August 19, 2019 | 90° F

COMMENTARY: ISIS decline causes debate of citizenship


The decline of ISIS brought along more security threats and international crises, both long-term, and short-term. The Caliphate was declared over after a series of prolonged losses, leading to both political and economic disasters within itself. In 2017, Iraqi forces reclaimed Mosul, the Caliphate’s most important stronghold, as the Syrian Democratic Forces took back Raqqa, another important city. 

Now in 2019, ISIS has retreated back to a small village on the Euphrates called Bahgouz. These victories seem to have more or less temporary political success, creating more of a long-term economic and social crisis. What happens to the people that lived under ISIS and who is responsible for them? What about the stateless children? What happens to the foreign ISIS fighters and what does international law say about them? 

This can be seen in the case of 19-year-old British national Shamima Begum, who is currently residing in an Iraqi refugee camp. Begum is seeking asylum with her baby to return back to her country of birth, the United Kingdom. In February 2015, Begum ran away from her East London home to join the Islamic State (IS) with her two friends, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana. 

Soon after arriving, Begum "willingly" married IS fighter Yago Riedijk, who is, as of today, being held prisoner in a Kurdish detention center in Northern Syria. Begum escaped the Islamic State in order to return to the U.K. for the safety of her unborn baby, as her other two children died. 

After a complicated legal battle, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission revoked her U.K. citizenship under the grounds of the 1981 British Nationality Act. The act states that open citizenship can be revoked if and only if the person has alternate citizenship from another country. Nevertheless, Begum is rendered a stateless entity. 

Should her citizenship have been revoked? What are the consequences of this action? Whose responsibility should Begum and her baby become now? 

With this also comes the international crisis of the increase in non-state entities, which include those with revoked citizenship and also children born into the organization without proper civil registration. Most of these children are seen as an increased security threat and a human rights crisis due to the important fact they were born into ISIS. 

Returning or attempting to reintegrate children of non-state entities poses the problem of their sole identities — the fact that these children could and would eventually learn about their background. Adding to that, those who were old enough to be educated under ISIS have gone through the psychological and emotional indoctrination of violent teachings of the organization. 

The other side of the story is that abandoning the non-state entities in the formerly held ISIS locations would create a much more serious international crisis. With no sense of land, no sense of belongingness and the psychological, physical and emotional trauma left from living under ISIS, the non-state entities pose a long-term security problem. As the Global Observatory reported, the children are more or less a "ticking time-bomb," for the “'cubs generation' that will become the lions of tomorrow.” 

Whether ISIS intended for this long-term threat is not known, but they sure have invented an international crisis never seen before. The questions of who is responsible for the non-state entities, how long it will take to resolve all the trauma and whether they would be able to assimilate into society once again are all questions being debated in human rights and international organizations. 

Fatuma Musse is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore double majoring in political science and women’s and genders studies.  

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Fatuma Musse

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