The Complex Case of Shamima Begum

The case of Shamima Begum, a 19-year old girl who flew the UK four years ago to join ISIS is extremely complex. Her story made the headlines when her and two other friends left London to join one of the world’s most notorious organisations. Now, four years later, her two friends have died, she’s lost two children, she’s just given birth in a refugee camp, and Begum wants to return back home to the UK and her family.

**** update: Shamima’s baby son has lost his life to pneumonia after freezing to death in the refugee camp that Begum has been living in since the UK government stripped her illegally from her citizenship.

The UK’s reaction

For lots of people in the UK, this has caused outrage. Her citizenship has since been revoked meaning that she is now stateless. Most people won’t know what that means, but it’s a pretty dire and dangerous situation to be in. Being stateless strips her of all her rights and to do this is actually illegal under international law. Marie Lecont says “I find the issue of young people who’ve joined ISIS as teenagers and now want to come back very complex to be honest. I’m not sure where I stand on it. I’m amazed so many of you have confidently picked a side once and for all.” For me, it shows the extremity and online bravery of so many uneducated people who seem to be detached from the international world.

From reading online, I’ve seen the jokes made of professors, educators and academics. Where the awful woman that is Katie Hopkins (who makes the most unrelated points) is actually being given more of a platform than people who understand and are extremely knowledgeable when it comes to cases of terrorism, psychology, human rights and international relations, which is ultimately what this case is about. It’s much deeper and complex than most would even care to understand. And what an easy bandwagon it is to jump on when you hear the words ‘terrorism’, ‘Muslim girl’ and ‘ISIS’.

It’s funny as most people are quick to think that Shamima is fully responsible for being groomed and abused by ISIS, but are still furiously angry at the Rotherham and Oldham cases where girls of the same age were also groomed and abused. Perhaps it’s because the ethnicities have been switched? We need to also remember that no man has ever been treated like this. Her issue is made more of an issue because of the complexities regarding her gender, race and religion.

People have also been quick to compare her responsibility to that of the boys in the James Bulger case. A case where the boys had committed a gruesome murder at the ages of 10 years old and were convicted as the UK’s youngest criminals. A case where people only take into consideration that first part, and not the part where they served only 8 years in prison, and were assessed and monitored throughout, to then be given second chances with normal lives and under new alias.

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An eye for an eye

Shamima is not the first and won’t be the last to have fallen for the tricks of ISIS and now wishes to return home. An estimated 400 people have left and returned back to the UK from Syria and ISIS. The girls are groomed online for a long period of time, sold a dream of a life overseas by people that they think they can trust, only to discover a life of the opposite. When they arrive, they’re usually sold as wives to unknown men, raped, abused over and over, and taken to areas where they lack food, water and electricity. It’s not like she could just book a flight home. She didn’t have the access, knowledge or capability. The friends that she went with have since died, so it’s a miracle that Shamima has even escaped, not forgetting that she has literally just given birth.

Her interviews

In her recent interviews where she discovers that her identity has been revoked and she is stating that she wants to come home, it seems she lacks remorse or even a great understanding on the seriousness of her case. I watched it and was a little shocked myself. However, I looked a bit further into this too. Shamima’s answers are short, she seems unbothered and says she has little regrets about her last 4 years. But let’s take into consideration that….

  • She had just given birth in a refugee camp before one of the interviews. Of course, she is tired, probably suffering from PTSD and is facing a backlash regardless of what she says or does.
  • She’s also spent the last four years in vulnerable states surrounded by men. The only people that have interviewed her so far are men.
  • There’s such thing called Stockholm Syndrome where you grow to love your abuser or kidnapper. Though the people who surround her and her life might be the most terrifying people in the world to us, to her, they’ve been her family for years and probably shine in a very different light. This actually makes her even more vulnerable.

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She is not innocent, but she’s still a victim

It’s complex because she is not innocent. She’s witnessed and been involved with one of the world’s most notorious organisations. Therefore, she should be, rightly, tried before the courts and completely and thoroughly assessed and monitored with her baby taken into care. If you want to understand why and how people can be radicalised, if you don’t understand why she got on that plane in the first place, then the most logical thing would be to fly her back, question her and try to understand it all from her point of view. We could really learn a lot from this and learn to prevent situations like this.

We must take into consideration the complexity, back story and situation where she has made such an awful decision that will affect her for life. A decision that has left her suffering, bereaved, confused and lost. A decision that would obviously affect her words when it comes to news reports. A decision made where she had little or no control and was completely vulnerable. A decision that we can learn from to ensure that this never happens again.

