ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A British female who left the UK for Syria as a minor in 2015 to join the Islamic State says she has no regrets about joining the terror group but is pleading to return to her country, London-based media reported on Wednesday.
Shamima Begum, along with her schoolmates Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, made headlines in 2015 when they flew from London's Gatwick Airport to Turkey and then traveled into Syria.
Begum and Abase were both 15 at the time, while Sultana was 16, reported the Guardian. Two months prior to their journey, two other girls, also from the East London neighborhood of Bethnal Green, also arrived in Syria for the same reason. All of them reportedly married foreign Islamic State militants.
Begum, now nine months pregnant, explained to the Times of London that she initially settled in Raqqa, the Syrian capital of the group's self-proclaimed caliphate.
“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,“ Begum said in an interview conducted in the al-Hawl refugee camp in northeastern Syria.
“Now all I want to do is come home to Britain.”
As the terrorist organization lost more and more ground against the various forces in Syria, the teen and her family moved down along the Euphrates river valley, finally ending up in the last bit of territory the group still controls, Baghouz.
With the Islamic State’s territory dwindling to nothing, more and more members, including females, are surrendering to anti-ISIS forces. Begum said she only decided to flee after both her children – a one-year-old and a three-month-old – died from illness.
“There was so much oppression and corruption that I don’t think they [ISIS] deserved victory,” she said. However, she added, “I don’t regret coming here.”
Begum confirmed earlier reports that her friend Sultana had died in an airstrike in Raqqa. Regarding the other women from Bethnal Green, she said that it was possible that they could still be alive in Baghouz, but “with all the bombing, I am not sure whether they have survived.”
Despite apparent denunciations of the Islamic State, Begum still appeared to be commending the faith her cohorts had expressed and promulgated while the Islamic State’s fighting forces struggled in Baghouz to repel the SDF’s final battle against the group.
“They were strong… I respect their decision. They urged patience and endurance in the caliphate and chose to stay behind in Baghuz. They would be ashamed of me if they survived the bombing and battle to learn that I had left.”
Still, she pleaded for a return to Britain, saying, “I just want to come home to have my child.”
Tasnime Akunjee, the lawyer representing the Begum family, told The Guardian that Shamima and her friends should be allowed repatriation, saying they “should be treated as victims as long as no evidence emerges that they committed offences.”
As the British newspaper wrote on Thursday, their cases pose ”a dilemma for the Foreign Office first as to whether she could be offered consular assistance, and possibly helped out of the camp the Times found her in.”
Editing by John J. Catherine