Shamima Begum, 19, in refugee camp in Syria after fleeing last territory held by Islamic State
An east London schoolgirl who left the UK in 2015 to join Islamic State has been tracked down in Syria where she said has no regrets about joining the group, but now wants to come home as she is nine months pregnant.
Shamima Begum, 19, said she fled the jihadists’ last remaining enclave in Baghuz, eastern Syria, as she was tired of life on a battlefield and feared for her unborn child after her two other children died.
“I was weak,” she told the Times from the al-Hawl refugee camp in north-eastern Syria. “I could not endure the suffering and hardship that staying on the battlefield involved. But 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.”
She and two of her fellow Bethnal Green academy pupils, Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, made headlines when they flew from Gatwick to Turkey in February 2015, then entered Syria. Begum and Abase were both 15, while Sultana was 16. They had told their parents they were simply going out for the day.
Begum told the Times she initially settled in Raqqa where she married a Dutch convert after three weeks. She said life there alternated between normality and atrocity, and added that the sight of a “beheaded head” in a bin had not fazed her.
“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.”
She said Sultana and Abase, along with another young woman, Sharmeena Begum, also from Bethnal Green – who travelled to Syria two months before the trio and is not a relative of Begum’s – had also married foreign Isis fighters.
Sultana was reported to have died in 2016 in an airstrike on Raqqa, and Begum confirmed this in the interview.