British aid worker in Syria stripped of his nationality

Mohammed Shakiel Shabir

An aid worker from Birmingham has been stripped of his British nationality because of suspicion surrounding his activities in Syria.

Middle East Eye reported that Mohammed Shakiel Shabir, who has been based in opposition-held Idlib province for the past four years, had been informed by the government that his citizenship had been revoked on the grounds that his return to the UK would “present a risk to national security”.

The government also accuses him of being “aligned with an al-Qaeda-aligned group”.

Speaking to MEE, Shakiel described those allegations as “ridiculous” and said he had been a “full time humanitarian” for more than 15 years, working in countries including Haiti, Pakistan and Myanmar for IHH, a Turkish aid organisation.

In Idlib, his work has included coordinating the distribution of charity aid donations, driving ambulances, and supporting search and rescue operations in the aftermath of air strikes.

Shakiel told MEE: “I’m not bothered about it. I’m not begging. They can kick me out of Britain, but they can’t kick Britain out of me. I don’t need a British badge to show that I’m British. The people that I represent know and that’s enough. I was born and bred in England. It will always be my homeland.”

Shakiel is the second British man involved in humanitarian work in Idlib province to confirm that he has been deprived of citizenship.

In March, Tauqir Sharif, an aid worker from East London, revealed that he had also been stripped of British citizenship in 2017.

Both Sharif and Shakiel were born in the UK but are considered to be dual nationals by the British government because they are entitled to Pakistani citizenship through their parents.

They say that they do not consider themselves to be anything other than British and have effectively been left stateless.

Most of Idlib is currently under the control of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an alliance of fighting groups that includes factions formerly aligned with al-Qaeda.

Shakiel told MEE that he was independent of all groups and that all of his aid work was transparent. He had documented it for years on social media platforms, he said, and worked with charities based in countries including the UK, France, South Africa and Turkey.

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