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Citizenship Revocation as a Human Rights Violation: The Case of Shamima Begum

Is it morally professional for a state to revoke the citizenship below sure situations? Ought to a state revoke the citizenship of its nationals who joined a publicly identified non-state terrorist organisation overseas? Though the 1948 Common Declaration of Human Rights affirms that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” (United Nations 1948), there’s a large variation on how states respect the inherent dignity of all people inside its territory. Within the modern worldwide system, states stay the first authorized guarantor of human rights (Regilme 2019a; Regilme 2020). State-based citizenship constitutes the quintessential entry cross for a human particular person to get pleasure from all kinds of rights and privileges which can be solely attainable by way of formal membership in a professional, territorially-bound political group. For that cause, citizenship revocation and statelessness have deadly results upon human people. The absence of formal membership in a political group concretely means chopping off entry to numerous instruments for survival — sense of belongingness in addition to materials technique of livelihood, amongst many others. But, there are hundreds of thousands of people that stay stateless, one third of that are kids (UNHCR 2020), whereas many states follow citizenship revocation, particularly of individuals deemed with inferior, minoritized, and dehumanised identities.  

Some of the latest and extensively identified circumstances of citizenship revocation pertains to the British authorities’s dehumanising therapy of Shamima Begum, who left Britain to affix the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) in February 2015 and was found within the al-Hawl camp in Northern Syria. In 2019, Begum left IS territory and pleaded for repatriation to Britain to offer her unborn little one with a greater probability of survival. When Shamima Begum requested to return in February 2019, Britain’s Residence Secretary, Sajid Javid, revoked her citizenship, thereby making Begum the first-ever extensively documented British girl stripped of her citizenship. Begum’s case triggered wide-ranging coverage debates and questions regarding the contentious politics of citizenship, human rights, and state energy. These debates in British and international politics expose the gendered, racialised, and class-based logics underlying the safety and citizenship discourses within the post-9/11 British context, explored briefly on this opinion piece in addition to within the earlier peer-reviewed article that we lately printed within the Journal of Human Rights Follow (Oxford College Press).

After 9/11, Western states employed the ‘Us vs Them’ discourse to legitimise anti-human rights practices (Regilme 2018a, 2018b). In Britain, a number of Prime Ministers and their respective Residence Secretaries continuously indicated the ‘price’ of swapping human rights for safety measures (Grierson 2019; Walawalkar 2019; Turnbull 2019), producing notions of nationwide safety defending collective citizenship rights, particularly by way of citizenship revocation (Macklin 2014:17; Dearden 2019; Batty&Noor 2019). Citizenship is essentially thought of the first human proper – the suitable to have rights through an unwritten social contract between the state and the person (Arendt 1951). Conversely, the absence of citizenship reduces an individual to reveal life, or homo sacer (Agamben 1998). Within the legalistic notion of citizenship, residents with jus sanguinis usually tend to have their citizen stripped over these with jus soli (Macklin 2015; McGhee 2010; Kapoor 2018). Citizenship revocation is thus deeply politicised, and it establishes a hierarchical human rights system for 2 ‘types of life’ (Benhabib 2004; Agamben 2000; Schuilenburg 2008:2), remodeling the ‘non-citizen’ into an ‘undesirable’ entity (Macklin 2014:2-3).

This notion of ‘undesirability’, as bolstered by citizenship revocation, historically belongs to marginalised teams in Britain, reminiscent of girls, minority teams, and wage employees, moderately than males, Caucasians, and property homeowners, who’re deemed exemplary ‘British’ residents (Glenn 2000). In making an attempt to ‘show’ loyalty to Britain, a story of ‘British values’/‘Britishness’ was established (McGhee 2010). This idea, nonetheless, solely fits the aforementioned prototype, with these falling outdoors introduced as ‘Different’ and ‘un-British’ (Clarke&Garner 2010). These narratives had been employed surrounding Begum, labelling her a safety menace as she ‘is’ towards ‘the values we stand for’ (Javid 2019a). Notably post-9/11, Muslims are anticipated to imagine ‘Britishness’ above all different minority communities (Tufail&Cohen 2017). This expectation can also be gendered: Muslim girls are continuously considered as victims, perceived as ‘incapable’ of talking English and thus allegedly ‘extra inclined’ to extremism, abuse, and never selling/speaking ‘British values’ (Smith 2016:303; Mason&Sherwood 2016). But for Begum, this perception is missing. Slightly than addressing the web grooming (Segalov 2019); exploitation (ibid); worldwide trafficking (ibid); underage ‘marriage’ (Gopal 2019); statutory rape (ibid); trauma (Davies&Ward 2019); and her probably being a baby soldier (Jorgensen 2019:5); the federal government outlined Begum as ‘an actual menace’ (Javid 2019b).

