Shamima Begum has said that she wants to face British courts to try to refute claims that she participated in terrorist acts during her time living under the Islamic State in Syria in an extraordinary television interview.
Appearing live on Good Morning Britain from a detention camp in Syria, the 22-year-old said she would “rather die than go back to the Islamic State,” and that she wanted to prove her innocence in the country of her birth.
“I am willing to go to court and stand up to the people who made these claims and refute these claims, because I know that I did nothing in the Islamic State other than be a mother and a wife. These claims are made to make me look worse because the government has nothing against me, ”said Begum.
Begum, who left East London as a 15-year-old schoolgirl to join the terror group, remains embroiled in a complex legal battle after her British citizenship was revoked in 2019 by then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid.
Earlier this year, the high court ruled that he could not return to the UK to contest his case in person, but offered the possibility that he could challenge the ruling if he could adequately instruct the lawyers.
During hearings in the case, it emerged that MI5 still viewed her as a national security risk because, although she had traveled as a minor, she had “aligned herself” with the Islamic State by remaining in Syria.
Begum did not testify during the trial and has not spoken publicly since the Supreme Court ruling in February. But she was interviewed on ITV’s morning show from Syria, wearing a Nike baseball cap, where she also asked politicians and the public to forgive her.
“But for those who have a drop of mercy, compassion and empathy in their hearts, I tell you from the bottom of my heart that I regret every, every decision that I have made since I entered Syria and will live with it. for the rest of my life.”
Begum married a Dutch Isis fighter, Yago Riedijk, shortly after arriving in ISIS territory. She had three children, all of whom died in infancy, and has been held by Syrian Kurds since the Islamic State’s military defeat in 2019.
Speaking about the same show, Javid said that any decision to remove a person’s British citizenship was not made lightly. “It was based on advice from my department, but also from our intelligence agencies, and I am clear that it was absolutely the right decision to protect the British people,” said the cabinet minister, who is now health secretary.
Despite the televised appeal, there is no prospect that Begum will be able to come to the UK in person given the court rulings, leaving her in Kurdish detention until the British legal process is finally exhausted.
Leaks from Whitehall sources have suggested that Begum was involved in making suicide vests for the Islamic State, but this claim has never been made in court during the battle for her citizenship.
In his interview, Begum argued that he could help Boris Johnson fight terrorism, using “my own experience” to explain how extremists “persuade people to do what they do.” She added: “I think it could help you a lot in your fight against terrorism, because you clearly don’t know what you are doing.”
A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said: “The main priority of the government remains to maintain our national security and protect the public.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism