The new-born baby of Shamima Begum, a Bangladeshi-origin London schoolgirl who fled the UK to join the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group in Syria, may have died, according to her family's lawyer. In an online message on social media on Friday, Mohammed Akunjee said the family has received unconfirmed reports from within her refugee camp in the Middle East that her baby named Jerah has passed away.
"We have strong but as yet unconfirmed reports that Shamima Begum's son has died. He was a British Citizen," Akunjee stated on Twitter. As the baby was born while Begum was still a British national, his status remains that of a British national.
The news of his possible death follows a plea from Begum's London-based family to UK home secretary Sajid Javid to assist them in bringing the baby back to the UK based on his rights as a British citizen. It was in reaction to the minister's decision to revoke 19-year-old Begum's British citizenship on security grounds, indicating that she would have the right to acquire Bangladeshi citizenship by virtue of her parents' heritage.
"My number one job is to do whatever I can to keep this country safe," Javid had said last month when announcing the revocation of citizenship.
Begum's son was born on February 17, days after she was tracked down heavily-pregnant by in a refugee camp in Syria. She told reporters at the time that she had already lost two babies -- one to malnutrition and another to ill-health -- during her time with the ISIS and pleaded with the UK government to allow her and her new-born baby to return to the Britain.
"I would like them to re-evaluate my case with a bit more mercy in their heart. I am willing to change," she said, following the revocation of her citizenship.
She was 15 when she fled to join the ISIS in February 2015 and married Dutch ISIS recruit Yago Riedijk as a so-called jihadi bride. Her 27-year-old husband, who is being held in a Kurdish detention centre in north-eastern Syria, recently said in a media interview that he wanted his wife and baby to be allowed to return to the Netherlands.
Both the Netherlands and Bangladesh have since denied that Shamima Begum would have a right to entry into either country.
Earlier this week, her father Ahmed Ali, who now lives in Bangladesh, blamed the UK authorities for failing to prevent Begum fleeing the country on her sister's passport.
"The British immigration system is very informed, the most informed system in the world. I always say how did (Shamima) get there using another person's passport? She doesn't even have her own passport. These matters should be investigated," the 60-year-old said, urging the UK to allow his daughter to return and face the British legal system.
Under international law, the UK can revoke a citizenship of a British national only if the individual would not be made stateless. Begum's British citizenship was revoked on the grounds that she is eligible for citizenship of Bangladesh until the age of 21 through her parents' Bangladeshi dual nationality.
But Bangladesh's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has since ruled out such a possibility of her being considered for Bangladeshi citizenship. Begum is currently believed to be in a refugee camp closer to the Iraqi border after being removed from the Al-Hol camp in the north of Syria due to alleged threats following the worldwide media attention she attracted.