ISIS bride Shamima Begum fears for her life in Syrian refugee camp

EXCLUSIVE: ISIS bride Shamima Begum says she fears for her life in Syrian refugee camp because ‘Westernised, less Muslim’ women’s tents are ‘being targeted by arsonists’ in latest plea for UK return

  • Begum, 22, says a spate of arson attacks at the Al Roj camp in Syria has made her fear for her life
  • The ISIS bride who ditched her veil last year says she is being targeted for her Westernised appearance
  • She is pleading to return to the UK to fight for citizenship and believes she could be an anti-terror asset 
  • Shamima Begum says she believes she will be killed in her prison camp and is ‘living in fear constantly’ as she continues her fight to return to Britain to plead her case for citizenship in court.

    The ISIS bride, 22, claimed she and her Dutch friend Hafida Haddouch could be targeted by arsonists in the Al Roj camp in Syria because they are seen as more Westernised or ‘less Muslim’ than their campmates, after a spate of tent fires.

    She also denied carrying out atrocities on behalf of the terror group and sewing suicide vests for bombers, saying she can help British security forces crack down on extremists. 

    Wearing a low-cut pink top, baseball cap and black leggings after ditching her veil last year, Begum said: ‘When the first tent fire happened we just got back to normal and then the second fire happened and then we just live in fear constantly. 

    ‘In the past few months they have happened more than they’ve happened in the past few years.’ 

    Begum is among a 50-strong British contingent of women and children at the encampment, which houses around 800 families in total. 

    Shamima Begum says she believes she will be killed in her prison camp and is 'living in fear constantly' as she continues her fight to return to Britain

    Shamima Begum says she believes she will be killed in her prison camp and is ‘living in fear constantly’ as she continues her fight to return to Britain

    The ISIS bride, 22, denied carrying out atrocities on behalf of the terror group and sewing suicide vests for bombers

    The ISIS bride, 22, denied carrying out atrocities on behalf of the terror group and sewing suicide vests for bombers

    She added she and her Dutch friend Hafida Haddouch are being targeted by arsonists in the Al Roj camp (pictured) in Syria because they are seen as more Westernised than their campmates

    She added she and her Dutch friend Hafida Haddouch are being targeted by arsonists in the Al Roj camp (pictured) in Syria because they are seen as more Westernised than their campmates

    The authorities at al-Roj — the Kurdish-led and Western-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) — have banned black clothing, the colour of Isis, and black face veils.

    Some like Begum have voluntarily given up Islamic dress entirely, which she says has made her vulnerable to attacks.

    She was stripped of her citizenship in 2019 by Sajid Javid and in February this year the Supreme Court ruled on national security grounds that she cannot return to Britain to pursue an appeal against the decision.

    But she says she is willing to face trial in Britain for the chance to come back and believes she could be an asset to anti-terror forces.

    Begum, who was sitting on the site of a recently burned down tent, said: ‘The fight against terrorism is not a one-man job, it’s multiple people with multiple skills.’

    When asked if she had the skills and experience to help prevent children from being lured into terrorism, Begum replied: ‘I do.’

    She previously made a jaw-dropping offer to Boris Johnson, who wants her kept out of Britain, saying: ‘You are clearly struggling with extremism and terrorism in your country. I could very much help you with that because you clearly don’t know what you’re doing. 

    ‘I want them to see me as an asset rather than a threat to them.’ 

    The east London schoolgirl who dumped her veil a year ago now straightens her dyed hair, paints her nails and wears make-up

    The east London schoolgirl who dumped her veil a year ago now straightens her dyed hair, paints her nails and wears make-up

    Begum was stripped of her citizenship in 2019 by Sajid Javid and in February this year the Supreme Court ruled on national security grounds that she cannot return to Britain

    Begum was stripped of her citizenship in 2019 by Sajid Javid and in February this year the Supreme Court ruled on national security grounds that she cannot return to Britain

    The authorities at al-Roj (pictured)— the Kurdish-led and Western-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) — have banned black clothing, the colour of Isis, and black face veils

    The authorities at al-Roj (pictured)— the Kurdish-led and Western-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) — have banned black clothing, the colour of Isis, and black face veils

    The east London schoolgirl who dumped her veil a year ago and now straightens her dyed hair, paints her nails and wears make-up, fled her home in 2015 to join the so-called Islamic State terror group in Syria with two friends both now believed to be dead. 

