Gendering the Shamima Begum case: “Jihadi brides” and the victim/perpetrator dichotomy

In February 2015, Shamima Begum and her two friends, all aged 15, travelled from London to Syria to join the newly established Caliphate (Islamic State). In 2021, after a claim brought by her family to bring the young back to England and have a fair trial, the UK Supreme Court decided to strip her of British citizenship. An appeal was then made to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, which declared the Secretary of State’s decision lawful. This article wants to offer a gender analysis of the case, which is missed in the Commission’s discussion, by providing an alternative reading of Shamima’s story. Constructed as a monster and as a victim, Shamima’s case shows the perpetration of gender stereotypes as well as Orientalist and islamophobic conceptions about Muslim women. This not only obfuscates our understanding of ISIS women, but it also limits the capacity of governments to properly address the problem of radicalisation in the West.
Giorgia Baldi
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Dr Giorgia Baldi is Lecturer at the University of Sussex. She studied Philosophy at the University of Bologna, and obtained her PhD from Birkbeck College, University of London, School of Law. Since 2013 she is teaching a variety of law related modules, including, but not limited to, ‘Gender Equality’, ‘Law, Religion and Human Rights’, ‘Women’s Rights’, and ‘Legal Theory’. Her research is interdisciplinary with a focus on Muslim women, Human Rights and radicalisation.

Before joining academia she has worked for several years in the field of International Cooperation and Development, playing leading roles in women’s rights related programmes in the Middle East (2004-2011). She is a member of the ‘Socio-Legal Study Association’, the ‘Law and Society Association’ (LSA), the ‘Law and Religion Scholars Network’ (LARN), the ‘Association for Middle East Women’s Studies’, the ‘International Association for the study of Religion and Gender’, the ‘British Association for Islamic Studies’.