A British teenager who left the UK to join ISIS in 2015 and now hopes to return home, has given birth, her family’s lawyer said Sunday.
Shamima Begum, who was 15 at the time, left London’s Gatwick Airport with two of her classmates and traveled to Syria.
Mohammed Akunjee said in a statement that Shamima Begum, now 19, had given birth to a boy and that both are believed to be in “good health.”
Speaking to Sky News from the camp and hours after giving birth, Begum said she was aware of ISIS beheadings and other brutality before she left to join the group, and was “OK” with it.
“Yeah I knew about those things and I was OK with it. I started becoming religious just before I left. From what I heard, Islamically that is all allowed so I was OK with it,” Begum told Sky News.
However Begum, who married an ISIS fighter, she was only a housewife during her time in Syria: “I never did anything dangerous, I never made propaganda, I never encouraged people to come to Syria,” she said.
Begum added that people should have sympathy towards her because she “didn’t know” what she was getting into, but says she doesn’t regret her decision.
“In a way yes, but I don’t regret it because it’s changed me as a person, it’s made me stronger, tougher. I married my husband, I wouldn’t have found someone like him back in the UK, I had my kids.” Begum said.
“I did have a good time there, it’s just that in the end things got hard and I couldn’t take it anymore, I had to leave.”
Begum made headlines earlier this week, on February 13, when she was found in a refugee camp in northern Syria by UK newspaper The Times.
The paper revealed she was nine months’ pregnant and that she wanted to come home to have her child. She said she had two other children during her time in Syria, who died in infancy from malnutrition and illness.
Begum said she had no regrets about traveling to Syria, but told the paper that “the caliphate is over.”
“They’re just getting smaller and smaller and there’s so much oppression and corruption going on that I don’t really think they deserve victory,” she said.
Should Begum be allowed to return?
Begum’s pleas to return to the UK quickly spurred debate across the country.
Haras Rafiq, who was previously part of the government’s task force looking at countering extremism, told Britain’s Press Association that he understands why citizens are concerned about Begum returning, but the “intellectual and right thing to do” was for her to face the UK’s justice system.
He added that it will be a challenge to deradicalize her because “at this moment in time, (she) is not somebody who thinks she needs to be.”
“What we can say is right now … she doesn’t show any remorse or regret and isn’t fazed by decapitated heads and bombs all around her, because she thought that was a normal life. Therein lies the problem,” said Rafiq, who is now CEO of the counter-extremism organization Quilliam.
Meanwhile, UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid said he “will not hesitate” to prevent the return of those who have joined terror organizations like ISIS.
“My message is clear: if you have supported terrorist organizations abroad I will not hesitate to prevent your return,” he said.
“We have a range of tough measures to stop people who pose a serious threat from returning to the UK, including depriving them of their British citizenship or excluding them from the UK.”