    She denies her image change is a publicity stunt. 

    She has since claimed she was groomed by ISIS and her jihadi husband Yago Riedijk from the Netherlands, who she shared three children with who all died at a young age. 

    When asked about Riedijk’s recent comments that life under ISIS was ‘beautiful’ for the couple, Begum said she never wanted to see him again. 

    But she refused to confirm if she suffered any mental or physical abuse at the hands of the Dutch extremist, although her friend Haddouch said: ‘From stories what she told me, yes.’ 

    Haddouch, who said she acts as an older sister to Begum, said her children are too scared to sleep at night in the camp.

    She said: ‘I said what’s wrong with you and he said “I am afraid to sleep, maybe the tent will burn again”. 

    Haddouch (pictured), who said she acts as an older sister to Begum, said her children are too scared to sleep at night in the camp

    Haddouch (pictured), who said she acts as an older sister to Begum, said her children are too scared to sleep at night in the camp

    Begum is among a 50-strong British contingent of women and children at the encampment, which houses around 800 families in total

    Begum is among a 50-strong British contingent of women and children at the encampment, which houses around 800 families in total

    When asked about Riedijk's recent comments that life under ISIS was 'beautiful' for the couple, Begum said she never wanted to see him again

    When asked about Riedijk’s recent comments that life under ISIS was ‘beautiful’ for the couple, Begum said she never wanted to see him again

    ‘I said to him “go sleep, I’m here, I will not sleep”, and then he said “why did you put me in a sleeping bag? after there is a fire I cannot run out in the night”. 

    ‘As a mother I am already thinking these things, but as a boy how from his age can he think like this, it’s really hard.’ 

    U.S.-born Hoda Muthana, 26, once a high-profile Isis agitator, is also a member of Begum’s close-knit social group, so too is Canadian Kimberly Polman, a mother of three adult children in her late 40s; all three were Isis brides.

    Last week, a British minister said Begum cannot return to the UK to get her British citizenship.

    Business minister Paul ScullyBusiness minister Paul Scully told Sky News: ‘I think the Supreme Court has ruled on this matter. In terms of the actual case, what I don’t want to do is have it out via broadcast. 

    ‘It has been heard by the Supreme Court after the Home Secretary made a really clear ruling.’ 

    Asked whether she still represented a threat to national security, Mr Scully replied: ‘That I can’t tell. I’ve seen the interview there, but I’m not privy to intelligence documents.’ 

    Begum has frequently denied any involvement in terror activities and spoken previously of how she wanted to be brought back to the UK to face charges. 

    She previously told Sky: ‘I’m willing to fight them in a court of law but I’m not being given a chance.’ 

    Begum said her decision to leave the UK as a teenager was not made quickly and that it was something she ‘thought about for a while’.

    She said: ‘I didn’t hate Britain, I hated my life really. 

    ‘I felt very constricted, and I felt I couldn’t live the life that I wanted in the UK as a British woman.

    Shamima Begum no longer wears her niqab, now straightens her hair, paints her nails, with associates saying she now enjoys Zumba, listening to Shakira and watching Good Morning Britain, which she appeared on today

    Shamima Begum no longer wears her niqab, now straightens her hair, paints her nails, with associates saying she now enjoys Zumba, listening to Shakira and watching Good Morning Britain, which she appeared on today

    Shamima Begum no longer wears her niqab, now straightens her hair, paints her nails, with associates saying she now enjoys Zumba, listening to Shakira and watching Good Morning Britain

    ISIS bride Begum on claims she aided terrorists, the decision to revoke her citizenship and being a victim herself

    Shamima Begum was 15 when she ran away with two other schoolgirls to Syria to marry a Dutch jihadi in 2015. She is accused of trying to recruit others to join before she left - and doing evil jobs for ISIS

    Shamima Begum was 15 when she ran away with two other schoolgirls to Syria to marry a Dutch jihadi in 2015. She is accused of trying to recruit others to join before she left – and doing evil jobs for ISIS

    On claims she sewed jihadis into suicide vests

    ‘I am willing to go to court and face the people who made these claims and refute these claims, because I know I did nothing in IS (so-called Islamic State) but be a mother and a wife.

