Shamima Begum: London schoolgirl who joined Isis ‘does not regret’ decision but wants to return home

'I just could not endure any more,' says pregnant teenager

Zamira Rahim@ZamiraRahim
Thursday 14 February 2019 11:00
Families of 'Syria girls' leave Portcullis House

One of three schoolgirls who travelled from east London to join Isis in Syria has said she has no regrets but now wants to return to the UK.

Shamima Begum, now 19, left with two of her friends, Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, during the half-term break from the Bethnal Green Academy in February 2015.

The heavily pregnant teenager who recently fled to a Syrian refugee camp told The Times: “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.”

Ms Begum married Yago Riedijk, a Dutch convert and Isis fighter, days after arriving in the Syrian city of Raqqa in 2015.

Her husband was later accused of spying on the group and jailed. He was tortured by his captors, but later released from prison.

“Mostly it was a normal life in Raqqa, every now and then bombing and stuff,” she said. “But when I saw my first severed head in a bin it didn’t faze me at all. It was from a captured fighter seized on the battlefield, an enemy of Islam. I thought only of what he would have done to a Muslim woman if he had the chance.”

As Isis lost territory, Ms Begum gave birth to a daughter and a son. Both children fell ill and later died.

“In the end, I just could not endure any more,” she said, although she nonetheless appeared supportive of Isis. “I just couldn’t take it. I was also frightened that the child I am about to give birth to would die like my other children if I stayed on. So I fled the caliphate. Now all I want to do is come home to Britain.”

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She last saw her husband two weeks ago, when the couple fled the eastern community of Baghuz, one of terror group's last strongholds. He surrendered to a group of Syrian fighters.

Although she knew "what everyone at home thinks of me as I have read all that was written about me online", she said: "I just want to come home to have my child. That’s all I want right now. I’ll do anything required just to be able to come home and live quietly with my child.”

The teenager's sister Renu told ITV News that she was happy to hear that her sister was alive.

"I’m so relieved that my sister has been found, safe and sound," she said. "We are aware that she has been trying to get out. We lost contact with her for the longest of time. We are happy to know that she is okay."

Kadiza Sultana was however, reported to have been killed in an airstrike on Raqqa in May 2016, while Ms Begum has recently heard second-hand from other people that Ms Abase, and the other schoolgirl who left Britain in 2014, may still be alive.

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