Now, with the militant group’s self-proclaimed “caliphate” crumbling and two of her three children dead, the 19-year-old Begum says she wants to return to Britain. But British Home Secretary Sajid Javid said last month that he would move to strip her of her British citizenship, although he later said he would not render any individual stateless.
Begum had fled Britain four years ago to become an “ISIS bride.” In an interview with the BBC, Riedijk said, “We sat down and she seemed in a good state of mind. It was her own choice; she was the one who asked to look for a partner for her.”
“Then I was invited and, yeah, she was very young and it might have been better for her to wait a bit, but she didn’t — she chose to get married, and I chose to marry her.”
British ministerial discretion on the matter of citizenship was expanded in 2014, such that the government can revoke a person’s citizenship if it has reason to believe that person can become a national of another country.
Riedijk said he wanted to bring his wife and child to the Netherlands so they could lead a “moderate Muslim life.”
But while Riedijk may see Begum as having gotten married on her own accord, the Netherlands may not recognize their union, because she was underage at the time. Dutch authorities have said a spouse or partner of a Dutch national would need a valid passport or travel document to get a residence permit in the Netherlands. Obtaining a residence permit would be further complicated by Begum’s personal history — she did, after all, run away to marry an Islamic State fighter, and the Dutch Justice Ministry recently said Islamic State-affiliated women and children posed a “long-term potential threat” even though they were not trained and did not take part in hostilities. (In the interview, Riedijk said, “I don’t understand how she would, in any form, be a danger. All she did was she sat in the house for three years”).
Riedijk, who could face six years in prison if he returns to the Netherlands, is in a Kurdish detention center. Begum was in the al-Hawl refugee camp in Syria but is reported to be elsewhere.
But some in Britain don’t think Begum should go to the Netherlands, even if she could.
“Why should the Netherlands have to take responsibility for this? Shamima Begun [sic] was born in the UK and radicalised in the UK,” tweeted David Lammy, a member of Parliament from Britain’s Labour Party. “What happens next should be decided by the British courts and security services.”