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UK teen Shamima Begum’s case shows Muslim lives disposable to Western intelligence agencies: academic

The latest report about British teenager Shamima Begum smuggled by a Canadian spy to Syria in 2015 with her two friends to join the Daesh terrorist group, shows how “disposable” Muslim lives are to Western intelligence agencies, an academic says.

Rizwaan Sabbir, an assistant professor specializing in counterterrorism at Liverpool John Moores University in the UK, made the remarks while speaking to Middle East Eye on Wednesday, after a new explosive book revealed that the UK has conspired with Canada to cover up the role of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) in the disappearance of Begum and her two fellow pupils.

“This whole saga illustrates how disposable Muslim lives are to intelligence agencies given these vulnerable school girls were proactively trafficked into a war-zone to be used as bait to secure intelligence data on others,” Sabbir said.

Sabbir went on to say that the new reports raised more questions than answers for the British media and security services in how they treated Begum and her family. 

“Had this information been reported and investigated by the media more thoroughly when the story broke, it is highly likely that it would have weakened the UK government’s ability to deprive Shamima Begum of her citizenship and weakened their chances of introducing new laws to deprive others of their citizenship too,” he said.

“The outcomes of failing to report or investigate this issue cannot be underestimated,” Sabbir added.

Then-15-year-old Begum and her two friends – Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Amira Abase, 15 – left their homes in east London’s Bethnal Green area in 2015 to be the Daesh brides.

In February 2019, Begum expressed her desire to return home, but the British government revoked her citizenship, leading to a legal battle for the restoration of her citizenship.

Sultana was killed in a Russian air raid, while the other British girl, Abase, is missing.

The Secret History of the Five Eyes by Richard Kerbaj, a former security correspondent of The Sunday Times, published on Wednesday, claimed that Mohammed al-Rashed, a double agent working for Daesh and Canadian intelligence has trafficked the British teenagers into Syria in 2015.

According to the book, Canada knew about the teenagers’ fate but kept silent while the British Metropolitan Police Service ran an international search for the trio.

Canada privately admitted its involvement only when it feared being exposed following Rashed’s arrest in Turkey in 2015, and then successfully asked the British to cover up its role, the book added.

Rashed was recruited by Canada as a spy when he applied for asylum at the Canadian embassy in Jordan. He is thought to have helped dozens more Britons to join Daesh.

Asked about the British media reports, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Wednesday that the country’s intelligence service is “bound by strict rules” and that “rigorous oversight mechanisms” are in place.

“We expect that those rules be followed,” Trudeau said, adding that his government would “look at further steps if necessary”. He did not elaborate on what those steps could entail.

The latest revelations reopened the debate over stripping Begum of her British citizenship as it shows that an asset of Western intelligence gave practical help for her journey to Syria.

There was no mention that the British authorities knew how she was smuggled into Syria in last year’s Supreme Court judgment upholding the decision to bar her from returning to the UK.

Begum, 23, remains in a camp in northern Syria. She is to renew her case at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission in November.

Tasnime Akunjee, lawyer for the Begum family, has called for an inquiry into what the police and intelligence services knew.

“The UK has international obligations as to how we view a trafficked person and what culpability we prescribe to them for their actions,” he said.

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