After a series of conflicting reports, a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesperson confirmed the death of the newborn son of the UK’s runaway ISIS bride, Shamima Begum, in a refugee camp in Syria.
The baby, named Jarrah and just over two weeks old, died of pneumonia, according to a medical certificate, the US-backed SDF forces running the camp where the 19-year-old was based said on Friday.
A UK government spokesperson said the death of any child was “tragic and deeply distressing for the family”.
A paramedic working for the Kurdish Red Crescent in the camp said the baby had been suffering from breathing difficulties. He was taken to a doctor on Thursday morning before being transferred to hospital, along with his mother, but died later on Thursday. Begum has since returned to the camp and her child was buried there on Friday.
Earlier, the Bangladeshi-origin girl’s family lawyer had stated on Twitter that they had received unconfirmed reports from within her refugee camp in the Middle East that her baby had passed away.
“It is confirmed he is dead,” Mohammed Akunjee later stated on social media and posted a series of news reports critical of UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who had revoked Begum’s British citizenship last month even while acknowledging her baby as British.
The UK’s Opposition took aim at Javid for his decision, with Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott saying: “It is against international law to make someone stateless, and now an innocent child has died as a result of a British woman being stripped of her citizenship. This is callous and inhumane.”
In a statement when reports of the baby’s death were still unconfirmed, Javid said: “Sadly there are probably many children, obviously perfectly innocent, who have been born in this war zone. I have nothing but sympathy for the children that have been dragged into this. This is a reminder of why it is so, so dangerous for anyone to be in this war zone.”
As the baby was born while Begum was still a British national, his status was that of a British national and Begum’s London-based family had written to Javid to assist them in bringing the baby back to the UK based on his rights as a British citizen. Begum, who fled London as a 15-year-old schoolgirl to join the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group, is believed to be entitled to 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 her British citizenship.
Begum’s son was born on February 17, days after she was tracked down heavily-pregnant 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 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 fled to join 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.
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.