoilt 20 something, who is still housed by its parents but treats them with outright contempt, goes off galavanting thinking there will always be free food, laundry and lodging from the hotel of Mum & Dad, and only comes to their senses after they find the hotel of Mum & Dad is no longer open to them and they’ve been cut out of the will.

    Ms Begum has complete hatred and loathing for this country (so much so that she defected to the Islamic State), but clearly felt she could dip into it whenever she wanted to make use of the NHS, education system and overall quiet life a liberal democratic country can provide. We would not be doing others with the same mentality of her any favours by showing this country is one of infinite entitlement. In fact indulging such a sense of infinite entitlement is as we can see, extremely harmful to the individual.

  • Yeovil Yokel 24th Feb '19 - 10:55am

    I would definitely remove her citizenship – she has come under the baleful influence of an extremist minority and knowingly caused immense damage to her country, and continues to plough on unswervingly and without remorse in pursuit of a hopeless dream.

    I am talking about Theresa May, of course.

  • It’s also notable that today Ms Begum’s father sided with the government;

    “”””If she at least admitted she made a mistake then I would feel sorry for her and other people would feel sorry for her. But she does not accept her wrong””””

    I am more and more inclined to side with Sajid Javid on this issue. The one thing that holds me back is thinking about the case of Maajid Nawaz, who was once a middle ranking figure in Hizb ut-Tahir, before his damascene conversion to now someone of impeccablely liberal character (and was in the past rather involved with the Liberal Democrats). Of course Hizb ut-Tahrir is rather different to Islamic State, since it is, at least superficially, non-violent, and not banned in the UK

  • I am infuriated at the revocation of Begum’s citizenship. There is a basic injustice here in that ‘white native British’ converts to Islam who went to ISIS cannot have their citizenship revoked because they have no eligibility for citizenship of any other state. Only immigrants, or the children of immigrants, can have it revoked. I can accept the principal where an adult has applied for naturalisation to the UK and can be considered under probation for some period, but Begum has, we understand, been British since birth. Also, even murderers who flee abroad are extradited to face justice in the UK. Begum has been judged solely on comments to the media and any apparent lack of contrition may be because she is fearful of ISIS zealots who she is still living amongst. Only when she is given the chance to speak in safety can her views be properly assessed. The Home Secretary is punishing her in absentia and she has no right of defence, perhaps because as a son of a Muslim immigrant himself, he is afraid of being accused of being too soft.

  • Helen Dudden 24th Feb '19 - 8:48pm

    Her father lives in Bangladesh and he has disowned her. Apparently, he splits his time. She is not stateless. I never believe what I’m told without some evidence.

  • Jayne Mansfield 24th Feb '19 - 10:31pm

    @ John Gauss,

    So Mr Gauss, you suspect that the Home Secretary might not be carrying out his duties in an objective manner when balancing competing interests, because he is the Muslim son of an immigrant.


  • Joseph Bourke 24th Feb '19 - 10:44pm

    A British citizen cannot be made stateless and it is likely to be sometime while this case works it way through the courts to determine if any right of residence in another country exists. However, if Shamina Begum’s father is unwlling to allow her to join him in Bangladesh then some arrangements have to be made in the meantime for her internment and the care of the child.
    The UK has two sovereign military bases in Cyprus at Akrotiri and Dhekelia. I understand a number of refugee families have been living on the base since being rescued from a fishing boat in 1998. These families are likely to be granted asylum in the UK in the near future.
    British members of ISIS in the middle-east (and there may be be dozens if not hundreds) might be interned on the bases to go through a process of deradicalisation and rehabilitation. Where there is prosecutable evidence of crimes they should be tried in British courts and if given a custodial sentence, incarcerated in British prisons.
    What cannot be done is shutting our eyes to the rape, murder, looting, torture and enslavement that this group inflicted on some many innocent families in Iraq, Syria and beyond.

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