ISIS supporter Begum claims she was groomed online before going to Syria

British-born recruit says she is willing to go to prison should UK allow her to return

Shamima Begum says she was the victim of online grooming for months before she decided to leave Britain in 2015 and go to Syria to marry an ISIS fighter.

Begum, from east London, said: “I let my family down”, but said she was hopeful of reconciling with them.

In February 2015, Begum, then 15, left England with two friends for the promise of paradise in the so-called caliphate. She was married to a Dutch extremist 10 days after she arrived in Syria.

They had three children, none of whom survived.

The British government stripped Begum of her passport and said she would pose a national security threat if allowed to return.

The 22-year-old, who said that her only crime was travelling to Syria, is calling on Britain's home secretary to reinstate her citizenship.

Speaking to Sky News from the Al Roj camp in northern Syria, where she lives with other women and children linked to ISIS, Begum repeated her denial of accusations that she was responsible for atrocities under the terrorist regime, saying they were “all completely false”.

“I’m willing to fight them in a court of law, but I’m not being given a chance,” she said.

Women and children walk at Camp Roj, where relatives of people suspected of belonging to the Islamic State (IS) group are held, in the countryside near al-Malikiyah (Derik) in Syria's northeastern Hasakah province, on March 28, 2021. Roj, one of two Kurdish-run displacement camps housing foreign family members of suspected IS fighters, is smaller and better guarded than its overcrowded counterpart Al-Hol, which has been rocked by assassinations and breakout attempts in recent months.  / AFP / Delil SOULEIMAN

“I feel like the only crime I committed was coming here, so I would be willing to go to prison for that, but as for the accusations made against me, I’m just going to have to fight against them."

Looking back on her journey to the ISIS caliphate, Begum said she was promised “paradise, basically, but it was actually hell on earth”.

She claimed said she was a victim of online grooming, but she did not say who was responsible.

Asked if she went looking for ISIS propaganda on the internet, she said: “No, they kind of just find you online.

“I would not have made such a big decision like that if it were not for weeks and weeks and maybe months and months of, like, grooming,” she said.

She said: “I didn’t hate Britain. I hated my life really.”

Begum said she is not in contact with her family in the UK but is hopeful the ties can be mended one day.

"I don't think they failed me, in a way I failed them. When the time is right, I want to reconcile,” she said.

Updated: November 22nd 2021, 12:49 PM
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