    ‘These claims are being made to make me look worse because the Government do not have anything on me. There is no evidence because nothing ever happened.’ 

    On asking for forgiveness 

    ‘I know it’s very hard for the British people to try and forgive me because they have lived in fear of IS and lost loved ones because of IS, but I also have lived in fear of IS and I also lost loved ones because of IS, so I can sympathise with them in that way.

    ‘I know it is very hard for them to forgive me but I say from the bottom of my heart that I am so sorry if I ever offended anyone by coming here, if I ever offended anyone by the things I said.’

    Message for the PM

    ‘I think I could very much help you in your fight against terrorism because you clearly don’t know what you’re doing’.

    She added: ‘I want them (the British public) to see me as an asset rather than a threat to them.’

    On why she went to Syria  

    Begum said she came to Syria expecting simply to get married, have children and ‘live a pure, Islamic life’.

    ‘The reason I came to Syria was not for violent reasons.’ She added: ‘At the time I did not know it (so-called Islamic State) was a death cult, I thought it was an Islamic community I was joining.  I was being fed a lot of information on the internet by people.’  

    On justifying  the Manchester Arena bombing

    She said: ‘I do not believe that one evil justifies another evil. I don’t think that women and children should be killed for other people’s motives and for other people’s agendas.’ 

    ‘I did not know about the Manchester bombing when I was asked. I did not know that people were killed, I did not know that women and children were hurt because of it.’

    Begum said it was ‘not justifiable to kill innocent people in the name of religion’. 

    On whether she is a criminal or a terrorist 

    She said: ‘Honestly, the only crime I think I committed was being dumb enough to come to Isis, and even that can be refuted because I was 15 when I came, and you can’t, you know, judge a 15-year-old for making a mistake which he or she very quickly regretted making.

    ‘If you really think I did do this, why don’t you bring me back and put me on trial, and hear my side of the story.

    ‘If you if you honestly believe that, don’t you think I just have to go to jail for it.

    ‘The fact that you think I should rather rot here, instead of face trial… the democracy that you live in, says that everyone deserves a fair trial.’

    On her new western look 

    Begum said she the decision to stop wearing the hijab was one she took for herself and denied that the move was a publicity stunt.

    She said: ‘I have not been wearing hijab for maybe more than a year now. I took it off for myself, because I felt very constricted in the hijab, I felt like I was not myself.

    ‘And I feel like it makes me happy, to not wear the hijab. I’m not doing for anyone but myself.

    ‘I’ve had many opportunities to let people take pictures of me without my hijab on, but I did not.’ 

    On the decision to revoke her citizenship 

    When asked what she would tell Sajid Javid, who was Home Secretary when Begum’s British citizenship was revoked, Begum said: ‘I understand why he took my citizenship away, that it’s his job to think about the interest of the UK before anything else.

    ‘What he saw on the media was not the true me. If he were to meet me himself, I’m pretty sure he would change his mind about my citizenship.’

    Begum said she was groomed and taken advantage of, believing she would be entering an ‘Islamic paradise’.

    She said: ‘People that I was speaking to online they just, they created this image for me over paradise, an Islamic paradise.

    ‘They pressured me very hard into coming. They made me feel bad for wanting to stay in the UK, for wanting to stay with my family who weren’t even practising at the time. And they took advantage of me because they knew that I was young.’

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    ‘I feel like the only crime I committed was coming here so I would be willing to go to prison for that.  But for the accusations against me, I’m just going to have to fight against them.’  

    She said that she would like to reconcile with her family ‘when the time is right’, adding: ‘I don’t think they failed me, in a way I failed them’.  

    Begum said she is a victim of grooming by extremists, would now ‘rather die’ than rejoin ISIS and admitted she was wrong to say the Manchester Arena attack was ‘justified’ because of airstrikes that have killed civilians in Syria.  She also said she had no idea ISIS was a ‘death cult’ when she joined.