Muslim girls are subsequently seen as each victims and threats. By branding Begum as ‘threatening’ and revoking her citizenship, feminine Muslim company is considered as perilous to the white secular state. Maybe, then, Begum’s ‘equivalence’ to a ‘safety menace’ is just not truly about threatening state safety, however threatening the state’s conception of what constitutes an agency-driven ‘British’ girl. For the British state, Begum doesn’t match the historic and modern illustrations of the ‘feminine Muslim sufferer’, thus when her personal company is seen, she turns into a menace, and upon wishing to return, she receives the final word state punishment: citizenship revocation.

Shamima Begum’s case highlights how the dignity of residents from marginalised backgrounds — on this case a mixture of an ethnic minority, a lady/girl, a Muslim, and a mom— has been systematically undermined by the state. Begum’s case reminds us {that a} constitutional order’s affirmation for human rights is at all times subjected to the persistent political contestations throughout the state-society nexus, which is embedded by racialised, gendered, and class-based logics (Regilme 2019). The British state’s revocation of Begum’s citizenship constitutes a elementary assault on the dignity of Begum’s humanity. By citizenship revocation, the British state expelled Begum from her political group, as she was additionally denied of any recourse to procedural equity and entry to substantive justice. The follow of citizenship revocation additionally undermines the dignity of the human particular person from marginalised identities, notably due to their race, gender, socio-economic class, incapacity, amongst others. Citizenship revocation is simply one of many many states’ dehumanising practices deployed towards individuals from marginalised communities. But, citizenship revocation causes a right away and blatant banishment of a human particular person from one’s political group, thereby decreasing that dignified human particular person to a naked human, or homo sacer. Human rights activists worldwide ought to collectively mobilise towards any state follow that dehumanises anybody by way of denaturalisation and perpetuates the statelessness of minoritized people.

Notably, such dehumanising practices regarding citizenship have gained traction in recent times, each within the International North and the International South. In the USA, the Trump administration has intensified its denaturalisation efforts that systematically focused individuals of color and from very poor socio-economic backgrounds.  In lots of locations elsewhere, the United Nations Excessive Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR 2020) has reported hundreds of thousands of stateless individuals from many components of the globe. Accordingly, within the case of Myanmar, almost 600,000 people residing in Rakhine state stay stateless on the premise of the present regulation, which successfully denies citizenship for members of Muslim minority teams. Within the Ivory Coast, roughly 700,000 Burkinabe migrants stay ineligible for Ivorian citizenship, whereas Europe has round 500,000 stateless people, a lot of whom are from the Baltic states and Japanese Europe (ensuing from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991).

The case of Shamima Begum illustrates the enduring political logics of stratifications inside humanity. Amidst a whole bunch of 1000’s of stateless people worldwide, normally from minoritised teams, the disaster of statelessness and citizenship revocation is a disaster of elementary human rights. Within the modern worldwide system, the place states stay the first guarantor of human rights, statelessness and citizenship revocation ought to be thought of as an assault to the dignity of the human particular person. Though statelessness and denaturalisation applications have continued even earlier than Begum’s case, such practices stay largely invisible in mainstream scholarly and coverage discussions in addition to the coverage agendas of highly effective states and international governance establishments.  Therefore, we must always proceed to withstand any political initiative that champions citizenship revocation or statelessness inside and past the extent of state-level policy-making. 

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