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Father of Daesh teenager Shamima Begum asks UK to let her return

 DHAKA: The father of Shamima Begum, the British teenager of Bangladeshi descent who ran away to join Daesh in Syria, said his daughter’s British citizenship should be restored, and asked that she be allowed to return to the country.  In 2015, Shamima Begum left her parents’ home in the Bethnal Green district of London to travel…

Father of Daesh teenager Shamima Begum asks UK to let her return

 DHAKA: The father of Shamima Begum, the British teenager of Bangladeshi descent who ran away to join Daesh in Syria, said his daughter’s British citizenship should be restored, and asked that she be allowed to return to the country. 

In 2015, Shamima Begum left her parents’ home in the Bethnal Green district of London to travel to Syria along with two of her friends. All three went on to marry Daesh fighters there.

Begum married a Dutch member of Daesh, and lived with him in the group’s territory for four years. In that time, she gave birth to two children, both of whom died of malnutrition.

Last week, her third child died in a detention camp in Syria, where Begum is now living. 

Begum has repeatedly stated that she wants to return to London, but UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid has revoked her citizenship. He has suggested that Begum should go to Bangladesh, her country of origin. 

Her family has insisted that Begum is not a dual citizen of the UK and Bangladesh. Her case is currently pending in the courts.

“Shamima is a British citizen by birth and has never visited Bangladesh, so there is no question of bringing her to Bangladesh,” Begum’s father, Ahmed Ali, told Arab News in an interview on Tuesday evening at his home in the village of Sunamgonj, some 200 km from the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka.

“My wife Asma Begum also appealed to the UK authorities on Monday to restore Shamima’s citizenship and bring her back,” he added. “I would like to visit the UK to join with my wife to fight the legal battle to the last.”

Ali said he and Asma had not yet decided if they would apply for Bangladeshi citizenship for their daughter. 

On March 11, Asma Begum appealed to the British home secretary to “reconsider” her daughter’s citizenship.

Her attorney, Dr. Farooq Bajwa, said in the petition: “Mrs. Begum requests this reconsideration as an act of mercy, on the basis of the following new information, namely the death of her newborn son as reported by the BBC on 8 March, 2019.” 

The petition continued: “As far as we are aware, the British government did not ask for the views of, nor consult with, the government of Bangladesh on whether or not Shamima used to hold dual nationality before the decision of depriving (her of) citizenship.”

Masudur Rahman, director general of the external publicity wing of the Bangladesh Foreign Ministry, said the government was “deeply concerned that Shamima has been erroneously identified as a holder of dual citizenship.” 

“Bangladesh asserts that she is not a Bangladeshi citizen,” he told Arab News. 

“She is a British citizen by birth and has never applied for dual nationality with Bangladesh. She never visited Bangladesh in the past despite her parental lineage. So, there is no question of her being allowed to enter Bangladesh.”

In interviews last month, Begum said she wanted to return to Britain but also played down the severity of Daesh’s crimes and said she did not regret joining the caliphate. 

Her remarks have sparked a debate in the West about whether governments have a responsibility to repatriate their citizens who joined Daesh. Thousands of foreign Daesh fighters are currently being held in detention facilities in Syria and Iraq. 

Begum’s father said his daughter deserved to be allowed to return to the UK because she was just 15 when she fled home. He described her as “simple and naïve” and easily trusting of people. 

“It was a total brainwash,” said Ali, who moved back to Bangladesh from London more than two decades ago and lives there with his second wife.

He described Begum, the youngest of four daughters, as an introvert who focused on school but was “modern and progressive” and resisted attending religious gatherings. 

“I didn’t notice anything abnormal in Shamima even during the last meeting I had with her just two months before her joining Daesh,” Ali said. 

“We discussed some family affairs and she was the same, just like other girls of her age.

“Even on the day of her disappearance, her mum accompanied her to catch the bus to her school. And after a few hours that very day, sitting in Bangladesh, I (learned) that Shamima had left the UK to join (Daesh).”

 Ali also suggested that Begum’s school and British immigration were, in some respects, culpable for his daughter’s predicament. 

“One month before Shamima’s disappearance along with her two classmates, another girl from the same school and same class had fled and joined Daesh,” Ali claimed. 

