‘I know enough about her to feel quite confident that she’s not a dangerous person’
Shamima Begum does not pose a security threat and should be allowed back home to the UK, according to a retired US ambassador.
Peter Galbraith, who worked as the first US ambassador to Croatia and, more recently, as the United Nations’ deputy special representative for Afghanistan, said that Begum should be returned home from the al-Roj camp in northern Syria.
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Mr Galbraith said: “I’ve talked to Shamima – she is part of the group of women who have absolutely rejected the Islamic State – I know enough about her to feel quite confident that she’s not a dangerous person.”
Ms Begum was just 15 when she travelled from Bethnal Green in London to Syria where the Isis group controlled territory in 2015.
Six years later, and at the age of 21, she is now challenging the Home Office’s decision to remove her British citizenship, asking a tribunal to consider whether or not she was a victim of trafficking.
Mr Galbraith has previously helped free and repatriate several women and children from Isis camps, one of whom from Canada was residing in the same Syrian detention camp as the former British schoolgirl.
“The basic position of the British government is that Shamima is somehow dangerous and I just don’t think that’s true,” he explained to The Telegraph.
The Roj camp, where Ms Begum is living, holds more than 700 foreign families who lived under Isis, of whom it is thought around 15-20 are British. Citizens from some 50 other countries are thought to be living in the camp, many of them children.
Typically, countries must ask the Syrian Kurdish authorities for their citizens to be released, Mr Galbraith said.
He underlined how the case of the Canadian woman was an exception.
He added: “There are other women who have rejected the Islamic State, I don’t know if there are many who have been so helpful to law enforcement and, in her case, the identification of people including Americans who have committed major crimes.”
Earlier this month, Begum’s lawyers said that the Home Office had a legal duty to investigate whether or not she had been a victim of trafficking when her British citizenship was revoked.
David Blundell QC, representing the Home Office, said: “Ms Begum should not be permitted to amend her grounds again.”
Begum claimed she only left the UK to join Isis in Syria because she “didn’t want to be left behind” by her friends, stating that her support for Isis had been due to the fact that she was “naive”.
Mr Galbraith, who focuses most of his advocacy work on the victims of Isis, said he understood why governments would “err on the side of caution”.
He said: “There is no doubt that there are dangerous women in these camps. In my mind it is reasonable for governments to err on the side of caution.”