Facebook posts share misleading claims about IS suspects Lisa Smith and Shemima Begum
Facebook posts shared hundreds of times in Kenya claim that suspected Islamic State (IS) group brides Lisa Smith and Shamima Begum received different legal treatments, with one able to resume a normal life at home while the other faced punishment, including losing her citizenship. But the claims are missing vital context as they fail to mention that the women don’t share the same nationality — the former is Irish, the latter British — and that their governments take different approaches to the issue of returning IS suspects.
“Lisa Smith, traveled to the Middle East in 2016 to become an #ISIS bride, four times over. Freely allowed to return with no media coverage and Living comfortably back at her family home. Retains her citizenship. Now explain the treatment of Shamima Begum (sic),” the caption of the post reads.
The post has been shared more than 160 times since it was published on Facebook on February 27, 2021.
These posts surfaced after Britain’s highest court ruled in February 2021 that Begum would not be allowed to return to the UK to challenge a previous legal decision that stripped her of her citizenship, as AFP reported.
However, the claims lack context regarding the women’s personal circumstances and their countries’ differing approaches regarding returning IS members.
Smith, an Irish citizen and member of the Irish Defence Forces until 2011, went to Syria in 2015 to fight alongside IS after converting to Islam.
She was arrested at the Dublin Airport in Ireland on December 1, 2019, after being captured and detained by armed forces in northern Syria, as AFP reported.
The former soldier was charged with “membership of terrorist group Islamic State and funding terrorism”.
She was released on bail on December 31, 2019, and is due to go on trial on January 11, 2022, the Irish Courts Service told AFP Fact Check.
If convicted, Smith could face up to 10 years in prison.
The Irish Courts Service confirmed that she was currently on bail and residing at an undisclosed location.
Her bail conditions include surrendering her passport, being reachable for officers at any time and regular check-ins at the police station.
Unlike Smith, Begum is bound by British law.
Begum travelled to Syria at the age of 15 with two other schoolgirls from east London to join the jihadist group.
She was later found in a refugee camp and stripped of her UK citizenship in 2019 on national security grounds.
However, the interior ministry immediately appealed, insisting she remains “aligned” with the proscribed terrorist organisation.
“The Home Secretary can terminate the British citizenship of dual-nationality individuals if she believes their presence in the UK is ‘not conducive to the public good’”, according to a House of Commons Home Affairs Committee report published in April 2014.