We must also take into consideration that “At 19; she’s lived in a war zone, aware she’s betrayed her family and caused them pain, she’s lost two children, lost a husband and is living in a refugee camp” – @BLKMimiLD says on twitter. We must remember that for three of her four years, Shamima was pregnant, which means that she was not out running around, beheading our men and fighting on behalf of ISIS, as most of you seem to think. We must also consider her current mental state, her PTSD and the battles that are now seeded in her mind.

As a humanitarian, I believe she needs intensive mental care, restorative justice and rehabilitation. She is not innocent, and she will never be able to live a free life again, but she is a human who has lived her last four years in unimaginable circumstances, whose life may have been different if we as a society hadn’t failed her to begin with. What kind of life did we provide her in the UK where the option to join ISIS seemed far better?

I say, by unpopular opinion, that we should allow her to come back, we should learn from her and her last years in captivity and we should also ensure that we are not creating or allowing more souls to be damaged and affected in this world. If you hate ISIS and everything they’re doing to our world so much, then you should be fighting for the root cause of cases like this, not at the victims who are the end result of their doings.

Peace and love to you all,

Vanisha

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To support organisations who are working in refugee camps, with online abusers and terrorism, click the links below;

refugee-camp-syria

If you want to educate yourself more on the topics of terrorism before feeding into the likes of Katie Hopkins and The Sun, then below I’ve created a list of helpful readings, books and materials;

Books

  • Human rights in the ‘War on Terror’ by R.Wilson
  • Enemies Everywhere: Terrorism, Moral Panic, and US Civil Society by Rothe, D. and Muzzatti, S.
  • Terror vs. terror by Mallow, B.
  • Terrorism by Howard, L.
  • Women, Gender and Terrorism by Laura Sjoberg

Watch and listen

  • Three Girls, BBC
  • Woman’s Hour, The Shamima Begum Case Podcast
  • The High Low, The Complicated Case of Shamima Begum Podcast

Online Readings

Angelina Jolie, Netflix and the Rohingya

So, my favourite gal ever has just released her newly directed movie-documentary ‘First they killed my father’ on Netflix. Angelina Jolie’s new film is based on the memoirs of Loung Ung and her life and escape of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. For those hearing about the Khmer Rouge genocide for the first time, know that in the space of four years, an estimated quarter of the Cambodian population were murdered, as well as many others still living with the after effects and consequences of their reign. That’s an estimated of just over 2 million people.

Cambodia Refugees

The Khmer Rouge took control of the population and enforced ideas of a farming utopia, where no one would be educated, no one had ‘foreign’ influences and everyone was ‘equal’. Their four-year plan would eventually lead to extreme famine, deaths from exhaustion and a country filled with landmines and mass graves. Anyone with skills, educations, certificate, religious backgrounds and those from ethnic minorities were prosecuted and murdered usually to a blow of the head as the Khmer Rouge had a shortage of bullets. The country had barely any doctors, lawyers, teachers or nurses, so those who were dying, had no help.

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Ung’s story

Now, I’ve read Ung’s book and cried almost all the way through it. Her story is heart-breaking and is just one of many. The Netflix movie however, is filmed from a different perspective and is only a snippet of the book. There’s minimal dialogue and could probably be a bit confusing for someone learning about the Khmer Rouge and Cambodia for the first time. I would definitely give the book a read first or do a bit of research prior to watching! At first, I wasn’t 100% sure about Jolie’s remake but once the credits rolled up, I was almost clapping. She’s an amazing woman for sharing the story and making Ung’s story known. So many people are unaware of the horrors that occurred, and it’s not something we would know about otherwise so kudos to Jolie for raising awareness about a topic so close to so many people’s hearts. Her extensive charity work and adoption of her Cambodian son, as well as his own presence and role in the making of the film goes against accusations that her ‘western’ perspective and influence on the story could be negative in any way. She uses her platform and skills to bring important matters to light. A-mazing I tell ya!

angelina-jolie-and-loung-ung

 

Cambodia today

Cambodia was one of my favourite South-East Asian countries that I’ve visited. It’s full of culture, beauty and religion but at the same time you can feel the history, pain and hurt that the country felt and still feel today. Only five people were ever bought to justice for the horrific crimes, and Cambodians continues to live alongside their executioners for years after. The Khmer Rouge’s attempt to reboot society meant that generations of people grew up learning how to fight and kill rather than to teach, heal and help. Cambodia is one of the world’s poorest countries with 30% pf the population surviving one less than $1 a day. The poverty and effects of the genocide is visible all over the country. Psychiatrists estimate that almost half the population are living with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) with 50% of babies born to survivors also developing mental health disorders although they haven’t been physically exposed to such traumas. Slanzi is right when she says that in this case “the simple passage of time does not heal everything” (Slanzi, 2013).

