Revoking citizenship makes the ISIS problem worse – not better

Written by Taban Shoresh

The decision to revoke Shamima Begum’s British citizenship was applauded by many, but such an impetuous approach will never be the solution for handling so-called ISIS brides or anyone that joined the group.

While it is a major problem when any national wishes to renounce the caliphate and return to home shores, stripping them of their citizenship slams the door on the prospect of a fair trial for any victim of ISIS atrocity. It also removes the chance of putting war crimes and human rights violations back on the agenda, which has all but disappeared from discussion.

For over three years now, The Lotus Flower has provided support to more than five thousand women and girls impacted by the atrocities committed by ISIS. The stories and experiences survived by them vary widely, but at the heart of every single case is severe trauma and violation of human rights.

As well as offering vital support for women and girls, we have been working hard to try and secure legal remedies and improved rights for female survivors. Many high-profile figures like Nadia Murad and Amal Clooney have also campaigned tirelessly to keep the plight of ISIS victims at the forefront of public consciousness, and also for more productive responses from the international community.

Ultimately, every victim of ISIS has the right to take their perpetrator to court – however reprehensible their own actions. But if nations tear up the citizenship of former recruits, they have no hope of justice, legal recourse or even punishment. Instead of being made stateless, the nature of their crimes should be thoroughly investigated, and they should be held accountable before our courts of law in the same way as any other civilian. Failure to do so is not only unjust, but also dangerous; casting victims out of the system means they disappear from our radar, which poses a real and credible threat. In addition, the responsibility for such individuals should not lie with states still struggling with the aftermath of conflict; they have had more than enough to cope with already.

Finally, what message does it convey to any girl or woman who may contemplate joining a terrorist organisation in future? It tells her she can sign up, commit abhorrent crimes and then seek shelter in a refugee camp when it’s all over. It also suggests that her home country will simply cut her adrift, allowing her to move freely and without any kind of ramification. She will still have open access to friends and family, as well as other sinister networks and cells. Where is the deterrent in any of this?

Regardless of the angry, knee-jerk reaction clouding this emotive issue, the removal of citizenship could perhaps be viewed as the easy option, because we may not have the legal systems required to manage ex-recruits after their return. If this is the case, then it seems that we have a much bigger – and equally worrying – problem on our hands...

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