‘All I want to do is come home,’ says British teen who joined ISIS in Syria
By KARLA ADAM | The Washington Post | Published: February 14, 2019
LONDON — When the London teenager Shamima Begum fled Britain with two other schoolgirls in 2015 to join the Islamic State, it shocked a nation. Now, she wants to come home.
Begum, 19, is nine months pregnant and living in a Syrian refugee camp. She says she doesn't regret leaving Britain but now wants to return to give birth to her child.
"Now all I want to do is come home to Britain," she said in an extraordinary interview with the Times of London.
Ben Wallace, Britain's security minister, told BBC on Thursday that she could face prosecution if she returns Britain.
Begum fled to Syria in 2015. She vanished with two other teenage girls from the Bethnal Green area of east London.
"I'm not the same silly little 15-year-old schoolgirl who ran away from Bethnal Green four years ago," she said in the interview, adding that she had two other children who died while living in an Islamic State-controlled territory in Syria.
She also said that she didn't regret going to Syria and wasn't fazed when she saw the severed head of one of ISIS's victims.
Wallace told BBC that everyone who takes part in the conflict in Syria or Iraq must be "prepared to be questioned, investigated and potentially prosecuted for committing terrorist offenses."
He also said that he wouldn't put British officials' lives at risk to "go and look for terrorists or former terrorists in a failed state. There are consular services elsewhere in the region and the strong message this government has given for many years is that actions have consequences."
Anthony Loyd, the Times correspondent who tracked Begum down in a refugee camp in northern Syria, cautioned about judging her too quickly. He told the BBC she was a "15-year-old schoolgirl who was groomed and lured to the caliphate, and four years later, with that background, she is an indoctrinated jihadi bride."
He also said that she "had no regrets, she was calm and composed but she was also in a state of shock — she had just come out of a battlefield, nine months pregnant, many of her friends dead through air strikes and all the rest of it — so I wouldn't want to rush to judge her too harshly. We must remember she was a 15 year old schoolgirl when she left the U.K."
This is three image combo of stills taken from CCTV issued by the Metropolitan Police in London on Monday Feb. 23, 2015, Kadiza Sultana, 16, from left, Shamima Begum,15, and Amira Abase, 15, going through security at Gatwick airport. The three teenagers left the country in a suspected bid to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State extremist group.
AP PHOTO/METROPOLITAN POLICE