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The relevance today with the Rohingya refugees

Although it’s amazing and inspiring to raise the awareness and importance of the Cambodian history, it’s also extremely relevant today. The Rohingya refugee crisis is the now the fastest refugee crisis of our time with over 500,000 refugees fleeing persecution in Myanmar within the space of just over one month. UN high commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said the situation is a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Systematic violence includes severe beatings, gang rape, mass killings and extreme sexual violence. We cannot sit back and watch this happen, learning from the Cambodia atrocities, we must do more to help people facing persecution. Ayesha, a Rohingya refugee who has now fled to Bangladesh said she was raped by twelve soldiers whilst she was held at knifepoint and her family were in the house. It took her eight days to be able to walk again. Her sisters who were also raped, were so badly weakened that they died. They’re in desperate need of aid, food and shelter as well as provisions in the camos in Bangladesh that many have fled to. Their identities have been destroyed, they live in absolute fear and the trauma that they have faced is unimaginable.

Below are some links where you can find some more information on both crisis’s as well as ways you can help and donate. Give the documentary a watch and the book a read! Let’s raise awareness and make a difference in this world 😊

 

Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge:

 

The Rohingya refugee crisis:

 

How to help:

 

Thanks for reading guys!

Vanisha

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Here’s what’s wrong with volunteering…

As my life is about to take a huge turn in the right direction with the start of my career and voluntary work beginning this month, I can’t help but think, in a world that is desperate for volunteers why voluntary work seems to be only for the few and not for everybody? What’s the problem with volunteering? Why me? And why not you?

Luckily, a few years ago I finally realised my passion and the main things that I want to do with my life. My purpose in life is to help people, to help improve lives and to fight for justice, human rights and alongside those with no voices. So, obviously, I love talking about it, about aid, crisis, the news, and the world and all of the people in it. And naturally people tend to give pretty positive responses but among the questions and shock some say..

“That’s so amazing! I can’t believe you’re doing it unpaid!”

“Wow I don’t know how you do it!”

“Is that safe? Should you be doing that?”

“Ooh I could never do that. Only few people like you can!”

“How do you have the time? Shouldn’t you be actually working?”

Err well, you could do it! I don’t have the money! I make the time! Is crossing the road always safe? Which got me more thinking about the bigger question; why aren’t more people volunteering? What is the big issue surrounding helping those in need? People back at home (from my experiences in England) have all these excuses as to why they can’t volunteer. And some are fair enough, people work long days, have families, busy schedules. But if you can find the time for the gym every day, a cinema date once a month or even a night out every weekend, then guess what? You already have time to volunteer. 

Volunteering is like a taboo word that makes people run away and shut their doors. But why? Volunteering can be literally anything for as many hours in the year as you want it to be. It’s fully flexible with tons of options! And you’re helping the world! Bonus.

You could volunteer by helping the homeless for the day, by helping conservation and caring for turtles in the Caribbean for two weeks, you can work some hours at the local animal sanctuary, spend 30 minutes on the phone at the Good Samaritans or even protect women from violence in India for months on end. There’s literally something for everybody! So now what’s the excuse?

For an hour in your day or a week in your year, forget safety, forget time and forget money. Being human is being selfless. If everybody gave a little something back and spent time with those more in need, then already the world would be a better place. And of course we can all take time out of our days to spare some kindness, love and humanity. 

“Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote everyday about the kind of community that you want to live in.”

So what kind of world do you want to live in? Choose to help, choose to change the world and choose to volunteer! 


Here are some websites and a list of voluntary options: 

Redcross – http://www.redcross.org.uk/Get-involved/Volunteer

 • Shelter – https://england.shelter.org.uk/support_us/volunteer

 • Food bank – https://www.trusselltrust.org/get-involved/volunteer/ 

 • Good Samaritans – https://www.samaritans.org/volunteer-us

 • Original volunteers – http://www.originalvolunteers.co.uk/

 • GVI – https://www.gvi.co.uk/

 • HelpX – https://www.helpx.net/

 • Workaway – https://www.workaway.info/

 • Mision Mexico – http://lovelifehope.com/

Thanks again for reading guys!

Remember to follow me and my travel adventures here on instagram @vanishamay

Vanisha 

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If you were a refugee, what would you do? This is my story

If you were a refugee, what would you do? This is my story.

Refugee. A word loved by the media and the fascinating groups like the EDL. But do you  know what that word means? Or what it means to be that word? For those that don’t know me, my name is Vanisha. And I come from a family of refugees.

What is a refugee? Where are they going?