“What did the school do during this period to counsel their students? And how did a teenager like Shamima (get past) British immigration authorities with a fake passport and a different identity?”

He added that he believed Shamima should be questioned by a neutral body, free from the influence of Syrian authorities. 

Barrister Tanjibul Alam, a renowned Bangladeshi immigration and human rights lawyer, said the UK could not render Begum “stateless.” He said that the UK’s decision to revoke her citizenship was “contrary to British convention and quite unprecedented,” calling it a “racially biased decision.”

Alam said that even if the British Home Office denied Shamima’s latest mercy petition, she could then file an appeal with the High Court.

“If (her appeal is) rejected by the High Court, she will still have the option to continue the legal battle with the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court,” Alam said, adding that her parents also needed to apply for her Bangladeshi citizenship. 

Barrister Rumin Farhana, assistant international affairs secretary of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), said that, according to Bangladesh’s citizenship laws, the government would have to accept Begum’s application for citizenship because her parents were originally from Bangladesh.

“There is no question of choice in this regard,” Farhana told Arab News. 

“Her citizenship would have been automatically canceled due to having British citizenship. But, in this case, Shamima (is eligible for) Bangladeshi citizenship since she is below the age of 21.”

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UN counterterrorism chief makes controversial trip to Xinjiang

NEW DELHI: India’s recent national election delivered a historic victory to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party, but also exposed the influence of money, power and questionable morality on the world’s largest democracy.Nearly 43% of the new members of the lower house of Parliament that convenes Monday for the first time since the election…

UN counterterrorism chief makes controversial trip to Xinjiang

NEW DELHI: India’s recent national election delivered a historic victory to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party, but also exposed the influence of money, power and questionable morality on the world’s largest democracy.Nearly 43% of the new members of the lower house of Parliament that convenes Monday for the first time since the election won despite facing criminal charges. More than a quarter of those relate to rape, murder or attempted murder, according to a report by the civic group Association of Democratic Reforms.The loophole that allows them to take office is that they have not been convicted — in part because the Indian legal system has a huge backlog of an estimated 30 million cases and trials often last decades. When asked about the charges against them, they invariably accuse a political rival of framing them.Since such rivalries often lead to false accusations, the main political parties say it would be unfair to bar people from contesting elections unless they have been convicted by court.Under existing laws, only those who have been sentenced to prison for two years or more can be barred from elections.Members of Parliament with criminal backgrounds is not a new phenomenon in India, but despite Modi’s campaign vow in 2014 to clean up corruption and the influence of money in politics, the problem appears to be only growing worse.In the 2004 national election, the percentage of candidates with pending criminal cases was 24%, which rose to 33% in 2009, 34% in 2014 and 43% this year, said Shahabuddin Y. Quraishi, a former chief election commissioner.The Association of Democratic Reforms found that 116 of the 303 lawmakers from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party elected last month face criminal charges, including one for alleged terrorism.Pragya Singh Thakur, who won a seat from Bhopal in central India, is awaiting trial in connection with a 2008 explosion in Malegaon in western India that killed seven people.Twenty-nine of the opposition Congress party’s 52 lawmakers face serious charges.“This trend has been growing in India, leaving no political party untouched. We need to educate voters not to elect these people,” said Jagdeep S. Chhokar, ADR’s founder.“What the Indian state has been unable to provide, strongmen promise to deliver to people in their area of influence, using gun and money power,” said Lennin Rasghuvanshi, a coordinator with the People’s Union for Civil Liberties.Starting in the 1960s and ‘70s, some Indian politicians began turning to the criminal underworld for cash to win votes.“In due course, the criminals started thinking that these politicians were winning because of their money or crimes so why shouldn’t they become lawmakers themselves? If they are people running from the police, they know that when they became lawmakers, the same police will protect them,” Quraishi said.In Uttar Pradesh state in northern Indian, former mafia don Mukhtar Ansari has been elected to the state assembly five times despite more than 40 criminal cases pending against him, including murder.Another don-turned-politician, Hari Shankar Tiwari, also of Uttar Pradesh, has been a member of the legislative assembly for 23 years, even winning an election while being detained on murder charges.During the campaign, Election Commission officials and government agencies seized mountains of cash, alcohol, gold and silver, saris and expensive watches in the offices of political parties that were intended as gifts in exchange for votes.The total value of the seized goods was $500 million, including $120 million in cash — nearly three times what was found in the 2014 general election, according to the Election Commission.Analysts say that political parties seem to prize electability over ethics.“They think that people with criminal backgrounds have more chances to win because of their money and muscle power,” Qureshi said.In the days of paper ballots before electronic voting machines were introduced, gangs would use brute force to take over polling stations to rig the vote.One reason for the increasing number of criminal suspects going into politics is the sheer cost of elections. In the general election that concluded in May, political parties and candidates are estimated to have spent about $8.65 billion. That’s double the amount in the 2014 election, according to a report by the Center for Media Studies in New Delhi.The report said the Bharatiya Janata Party was the biggest spender, accounting for about 45% of the total. The Congress party accounted for between 15% and 20%.Analysts say a key cause of corruption is the way political parties are funded in India. Parties are permitted to receive foreign funds, any company can donate any amount of money to any political party, and any individual, group or company can donate money anonymously through electoral bonds.Donors do not need to disclose the party they have donated to, nor does the party have to reveal the source of its money.Quraishi is calling for more transparency in campaign funding as well as a cap on election spending.“The people want transparency, the donor wants secrecy. Whose wish should prevail?” he said.

