Sculptor calls Britain's treatment of Shamima Begum 'disgraceful'

Olympic Park tower sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor calls Britain’s treatment of jihadi bride Shamima Begum ‘disgraceful’ claiming she’d be returned safely to the UK ‘if she was white’

  • Anish Kapoor designed the ArcelorMittal Orbit artwork in London’s Olympic Park
  • He criticised Britain’s treatment of Shamima Begum who joined ISIS in 2015
  • Ms Begum’s citizenship was revoked on security grounds when she was found
  • Kapoor suggested ‘no expense would be spared’ to bring her home if she was a ‘white school girl from Wiltshire’

The sculptor behind one of London’s Olympic Park landmarks has criticised Britain’s racist treatment of Shamima Begum as a ‘disgraceful indictment of our national conscience’.

Sir Anish Kapoor, who designed the Orbit sculpture that sits beside the 2012 Games’ stadium, suggested that if Ms Begum was a ‘white school girl from Wiltshire’ then no expense would be spared in bringing her home.

Ms Begum was 15 when she and two other east London schoolgirls travelled to Syria to join the so-called Islamic State group (IS) in February 2015.

The Supreme Court ruled last month that Ms Begum cannot return to the UK to pursue an appeal against the removal of her British citizenship.

Last night Sir Anish compared Britain to ‘Soviet Russia’ and described Ms Begum’s treatment as a continuation of ‘”divide and rule” – the horror that sustained the British Empire for 200 years’.

Sir Anish Kapoor compared Britain to ‘Soviet Russia’ and described Shamima Begum’s treatment as a continuation of ‘”divide and rule” – the horror that sustained the British Empire for 200 years’

The artist said: ‘Let us for one moment imagine that four young white school girls from Wiltshire were enticed to go to Syria and join Isis.

‘Would they be seen as terrorists or victims of terrorists?

‘We have no doubt that we would be demanding that no expense be spared and not a moment wasted in having them returned to the safety of their homes in England.’

He said that ‘Britain has shamelessly shirked its responsibility’ and accused officials of ‘deliberately and knowingly removed Shamima’s ability to access basic rights anywhere in the world’.

The Supreme Court ruling is a ‘disgraceful indictment of our national conscience’, he added.

Ms Begum was 15 when she and two other east London schoolgirls travelled to Syria to join the so-called Islamic State group (IS) in February 2015. The Supreme Court ruled last month that Ms Begum cannot return to the UK to pursue an appeal against the removal of her British citizenship

Begum’s British citizenship was revoked on national security grounds shortly after she was found, nine months’ pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019.

She said she married Dutch convert Yago Riedijk 10 days after arriving in IS territory.

She told The Times in 2019 that her children, a one-year-old girl and a three-month-old boy, had both since died.

Her third child died in the al-Roj camp in March 2019, shortly after he was born.

Sir Anish said: ‘Shamima is a British citizen, and it is her right to be tried in the British courts by a jury of her peers for any offence she may have committed.’

Sir Anish Kapoor designed the ArcelorMittal Orbit landmark that sits beside the 2012 Olympic Games’ stadium

Criticising Priti Patel and Sajid Javid, he said that ‘at the hands of two home secretaries’ who are ‘desperate to prove their right wing credentials, (her) birth right has been stolen from her and from the people of this country’.

And Sir Anish, whose Olympic Park sculpture is a famous landmark, said: ‘This is “divide and rule”, the horror that sustained the British Empire for 200 years. Have we regressed to now practising this on home turf?’

He said Begum’s radicalisation, as as schoolgirl, was ‘an indictment of the lack of care and funding for those of non-white ethnic backgrounds’.

And he said in the statement, co-authored by Tasnime Akunjee, Ms Begum’s family’s lawyer in the UK: ‘Shamima is the tragic scapegoat of a punitive unforgiving government intent on harsh retribution.

‘What happened to Christian forgiveness? Does it not apply to a woman – and a dark skinned one at that? It seem that different rules apply.’

He added: ‘Is it perhaps that some of us are more British than others of us? Shamima is of Bangladeshi descent, does that change her right to British nationality? I am tempted to think it does especially in the light of the Supreme Court’s judgment.’

Britain ‘needs to show compassion and understanding’ and ‘the fact that Shamima wants to come back to the UK shows that she is willing to face the law here for her past mistakes’, Sir Anish wrote.

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