News, Culture & Society

‘I was an angel who was brainwashed’: Jihadi bride Shamima Begum fears she’ll face the death penalty

Jihadi bride Shamima Begum fears she will be prosecuted in Syria over her support for Islamic State – and could even face the death penalty if convicted.

In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, the 22-year-old expressed horror at the threat of being dragged before a court in northern Syria, saying: ‘No, no, I don’t want that, that can’t happen. I don’t want to be tried in Syria.’

Trials of male Syrian and Iraqi IS fighters held by the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Force have already begun, with reports on the ground of some being executed and others being handed prison terms of up to 20 years.

Detainees at two camps for suspected members of the extremist group, including Begum, were recently told that trials for women are expected to begin this summer.

Speaking from the Al-Roj camp, where she has languished since 2019, Begum again protested her innocence, arguing she was ‘an angel’ who had been brainwashed and then sex-trafficked by ISIS.

But her account contrasts starkly with her earlier statements condoning ISIS and claims that she was not only a committed member of the group’s brutal Al-Khansa female ‘morality police’ but also sewed ISIS bombers into suicide vests.

Speaking from the Al-Roj camp, where she has languished since 2019, Begum again protested her innocence, wearing western clothing and rejecting Islamic garb

This CCTV grab, taken on February 23, 2015, shows Shamima Begum passing through security barriers at Gatwick Airport, on her way to Syria

Shamima Begum pictured with her week old son Jerah in Al Hawl camp for captured ISIS wives and children, Kurdish Syria,

She argued she was ‘an angel’ who had been brainwashed as a teenager and then sex-trafficked by ISIS

Begum was 15 when she and two East London school friends, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana, fled Britain in 2015, and remains ‘shocked by how easy it was’.

Last week, she described how another teenager, Sharmeena Begum (no relation), who left Britain to join ISIS in December 2014, had inspired the group.

‘She was my closest friend. If she had not been radicalised, I don’t think we would have been,’ she said. ‘It was online and it was a group thing. We fed off each other.

‘When people are that age, they try to discover themselves in different ways and some people discover themselves through religion and that’s what happened to us – but then we went too deep into it.’

Begum ended up in Raqqa, the capital of Islamic State’s self-styled caliphate, but insists she was ‘100 per cent’ trafficked as a bride for the group’s fighters. Yet after being captured near the Syrian town of Baghuz as ISIS was routed, she gave an infamous interview in which she lamented being ‘weak’ for fleeing the group’s last stand.

She also said that the sight of a ‘severed head in a bin didn’t faze me at all’ because it was that of ‘a captured fighter… an enemy of Islam’, defiantly adding: ‘I don’t regret coming here.’

There was widespread revulsion at her comments, and Begum soon switched to wearing Western clothing and seeking to distance herself from ISIS and its barbaric acts.

Wearing sunglasses, a white top, black leggings and a baseball camp – and speaking after watching coverage of the Platinum Jubilee on TV in the camp – she again disputed her image as a willing fanatic by drawing comparisons with her childhood.

Shamima Begum (far right) and her friend Hafida Haddouch (far left red cardigan) in a group photo alongside some of their fellow inmates and their children at the Al-Roj prison camp in northern Syria

Shamima Begum (far right) and her friend Hafida Haddouch (far left red cardigan) in a group photo alongside some of their fellow inmates and their children at the Al-Roj prison camp in northern Syria

‘I was an angel, you can ask my mum, I was an angel,’ she said. ‘In secondary school, they [Amira and Kadiza] were like my only friends because I like to have a small group of friends. I prefer quality over quantity.

‘I did not like my primary school because I faced some racism there, not constantly, but at a young age one thing is enough. Not bullied, but little comments and stuff and favouritism with teachers to white kids over non-white kids.’

The prospect of Begum going on trial in Syria comes after her bid to return to the UK to challenge the Government’s decision to strip her of British citizenship was last year rejected by the Supreme Court.

She admitted fears of being a prisoner at Al-Roj ‘for ever’, but the new threat of a death sentence may spark a renewed effort by campaigners to have Home Secretary Priti Patel re-examine the case. The British Government has a long-standing policy of opposing the death penalty.

Meanwhile, Begum – whose three children by Dutch-born ISIS fighter Yago Riedijk have all died – revealed she has been told by others in the camp that her childhood friend Abase is dead. Kadiza is already known to have been killed in an airstrike against ISIS.

‘I got [information] officially that she [Abase] is dead from the last people who came out of Baghuz,’ she said. ‘She is not in the camp, I’ve asked many people and I’m finally believing she is dead.

***
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk