Shamima Begum presents this country with a terrible dilemma.
Yes, she is a British citizen who made her decisions at an impressionable age.
But we cannot close our eyes to the evidence that she is unrepentant, or pretend that she, and others like her, do not present a serious threat to Britain.
Begum travelled to a war zone when she was 15, and stayed for four years.
She went in 2015 when the bloody reality of Islamic State (IS) was already well established.
It was after the Yazidi genocide and the enslavement of thousands of women.
Shamima Begum, 19, is pleading with the Government to allow her back into the country to have her baby but admits she’ll miss her jihadist husband
She says the sight of decapitated heads didn’t shake her belief in the fundamental correctness of the ideal, if not the practice, of a theocratic Islamic state. Her only regret appears to be that her dream became a nightmare. Make no mistake, many women played a full part in the barbarity.
They played a leading role in the mistreatment of Yazidis, for example, convinced that it was religiously proper for their husbands to purchase and rape female captives. Some women were responsible for the violent enforcement of Islamic State’s vicious legal code on a terrified Syrian population. Others helped in the online recruitment of individuals, or provided support and comfort to fighters.
In the final stages of the war, some women were trained to fight. It would be foolish to close our eyes to the potential dangers that returnees, male or female, pose.
Some will return determined to bring the horror they wrought on the streets of Raqqa to Britain.
Two of the terrorists who perpetrated the Bataclan massacre in 2015 had previously fought in Syria, as had Mehdi Nemmouche, who murdered four at the Jewish Museum in Brussels.
The fall of IS has not resulted in the final collapse of the networks that first induced British citizens to join it. Banned jihadist group Al-Muhajiroun is reportedly once again preaching on our streets. Meanwhile, hate preachers, who spent years proclaiming the virtues of creating a theocratic totalitarian Islamic state, remain in pulpits. It is also certain that organisations such as Cage, who advocate for those convicted of terrorist offences and once called Jihadi John a ‘beautiful man’, will use the return of those who joined the Islamic State to peddle unjustified tales of grievance towards our country. Although those who have made it back to Britain are currently silent and are not presently being feted by their supporters, tours of universities and community centres could well take place in future.
She went in 2015 when the bloody reality of Islamic State (IS) was already well established
Worryingly, they will be used to promote the ideology that underpinned the so-called Caliphate. It is vital the intelligence services are alert to this. For all the dangers, I believe it is right that Begum be returned to Britain. Quilliam was founded by former Islamists who now work to fight extremism, so I know that rehabilitation is possible.
The organisation’s President, Noman Benotman, was once a senior member of the Al Qaeda-aligned Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. He was friendly with Osama Bin Laden, and fought alongside him in Afghanistan. Now, he devotes his life to disrupting terrorist groups. No one is beyond redemption.
Quilliam has found certain individuals are open to being persuaded that they have a personal obligation to repair the damage that they have helped create.
Investigating conduct and prosecuting crimes will require resources and expenditure, of course. I accept we will need to keep returnees under surveillance for many years, and that too will cost money.
Many understandably feel we shouldn’t have to foot the bill.
But there is also the question of justice. We must demonstrate, clearly, that Britain does not allow its citizens to commit terrible crimes and get away with it.
So, however unpopular it might be, Begum should be readmitted to Britain if she presents herself at our borders.
Facebook picture of Dutch ISIS fighter Yago Riedijk (now aged 26 and detained in Syria) and husband of Shamima Begum from 2011
WHEN a smirking IS recruit shreds their British passport, it is a declaration that Britain has no authority over them. We must expose that for the lie it is.
I believe we should view Begum and others like her as potential war criminals. Building a case against them will not be easy and some will be assessed as having committed no crime.
However, social and personal media will provide a wealth of evidence against others.
There are many things that Britain should be exporting, but terrorists are not one of them. We cannot treat the rest of the world as a dumping ground for the very worst our country has to offer.
But we are a nation that justly prides itself in respect for the rule of law. That is one of the things that makes Britain a greater, and stronger country than the Islamic State. Let us demonstrate that this is so.