    She told Good Morning Britain: ‘No one can hate me more than I hate myself for what I’ve done and all I can say is I’m sorry and just give me a second chance’, but she added she was ‘groomed and taken advantage of and manipulated into’ travelling to Syria. 

    Denying she is a criminal, she said: ‘The only crime I think I committed was being dumb enough to come to ISIS’.

    She has begged to be brought back to the UK to face a terror trial. Asked why she won’t go to Bangladesh, she said: ‘How can a country like the UK, who does not believe in the death penalty, how can they expect me to go to a country where I will be killed?’

    She said: ‘I made a mistake at a very young age. I know it’s very hard for the British people to try and forgive me because they have lived in fear of Isis and lost loved ones because of Isis, but I also have lived in fear of Isis and I also lost loved ones because of Isis, so I can sympathise with them in that way. I know it is very hard for them to forgive me but I say from the bottom of my heart that I am so sorry if I ever offended anyone by coming here, if I ever offended anyone by the things I said.’ 

    Amid claims of her innocence, her classmates in London have previously said that Begum wore an ISIS badge on her blazer in an attempt to recruit class members to join the terror group alongside her friends Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana. She previously described with chilling nonchalance how she ‘wasn’t fazed’ by the sight of a severed head. Begum also declared how she had a ‘good time’ with Isis, and justified the terror group’s bombing of Manchester Arena. 

    There are also claims that intelligence officials briefed Boris Johnson that she had been witnessed handling suicide vests and sewing them on to jihadis, as well as caring for injured terrorists in Raqqa hospitals. 

    In a direct plea to Boris Johnson, before asking to meet Sajid Javid face to face because he revoked her British citizenship when he was Home Secretary, she said: ‘You are clearly struggling with extremism and terrorism in your country and I want to help with that telling you my own experience what they say and how they persuade people to come to places like Syria and I could very much help you with that because you clearly don’t know what you’re doing in the fight against terrorism and I want to help’

    Begum said she came to Syria expecting simply to get married, have children and ‘live a pure, Islamic life’, adding: ‘The reason I came to Syria was not for violent reasons.’

    She added: ‘At the time I did not know it (so-called Islamic State) was a death cult, I thought it was an Islamic community I was joining.

    ‘I was being fed a lot of information on the internet by people.’ She said she thought she was ‘groomed and taken advantage of and manipulated into’ travelling to Syria. 

    Begum has also never been open about what she did for the group, but it has been claimed she worked caring for injured jihadis in the terror group’s former stronghold of Raqqa in northern Syria.   

    She told Good Morning Britain: ‘I am willing to go to court and face the people who made these claims and refute these claims, because I know I did nothing in IS but be a mother and a wife.

    ‘These claims are being made to make me look worse because the Government do not have anything on me.

    ‘There is no evidence because nothing ever happened.’

    She added: ‘I would rather die than go back to IS.’

    Begum said she regretted her actions and apologised for the comments she previously made about the Manchester Arena bombing.

    She said: ‘I do not believe that one evil justifies another evil. I don’t think that women and children should be killed for other people’s motives and for other people’s agendas.’

    Begum said she did not know that women and children were hurt in Manchester.

    ‘I did not know about the Manchester bombing when I was asked. I did not know that people were killed, I did not know that women and children were hurt because of it.’

    Begum said it was ‘not justifiable to kill innocent people in the name of religion’.

    She also apologised to anyone who has been affected by Isis and the terror group’s actions.

    She said: ‘I’m in a different camp, obviously. I have friends now. I have a security shield now around me with my friends and I feel more confident in myself.

    ‘I obviously don’t have my son anymore so I only have to think about my safety so if I do get attacked for taking my hijab off, it’s on me.

    ‘While I’m in this camp, I’m trying to change myself. I’m trying to better myself, because I can.’

    In an apology to the public, she said: ‘Of course I am completely sorry for anyone that has been affected by Isis.

    ‘In no way do I agree with what they did, I don’t, I’m not trying to justify what they did, it’s not justifiable to kill innocent people in the name of religion.’   

