Watching tonight's BBC One early evening news bulletin, I was struck by how it began:
The family of the British teenager who joined the Islamic State group, say she's given birth in Syria. Shamima Begum says she wants to return to the UK, after fleeing the last IS stronghold. It comes as President Trump calls on Britain and other European nations to put captured Islamic State fighters on trial.
Hmm, a "fleeing...British teenager" whose just given birth and who wants to return to the UK?
Interesting language there, I think.
And, of course, I'd have said "captured Islamic State terrorists" rather than "captured Islamic State fighters", but that particular BBC linguistic tic has been with us so long you almost don't clock how obsessively 'neutral' it is anymore.
And on it went:
Good afternoon. The family of Shamima Begum, one of three British school girls who left Britain to join the Islamic State group, say they've been told that she's given birth to a boy. The 19-year-old is living in a refugee camp in northern Syria, after fleeing the last IS stronghold in the eastern part of the country. Her family has asked the British government to help bring her home. It comes as President Trump has called for the UK and other European countries to take back hundreds of members of IS, captured in Syria and Iraq, and to put them on trial. Daniel Sandford reports.Wonder what viewers new to the story would have made of that?
Anyhow, here's a transcript of Daniel Sandford's report and his subsequent chat with newsreader Tina Daheley. I was struck by how the two featured speakers - and even President Trump! - reinforced the 'bring her home' argument, as did the following BBC-on-BBC discussion:
Daniel Sandford: This morning came news from Shamima Begum's family she's given birth to a baby son in a refugee camp in northern Syria. It adds another layer of complication to the case of the schoolgirl who joined IS and now wants to come back. Shamima Begum first came to attention after leaving her home in East London with two school friends four years ago aged just 15. She married an IS fighter in Raqqa and had remained with the group until fleeing the fighting two weeks ago. Her family are asking the government to show compassion and help them get her home. The government has said that it won't hesitate to prevent people who went to join a terrorist group returning to Britain but concedes that people like Shamima Begum, who have only one nationality, may ultimately be allowed to come back.
Jeremy Wright MP: If you are dealing with a British citizen who wants to return to this country, and not a dual citizen, so their only citizenship is British citizenship, then we are obliged at some stage at least to take them back. That doesn't mean we can't put in place the necessary security measures to monitor their activities and make sure that they are not misbehaving.Today, President Trump called on Britain and other European countries to take back people who'd gone to fight for IS and put them on trial. He said 800 fighters had been captured, and if they were to be released, they might permeate Europe, as he put it. Raffaello Pantucci, who has been studying violent Islamists for years, says the government will probably have to shift its position of refusing to accept responsibility for any IS fighters.
Raffaello Pantucci: The UK needs to establish some sort of a process of what to do with its nationals that are out there. I think frankly they are the UK's responsibility and some sort of resolution does need to be established, a due process they can be put through.IS's last toehold in Syria, Baghuz, is slowly being reduced to rubble. There is a fledgling project in the UK for handling any women and children of IS who make it from here back to the UK called the Returning Families Project. So far, it's only dealt with a handful of cases and the funding runs out next month.
Tina Daheley: Well, Daniel's here with me now. How has Shamima Begum's baby changed the situation now?
Daniel Sandford: I think in the immediate term it doesn't change the situation. The British government have been fairly clear that they think it is too risky to try and help anybody who's in a refugee camp in northern Syria at the moment and I don't think they feel there's any rush. I think if the situation deteriorates in those refugee camps, very, very, seriously, or if the women and children in those camps are somehow turfed out into the desert the pressure might build. If on the other hand Shamima Begum was to make into to a place of safety like Turkey, for example, and try to make it to the British consulate, the fact she has a very, very newborn baby might force the British government to act a little bit more quickly than they might otherwise have done.
Tina Daheley: And in the case of EU governments, how concerned will they be about Donald Trump's threats?
Daniel Sandford: Well, Donald Trump seems to be suggesting that the Kurdish allies of the US government and US troops on the ground might actually set free the Isis fighters in captivity. I think that seems unlikely, but I think this is a sign of the pressure that America is going to start applying on the European governments to take some of the IS fighters that have come originally from their countries and are now being held in captivity because certainly the Kurds there don't want to deal with them, the Americans don't want to deal with them, and someone's going to have to handle them and put those that can be put on trial, and otherwise deal with them in a way that they're not a threat to the public. And I think this is a sign of the pressure the Americans are starting to apply rather than a real threat to set them free next week, as it were.
Tina Daheley: Daniel, thank you very much.