A refugee is “a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.”

Considering there’s 65 million refugees worldwide, we’ve taken in a pathetic amount over recent years (there are an estimated 117,234 refugees living in the UK. That’s just 0.18 per cent of the total population). 86% of all refugees are currently placed in developing countries including Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon and Ethiopia. So are we doing enough as a developed, western, capable country? No, nowhere near enough. Are they all flooding in to take our homes and jobs? No, evidently not.

 

These are people who never imagined that they would be in these circumstances. People who were in education, people with homes and jobs as teachers, doctors and engineers. People like you, people like me, and people like my own family.

My Beautiful Mum and Me

Why would anyone choose to be a refugee?

Over the last few years I’ve seen a number of narrow-minded, heartless and misunderstood comments and questions assuming that people make the choice to become refugees. No one chooses to leave their home and livelihood in fear of their lives. No one chooses to jump into a boat or to run across borders because the unknown is safer than home. No one chooses to have their title of ‘doctor’ or ‘teacher’ scrapped to ‘refugee’ and a statistic. And if I popped you in the middle of war torn Syria or famine struck South Sudan, you’d want to run a thousand miles too. You’d want a better life, a second chance, safety and food to eat.

So why am I here and what’s this got to do with me? 

Originally, my family had emigrated to Uganda from India in hope for work and a better life. Succeeding like many other Indian Asians, and helping the Ugandan economy to thrive, my family had a home, an income and security. But everything changed in the summer of 1972 when the brutal Ugandan president and dictator, Idi Amin, ordered for the expulsion of all citizens without a Ugandan passport, and all Asians. An idea that apparently came to him in a dream. Over 35,000 Indian Asians were given 60 days to leave. Using extreme violence and placing curfews throughout his reign, my family along with many others were forced to rethink their lives. After seeing people hanging from trees, seeing their businesses burn, my family fled leaving their whole lives behind.

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Ugandan Asians arriving at Stansted Airport 1972
As British nationals, my family sought refuge in England. It was winter here and they’d never seen snow before. They were homeless, jobless and knew no English. Could you even imagine? They were put in refugee camps near where I grew up, were given work, a home and have stayed ever since. They were hard, manual jobs in the local factories, and very different to their old professions, but still they stuck with it and both my grandmother and grandfather stayed in them same jobs until they retired and until my grandfather passed away. Another family member works in a job centre, coincidentally instead of ‘taking our jobs’, is giving out help and opportunities to others for work.

Contrary to popular belief, my family like many have fully integrated without fully forgetting their traditions, religion and culture. And what a blessing it is to have the best of both worlds. A life full of culture, religion, tradition with a mix of fish and chip Fridays and paneer, all thanks to my Indian mum and English dad.

 

Though life sounds simple and quite happy now, there’s nothing simple or happy about fleeing your lives in fear to a country where not everyone accepts you and everything is alien. It’s terrifying. Although there are happy endings, no one would choose to flee. No one is choosing to put their children in boats that sink. No one chooses to be a refugee. No one chooses to have their education, careers and families being torn apart. Where is the choice in staying in a war torn country or in a home where you’re life could end at any minute? Where is the choice when you’ve lost all family members, there’s no safe drinking water and bombs fly over your head everyday? People don’t have a choice when it’s a matter of life or death. People don’t have a choice. 

My life is a complete blessing thanks to a time where a country opened its arms to a family in need of safety. We must do the same to those living in unimaginable situations today. We are not entitled to this country any more than anyone else on this planet. It’s just plain luck that we’re born on lands that give us safety, comfort and lives of luxury in comparison to lands like Syria and Somalia where people die everyday from things completely curable and non-existent in England.

 

The refugee crisis is bigger than ever before. 50% of all displaced people are children.
Here you can learn more, volunteer or donate:

 

Thanks for reading this fairly deep piece. Any feedback, questions or comments are welcome.
Vanisha

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For lighter stuff, you can follow me and my south american adventure here on Instagram @vanishamay with blogs to follow!

 

Hearts for humanity on international women’s day 2017. 

International Women’s day is a day to reflect on the progress we have made for an equal world, to hope for the future, to have courage for change, and to celebrate those who have had all kinds of impact on their countries, communities and throughout history.

 

After marching at the #march4women hosted by Care International in London last Sunday, I felt incredibly empowered and ready to take on the world. The inspiration was in the atmosphere and the hope and ambition of every single person in the crowd was amplified, including my own. After dealing with what seemed to be a hopeless situation where the word ‘feminism’ is still misunderstood and gender is still so binary, I felt like people were finally opening their minds and climbing on board for the fight for equality.