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Indian election reveals role of money, questionable morality

NEW DELHI: India’s recent national election delivered a historic victory to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party, but also exposed the influence of money, power and questionable morality on the world’s largest democracy.Nearly 43% of the new members of the lower house of Parliament that convenes Monday for the first time since the election…

Indian election reveals role of money, questionable morality

NEW DELHI: India’s recent national election delivered a historic victory to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party, but also exposed the influence of money, power and questionable morality on the world’s largest democracy.Nearly 43% of the new members of the lower house of Parliament that convenes Monday for the first time since the election won despite facing criminal charges. More than a quarter of those relate to rape, murder or attempted murder, according to a report by the civic group Association of Democratic Reforms.The loophole that allows them to take office is that they have not been convicted — in part because the Indian legal system has a huge backlog of an estimated 30 million cases and trials often last decades. When asked about the charges against them, they invariably accuse a political rival of framing them.Since such rivalries often lead to false accusations, the main political parties say it would be unfair to bar people from contesting elections unless they have been convicted by court.Under existing laws, only those who have been sentenced to prison for two years or more can be barred from elections.Members of Parliament with criminal backgrounds is not a new phenomenon in India, but despite Modi’s campaign vow in 2014 to clean up corruption and the influence of money in politics, the problem appears to be only growing worse.In the 2004 national election, the percentage of candidates with pending criminal cases was 24%, which rose to 33% in 2009, 34% in 2014 and 43% this year, said Shahabuddin Y. Quraishi, a former chief election commissioner.The Association of Democratic Reforms found that 116 of the 303 lawmakers from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party elected last month face criminal charges, including one for alleged terrorism.Pragya Singh Thakur, who won a seat from Bhopal in central India, is awaiting trial in connection with a 2008 explosion in Malegaon in western India that killed seven people.Twenty-nine of the opposition Congress party’s 52 lawmakers face serious charges.“This trend has been growing in India, leaving no political party untouched. We need to educate voters not to elect these people,” said Jagdeep S. Chhokar, ADR’s founder.“What the Indian state has been unable to provide, strongmen promise to deliver to people in their area of influence, using gun and money power,” said Lennin Rasghuvanshi, a coordinator with the People’s Union for Civil Liberties.Starting in the 1960s and ‘70s, some Indian politicians began turning to the criminal underworld for cash to win votes.“In due course, the criminals started thinking that these politicians were winning because of their money or crimes so why shouldn’t they become lawmakers themselves? If they are people running from the police, they know that when they became lawmakers, the same police will protect them,” Quraishi said.In Uttar Pradesh state in northern Indian, former mafia don Mukhtar Ansari has been elected to the state assembly five times despite more than 40 criminal cases pending against him, including murder.Another don-turned-politician, Hari Shankar Tiwari, also of Uttar Pradesh, has been a member of the legislative assembly for 23 years, even winning an election while being detained on murder charges.During the campaign, Election Commission officials and government agencies seized mountains of cash, alcohol, gold and silver, saris and expensive watches in the offices of political parties that were intended as gifts in exchange for votes.The total value of the seized goods was $500 million, including $120 million in cash — nearly three times what was found in the 2014 general election, according to the Election Commission.Analysts say that political parties seem to prize electability over ethics.“They think that people with criminal backgrounds have more chances to win because of their money and muscle power,” Qureshi said.In the days of paper ballots before electronic voting machines were introduced, gangs would use brute force to take over polling stations to rig the vote.One reason for the increasing number of criminal suspects going into politics is the sheer cost of elections. In the general election that concluded in May, political parties and candidates are estimated to have spent about $8.65 billion. That’s double the amount in the 2014 election, according to a report by the Center for Media Studies in New Delhi.The report said the Bharatiya Janata Party was the biggest spender, accounting for about 45% of the total. The Congress party accounted for between 15% and 20%.Analysts say a key cause of corruption is the way political parties are funded in India. Parties are permitted to receive foreign funds, any company can donate any amount of money to any political party, and any individual, group or company can donate money anonymously through electoral bonds.Donors do not need to disclose the party they have donated to, nor does the party have to reveal the source of its money.Quraishi is calling for more transparency in campaign funding as well as a cap on election spending.“The people want transparency, the donor wants secrecy. Whose wish should prevail?” he said.