    Begum was 15 when she ran away with two other schoolgirls - Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Shamima Begum, 15 - to Syria to marry a Dutch jihadi in 2015. at Gatwick airport in February 2015

    Begum was 15 when she ran away with two other schoolgirls – Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Amira Abase, 15 – (all pictured at Gatwick airport) to Syria to marry a Dutch jihadi in 2015

    Begum now looks very different from her previous image as a jihadi bride in a hijab and head scarf.  Pictured holding her baby in the Al Hawl camp, where the child died

    Begum now looks very different from her previous image as a jihadi bride in a hijab and head scarf.  Pictured holding her baby in the Al Hawl camp, where the child died

    a jihadi bride saw her stripped of her British citizenship for joining ISIS

    2015

    • February 17 – Kadiza Sultana, Amira Abase and Shamima Begum leave their east London homes at 8am to travel to Istanbul, Turkey, from Gatwick Airport. Begum and Abase are reported missing by their families later the same day.
    • February 18 – Sultana is reported missing to the police.
    • February 20 – The Metropolitan Police launch a public appeal for information on the missing girls who are feared to have gone on to Syria.  The Met expresses concerns that the missing girls may have fled to join ISIS. 
    • February 21 – Four days after the girls went missing, police believe they may still be in Turkey. 
    • February 22 – Abase’s father Abase Hussen says his daughter told him she was going to a wedding on the day she disappeared. 
    • March 10 – It emerges that the girls funded their trip by stealing jewellery.

    2016

    • August 2016 – Sultana, then 17, is reported to have been killed in Raqqa in May when a suspected Russian air strike obliterates her house.

    2019

    • February 13 – Begum, then 19, tells Anthony Loyd of The Times that she wants to return to the UK to give birth to her third child.
    • Speaking from the al-Hawl refugee camp in northern Syria, Begum tells the paper: ‘I’m not the same silly little 15-year-old schoolgirl who ran away from Bethnal Green four years ago. And I don’t regret coming here.’
    • February 15 – Home Secretary Sajid Javid says he ‘will not hesitate’ to prevent the return of Britons who travelled to join IS.
    • February 17 – Begum gives birth to her third child – a baby boy, Jarrah – in al-Hawl. Her two other children, a daughter called Sarayah and a son called Jerah, have both previously died.
    • February 19 – The Home Office sends Begum’s family a letter stating that it intends to revoke her British citizenship.
    • February 20 – Begum, having been shown a copy of the Home Office’s letter by ITV News, describes the decision as ‘unjust’. 
    • February 22 – Begum’s family write to Mr Javid asking for his help to bring her newborn son to Britain. Shamima’s sister Renu Begum, writing on behalf of the family, said the baby boy was a ‘true innocent’ who should not ‘lose the privilege of being raised in the safety of this country’.
    • Late February – Begum is moved to the al-Roj camp in north-eastern Syria, reportedly because of threats to her life made at al-Hawl following the publication of her newspaper interviews.
    • March 7 – Jarrah dies around three weeks after he was born.
    • March 19 – Begum’s lawyers file a legal action challenging the decision to revoke her citizenship.
    • April 1 – In a further interview with The Times, Begum says she was ‘brainwashed’ and that she wanted to ‘go back to the UK for a second chance to start my life over again’. 
    • May 4 – Bangladesh’s foreign minister Abdul Momen says Begum could face the death penalty for involvement in terrorism if she goes to the country, adding that Bangladesh had ‘nothing to do’ with her.  
    • September 29 – Home Secretary Priti Patel says there is ‘no way’ she will let Begum return to the UK, adding: ‘We cannot have people who would do us harm allowed to enter our country – and that includes this woman.’ 
    • October 22-25 – Begum’s appeal against the revocation of her British citizenship begins in London. Her barrister Tom Hickman QC submits the decision has unlawfully rendered her stateless, and exposed her to a ‘real risk’ of torture or death.

    2020 

    • February 7 – SIAC rules on Begum’s legal challenge.
    • July 16 – Court of Appeal rules on the case and finds in Begum’s favour.
    • November 23 – Supreme Court hears case. 

    2021

    February 26 – Supreme Court denies her right to enter UK to fight for British citizenship.    

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