Shamima Begum says she knew she was joining ISIS

In new interviews Ms Begum says she was instructed by ISIS members, but also did her own planning for the journey in 2015

2DCR7K6 Undated file photo of Shamima Begum whose potential return to the UK to challenge the deprivation of her British citizenship will be considered by the Supreme Court.
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Shamima Begum has admitted she knew she was joining a terrorist group when she left London as a teenager to travel to Syria with friends.

In new interviews, Ms Begum, 23, said she was fed instructions by ISIS members, but also carried out her own planning for the journey in 2015.

She told a BBC podcast she was “relieved” to leave the UK at the time and did not expect to ever return.

Ms Begum was only 15 when she left Bethnal Green in east London to travel through Turkey and into ISIS-controlled territory with two friends, both of whom have since died.

In 2019 she was found, nine months pregnant, living in a Syrian refugee camp. She had three children in Syria, all of whom died.

Her British citizenship was revoked shortly after that and she is now involved in a legal battle to have it restored so she can return to London.

Asked whether she accepts that she joined a terrorist group, she said: "Yes, I did."

She said she understands that the public sees her as a “danger, as a risk”, but said: “I'm not this person that they think I am."

Ms Begum blamed the media for her portrayal and said she was not a bad person.

"I'm just so much more than ISIS and I'm so much more than everything I've been through,” she told The Shamima Begum Story during 10 hours of interviews.

She said she understands the public’s anger towards her, adding: "But I don't think it's actually towards me. I think it's towards ISIS.

"When they think of ISIS they think of me because I've been put on the media so much.

"But what was there to obsess over, we went to ISIS that was it, it was over, it was over and done with, what more is there to say?

"Like, they just wanted to continue the story because it was a story, it was the big story."

Ms Begum said they were given explicit instructions by ISIS members for their journey to Syria.

There were "people online telling us and, like, advising us on what to do and what not to do", she said, with "a long list of detailed instructions", including what cover story to use if they were caught.

But they also did their own research into travel costs and Turkish language they may need before they crossed over the border to Syria.

Ms Begum said she had been quiet and kept to a small group of friends.

They were told to pack “nice clothes so you can dress nicely for your husbands”, who would be ISIS fighters.

She said her family "thought I was too, like, weak to do something so crazy, so they did not think in a million years I could [join ISIS]".

"I've always been a more secluded person. That's why it's so hard the way my life has turned out being all over the media because I'm not a person that likes a lot of attention on me.”

Her mother recently spoke about the grief surrounding her loss after her daughter left home to join ISIS.

Asma Begum told the appeal against the Home Office decision in late November that she has not touched anything in her daughter's bedroom since she left, and her school blazer still hangs on the door of the front room, “just as it was when she left”.

“When she left home in 2015, our worlds fell apart.”

She continued: “Shamima and I shared a bedroom and I have not moved anything of hers from our room.

“Her drawers are still full, her perfume, pens and jewellery, her clothes are still there. Her pyjamas are folded neatly.

“The box with her school books I look at sometimes.

“Her school blazer is still hanging on the door in the front room, just as it was when she left.”

Ms Begum’s barrister has argued that the decision to revoke her citizenship breached the human right to a family life.

Updated: January 11, 2023, 8:50 AM