Aid worker Tauqir Sharif has worked as a humanitarian aid distributer in Syria since 2013. In 2017, the then Home Secretary Amber Rudd decided to revoke his citizenship because of his alignment with Al-Qaeda. Only recently has Sharif’s identity been revealed, after he chose to waive his rights to anonymity in order to tell his story. The Home Office refuses to give the aid worker, originally from Walthamstow, nor his lawyer Daniel Furner proof of their attempts to revoke his citizenship and claim he is a member of the terrorist organisation. The Home Office maintains that Sharif has been working with Al-Qaeda and that he poses risk to ‘national security’.
Sharif works for an aid distribution charity in the Idlib area in North-Western Syria. Admitting he has previously carried a gun for protection, he strongly denies that he has ever been involved in al-Qaeda. Sharif moved to Syria to help and give aid to vulnerable people. He worked with the infamous White Helmets, driving ambulances and distributing primary aid such as water and food supplies to those who need the resources the most. In 2015, Sharif said he had been unable to get a passport for his children, who were born in Syria. None of them now have travel documents that would allow them to leave Syria legally.
Speaking to news outlet Middle East Eye, Sharif has spoken out against the Home Office’s decision. He has stated that the government has created a “racist” system in which some people are considered to be “sub-British.” Cerie Bullivant, a spokesperson for Cage – a campaign group which advocates for people affected by counter-terrorism policies – stated, “We must push back against this racist and abusive citizen deprivation process. Cases like Tauqir’s reveal how the government and right-wing lobbyists are exploiting ‘War on Terror’ rhetoric to influence the judiciary in ways that violate due process norms and punish humanitarian workers.”
The British government’s decision to revoke the citizenship of a man who has never lived anywhere but England is evidence that Sharif is feared and perceived as an outsider in his own home country. Sharif has stated that the government have used identity as a weapon to create a crisis in British society. The British government are unfairly denying the aid worker his right to return home. Looking at the recent case of Shamima Begum, questions must also be raised about why she too felt like an outsider in Britain and was therefore susceptible to radicalisation from East London. The two cases differ, yet both individuals have been told they are not British citizens, despite the fact they have lived in the country for their whole lives until they left for Syria.
Sharif’s attempts to publicise his case and gain back the citizenship that has been unfairly taken away from him reflect the deeply embedded racism within the British governments’ system, which clearly has a flawed process of discrimination. The British government continue to unfairly push people out of the country because of an unjust fear. This continuous creation of hostility will only tear Britain apart further in an already strained social setting.