Saturday, March 4, 2023

Guest Blogger John Lawton: Begum the Beguine


Saturday–John Lawton in for Jeff


For those of you who don’t know John Lawton, believe me when I say, you cannot go wrong reading anything written by him. John is a gift to us all, a charmer and raconteur whose presence Barbara and I always enjoy. He’s a prolific, thoughtful writer who’s well earned his comparison to another John – Le Carré – and selection as one of only a half-dozen living English writers named in The Daily Telegraph’s ‘50 Crime Writers to Read Before You Die.’


 The floor is yours, John.


It’s not often I exercise my democratic right to pester my elected representatives — these days, that is; I was a professional, paid nagger in my 30s — but I’ve written to the pols in Westminster twice in recent years on the same issue: Shamima Begum.



Last week I wrote to the leader of what, emotionally rather than practically, has always been my party — I ‘grew up’ in Labour. My father was a Labour pol and I couldn’t begin to count the number of fekkin pamphlets I delivered on his behalf in the 1950s. If I am never remembered for my fiction, I might just make it into the history books as the kid who tried to brain a Foreign Secretary with a poker (I was three). But … I wrote to Keir Starmer and told him he’d lost my vote. Here’s why ….


Shamima Begum was trafficked to IS in Syria in 2015 at the age of fifteen. She was married off, had three children, all of whom died in refugee camps.

In 2019 the then Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, stripped Begum of her UK citizenship. She remains stateless. Like Sajid Javid Shamima Begum is second generation English, her parents being Bangla, his Pakistani. Javid had long had his eyes on the prize (10 Downing St.), ran for PM in 2019, and I am inclined to see his treatment of her as his statement of his ‘British cred,’ for which she is paying the price.


Today Shamima Begum is still in a refugee camp in Syria. Javid, having seen the wisdom of not running for office again (perhaps he took my email to heart), is an advisor to JP Morgan Chase, a company worth about $4 Trillion — no idea what his stake in that pot is, and it would be off the point even to ask. The point is this:


… any civilised country has a notion of the age of responsibility. In the UK the bar is set at an astoundingly low ten or twelve years of age, depending on which part of the UK, and the courts may not name minors accused of crimes, even upon conviction. The age of responsibility is different from the age of consent (16) and the age of majority (18). The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children defines a child as being someone under the age of 18, as does the UN:


Shamima Begum, at 15, was indoctrinated, trafficked and raped. At 23, according to the Court of Appeal and the Leader of His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition she is a threat to ‘National Security.’


Sir Keir ... this is bullshit. But, you too have your eyes on the prize, so … anything goes.


Have you heard of Alfred Zech? I thought not. But, this was him in 1945, age 12.


Note the medal, Iron Cross 2nd class, pinned to his chest by Artur Axmann at Hitler’s final public appearance — his 56th birthday.


In the film Downfall Zech is fictionalised as Peter Kranz, fighting with the Hitler Youth in the streets of Berlin, firing Panzerfausts at Soviet tanks — Zech actually fought on the eastern front and spent two years as a POW after the war. At some point he threw away his medal, less in disgust, it seems, than in fear of what reprisals it might bring. No charges were ever brought against Alfred Zech.


Perhaps the strangest fiction in Downfall is its almost pastoral ending — Peter Kranz escapes to the West on a bicycle, pedalled by Hitler’s secretary, Traudl Junge.


Junge became one of Hitler’s staff in 1942 at the age of 22.



She worked for Hitler for three years, and was in the bunker the day he shot himself. Junge was lucky enough to evade arrest until July 1945.


She had been a member of the Bund Deutscher Mädel, a wing of the Nazi party — membership, however, was compulsory.


Her interrogation was prolonged, but the Allies, specifically the Russians who held her, allowed for a notion of Youthful Indoctrination — I paraphrase, I am sure there was a more precise wording — and she was never charged with any crime. She was detained for five months.


I do not think I need to dot the T’s and cross the I’s.


But, bear with me … two more brief contrasts.


Did the British Government strip Oswald Mosley — Britain’s most notorious fascist — of his citizenship? No.


Did the British Government strip David Irving — a man convicted under Austrian law for holocaust denial — of his citizenship? No.


Shamima Begum? Yes.


Welcome to Britain, where your citizenship and your children’s lives are   gambling chips in the hands of self-serving pols. Now, Sir Keir, where did I leave that poker?


–John, in for Jeff


  1. One has to wonder if her race doesn't have something to do with this? Or is it just irrational fear?

  2. Not only her race, Michael. Also her gender. From Genesis till today, cherchez la femme is the byword for those looking for culprits and dangerous people.

    Thank you, John, for this post. I, as the granddaughter of a coal Miner and child of the union, organizing family, see this issue as an attempt to make political hay. Things are politically wacko here in the US of A, but the story makes me want to adopt her and bring her here and make her a New Yorker. AA