We are meant to have moved on from the ‘string her up’ mentality

We are meant to have moved on from the ‘string her up’ mentality
Renu Begum, eldest sister of Shamima Begum, holds her photo. Picture: Laura Lean

Where is Rakaya, a two-year-old Irish girl displaced in North East Syria since Monday?

Who?

Rakaya. She’s just a little girl. She is in an area which even Médecins Sans Frontières isevacuating on safety grounds. She must be terrified.

Her mother must be terrified for her.

Her mother, Lisa Smith.

Ah, now we know what you’re talking about!

Lisa Smith, the “Isis Bride”!

Who cares what happens to her? Didn’t she leave a good job in the Irish military in 2015 and end up marrying an Isis jihadi?

The jihadi, Sajid Aslam, waskilled earlier this year, so littleRakaya has only one parent left in the world.

To you, she may be Lisa Smith, the Isis Bride, but to Rakaya, she’s probably just mam.

I’m sure Rakaya responds to Lisa Smith as a human being, not as a suspected terrorist.

She’s right. Lisa Smith is a human being.

She doesn’t stop being a human being, no matter what she has done. She never stops having human rights.

That’s meant to be something we understand in civilised societies. We’re meant to have moved on from “String her up!”

How far is leaving Lisa and Rakaya to their own devices in one of the most dangerous areas of the world from “String them up!”?

Not very. Yet despite the Government’s assurances in March that Irish citizens with Isis associations in Kurdish camps in Syria would be repatriated, nothing has happened.

This week, after Trump’s summary withdrawal from North East Syria left the Kurds defending themselves from Turkey and the camps holding Isis members and associates unguarded, Lisa Smith probably fled the Al-Hawl camp with her daughter.

Their whereabouts are unknown. This should heap shame on the Irish Government.

As Lisa’s father said this week, “This is a life and death situation for a small child. The Irish Government promised to help her and they did nothing. It was all false hope.”

It doesn’t look like our Government even tried to get them out.

The head of foreign relations in North East Syria, Abdukarum Omar, said recently that there had been no formal request from our Government for their repatriation to Ireland.

The reasons the Government gave for its delay are unconvincing in the extreme.

We are meant to have moved on from the ‘string her up’ mentality

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he didn’t want to put his diplomats or military personnel at risk but the risk in the area only escalated on Sunday.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney described the area as “a former war zone”, protesting that it wasn’t easy to access and they couldn’t make direct contact with Smith.

RTÉ’s Norma Costello went right in there and spoke to her. Funny, that.

The area is a former war zone no longer. It is a war zone.

Before Trump’s troops departure, up until last weekend, our Government’s problem in bringing Lisa and Rakaya home was not in Syria, it was in Ireland.

The issue with bringing Isisassociates home to face justice in their own countries, in Ireland and throughout Europe, is the public opinion on which their democratic governments depend.

There is in all Western countries a strong body of public opinion for which “String them up!” is the best option.

Countries such as Kazakhstan and Kosovo, which have far fewer resources than we do, have repatriated their citizens from Kurdish camps.

The difference is that they are Muslim-majority countries.

Our biggest problem with Lisa Smith is not that we think she will become a suicide bomber.

If that were the case, you’d have to say that leaving her wandering in North Eastern Syria was not the wisest course of action.

Our biggest problem with Lisa Smith is that she wears a hijab and sometimes even a niquab, covering her face.

If she had taken it off during the BBC and RTÉ interviews — which would probably have been dangerous in an Isis camp — public opinion here would have softened.

She is the ultimate transgressive figure, a woman who left our military service and slept with “the enemy” which is the Muslim world.

Of course, Isis is the real enemy but it wouldn’t be enough here to renounce Isis, she’d have to renounce Islam.

We have allowed Lisa Smith to become wholly dehumanised in public discourse.

We do not know if she has committed any crimes, but we do know that she is being investigated by Ireland under the Criminal Justice Terrorist Offences Act, though presumably they don’t now know where she is any more than her father does.

We can’t prejudge that case, though pictures of her in full hijab handling a rifle which emerged a couple of weeks ago call intoquestion her statement that she never handled arms for Isis.

She should face the full rigour of the law if she returns.

We should be confident enough in our criminal justice system that we trust it to deal with Lisa Smith.

Instead we have thrown her to the wolves, along with her small child.

What does that say about the strength of our democracy and the separation of justice from politics that we say we value? What does it say about us?

That we’re no better than the Brits, perhaps? 19-year-old Shamima Begum’s case against the Home Office which revoked her British citizenship last February comes to court next month.

One poll showed 75%of the British public supported the decision.

Shamima Begum
Shamima Begum

Her story is tragic. She travelled to Syria from the UK at the age of 15 to be an “Isis bride”, marrying a Dutch jihadi, who is still alive.

Her first child, a girl calledSorayah, died at one year and nine months. Her second child, a boy called Jerah, died at three months.

Soon after her British citizenship was revoked, her third child, a boy called Jarrah, died of pneumonia when he was only three weeks old; she had wanted to bring him home for medical treatment.

As Dal Babu, a former chief of London’s Metropolitan Police put it, “This was the entirely avoidable death of a British citizen.”

Shamima Begum may be foolish but she deserves our pity as she hides out in a camp close to the Iraqi border with a price put onher head by Isis supporters for speaking to the media.

For UK home secretary, Priti Patel, however, it’s simple — she doesn’t want anyone who has “done harm” to come home and “perpetrate the ideology” of a “death cult.”

She thus judges not only Begum’s past actions but also her future ones and deprives her of the right to defend herself.

The crucial case, addressing a central human rights issue, will take place in the middle of theBrexit carnival, to which it isrelated through the burning issue of immigration.

We must do better than this.

We must stop avoiding our responsibility to Lisa Smith, and we must bring Rakaya home.

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