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Mediterranean countries ramp up efforts to find missing migrants

THE HAGUE: Mediterranean countries say they have taken a key step toward finding out the fate of thousands of migrants — many fleeing Syria’s war — who have gone missing while trying to reach Europe.At a meeting of the International Commission for Missing Persons in The Hague this week, Cyprus, Greece and Malta pledged to…

Mediterranean countries ramp up efforts to find missing migrants

THE HAGUE: Mediterranean countries say they have taken a key step toward finding out the fate of thousands of migrants — many fleeing Syria’s war — who have gone missing while trying to reach Europe.At a meeting of the International Commission for Missing Persons in The Hague this week, Cyprus, Greece and Malta pledged to coordinate and beef up their efforts to trace nearly 18,500 migrants who have disappeared since 2014 while making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean.Italy — which has taken a hard line on migrants under its populist government and interior minister Matteo Salvini — did not sign up to that new joint statement due to what the ICMP described as internal government issuesThe four countries are the main point of entry to Europe for many of the migrants fleeing the war in Syria and other regions.Finding out what happened to those missing — whether they are eventually found alive or whether they have been confirmed dead and their remains found — provides crucial closure for families.“We are starting a process that is extremely important,” Queen Noor of Jordan, one of the ICMP’s longest-serving commissioners, told AFP in an interview.“Helping the families and communities that have lost their members in conflict can create a path to truth, justice and reconciliation — and where possible, accountability,” said the Jordanian royal.Born out of the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and set up in 1996 in Sarajevo by then US president Bill Clinton, the ICMP uses increasingly sophisticated DNA technology to trace missing persons.It has already succeeded in identifying around 70 percent of the 40,000 people who went missing in the Balkans conflicts of the 1990s, including around 90 percent of the nearly 8,000 killed in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.But it is now turning its attention to one of the biggest human catastrophes of recent times — the migration crisis that has hit the Middle East, North Africa and Europe since 2014.The plan to better locate and identify missing migrants fleeing conflict and economic hardship in the Middle East and Africa was launched in Rome last year.But this week’s meeting of the southern European states was key to pushing the process forward.Top ICMP representatives nevertheless called for more to be done to help find the missing migrants, particularly those from Syria’s war where the fate is of an estimated 85,000 people is not known.“What we are implicitly saying to states is that they have a responsibility to deal with this, but that it is also in their interest to deal with it,” former Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders told AFP.The ICMP also wants to obtain permission from Syria’s neighbors to start mapping the thousands of refugees fleeing the bitter eight-year war — in a move that could one day help identify war crimes, Queen Noor said.Collecting and having access to data about these refugees will make it easier in future to identify “where crimes may have occurred, where mass graves exist — and where families and relatives may be,” she said.But the longer-term aim is to bring millions of displaced people back to their homes.“I can see in a future that is hopefully not too far off that we can set in motion steps that will provide greater hope for many of the migrants and refugees to Europe.”“To give them hope that they can return home,” she said.

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