 

But this was soon shot down. Thanks to me flushing my phone down a public toilet in Shoreditch (cry), I caught up on the events of the day on Facebook from my laptop and was stunned by the amount of backlash and negativity in the comments which included things like this….

 

Woman 1: So sick of these women’s marches – I’m a women and I find the whole gender equality, pro-abortion thing disgusting – get back in the kitchen and make your families Sunday lunch!!!

 

Man 1: All I see is hundreds of women that just need a good hard shag. After that they will be fine! Think of all of the men going hungry this lunch time. This is inexcusable

 

Man 2: What is it women feel the need to be equal to in the year 2017

 

Man 3: I respect my woman especially when she gets my dinner on the table at a decent hour

 

Man 4: Ffs hear we go again

 

And these were just five of many! By this point I was shouting “make your own damn dinner” at my laptop screen and had lost all hope….

 

Well my anger has since settled and I realised the importance of differentiating opinions, freedom of speech along with raising my voice to help people understand these issues better. And also how similar my questions were to these ridiculous comments. I found myself also questioning why women felt the need to be equal in 2017? Why again? Why on earth are we still trying to resolve these issues? I’m sick of the marches! ‘Hear we go again’ in 2017, still campaigning and hoping for global gender equality. Without a doubt, ‘inexcusable’….

 

Every day for me is a blessing, and for the majority of you reading this, you’ll know how extremely lucky  we are in so many ways. Which is why empathy is so important and I believe plays a huge part in being a good person. (Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another). And these comments are proof that many of us are simply lacking basic human empathy.

 

So how serious are the issues anyway? Listen ‘hear‘…

The UN report ‘The World’s Women 2010’ shows just some of the dire gender disparities in current situations:

  • Out of 774 million illiterate adults worldwide, 2 out of 3 are women.
  • 70% of the poorest people in the world are women.
  • Women own 1% of the world’s land.
  • 72 million primary age children are out of education. 54% of these are girls.
  • 2 million women are victims of genital mutilation every year.
  • Approximately 70 million women and children were subject to sex trafficking in Asia in the last ten years.

 

On top of these statistics, our current global refugee crisis means millions more women are without their rights and extremely vulnerable. Although many of you seem to think refugees are flooding in to the UK with hopes to take our jobs and housing, actually 86% of the 65 million refugees are displaced in developing countries like Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon and Ethiopia. Our effort in the U.K today is just one big joke.

 

These are normal people who never imagined that they would be in these circumstances. People who were in education, people with homes and 9-5 jobs. People like you, and people like my own family who fled from Uganda in 1972 leaving their businesses, cars, homes and belongings to come to the UK where they knew no-one, did not know the language and were given sanctuary in centers, all in a cold, snowy winter when they’d never seen snow before! It seems unimaginable, but I think about my own family, then I watch the news and actually it’s extremely real.

 

One of the reasons I struggle to sleep at night and one of the reasons I know I’ll spend my life in these areas of conflict, is simply because I cannot switch off. My mind is constantly thinking about the help we can give, the ways we can give that help, the places we can start, and the people we can start with. It’s normal for me. But for those who are struggling to understand the seriousness of feminism, gender equality and the refugee crisis, for those who maybe don’t feel the same way, ask yourselves for humankind, please find human empathy for the people who are suffering through no fault of their own, who flee their homes and everything they know in fear and terror, for women stuck in detention centers and are unsafe in refugee camps, for girls who will never see inside a classroom, for all refugees in these situations, and for all women around the world and for those women right next to us. Find your hearts for them.

 

We are failing humans on huge scales. We must do more.

 

“I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard” – Malala Yousafzai. It’s so important for people like you and me to use our platforms and dare to be bold. So how can you celebrate international women’s day, and what can you do today?

 

  • Spread the word and use your voice through conversations and writing to your MP.
  • Sign a petition or two, or three.
  • Wear red to show support worldwide
  • Follow events from the day all over social media and share, like and use the hashtag #beboldforchange which is this year’s campaign theme.
  • Donate to the many women and refugee organisations.

https://www.internationalwomensday.com/

http://www.womenforwomen.org.uk

http://www.careinternational.org.uk

 

And check out these events if you’re London based…

London – Wednesday 8th March, 18:00pm – BE Unplugged ‘Disrupting the Future: Passion, Purpose and Change

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/be-unplugged-disrupting-the-future-passion-purpose-and-change-tickets-31879903650

London – Saturday 11th March, 12:30pm – Million Women March and Rally

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/million-women-rise-march-and-rally-tickets-32049705532?aff=erelexpmlt

 

Start today and join the movement to promote basic human rights and values #beboldforchange

 

Thank you 🙂

V