Former London schoolgirl who left Britain in 2015 for Syria to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Shamima Begum appeared live for the first time this morning on ITV’s breakfast show, Good Morning Britain with Suzanna Reid and Richard Madeley.
Shamima Begum said she is “sorry” to the UK public for joining the Islamic State (IS) and says she would “rather die” than go back to the terrorist organisation.
She told Good Morning Britain: “I know it’s very hard for the British people to try and forgive me because they have lived in fear of Isis and lost loved ones because of Isis, but I also have lived in fear of Isis and I also lost loved ones because of Isis, so I can sympathise with them in that way.”
She added: “I know it is very hard for them to forgive me, but I say from the bottom of my heart that I am so sorry if I ever offended anyone by coming here if I ever offended anyone by the things I said.”
Speaking from Northern Syria, wearing a Nike baseball cap, a grey vest, pink nail polish and lipstick, a stark difference from the all-black conservative dress she was seen in previously, Ms Begum said she came to Syria expecting simply to get married, have children and “live a pure, Islamic life”.
She said: “The reason I came to Syria was not for violent reasons. At the time I did not know it (so-called Islamic State) was a death cult, I thought it was an Islamic community I was joining. I was being fed a lot of information on the internet by people.
“I am willing to go to court and face the people who made these claims and refute these claims, because I know I did nothing in IS but be a mother and a wife.
“These claims are being made to make me look worse because the Government do not have anything on me. There is no evidence because nothing ever happened.”
Mohammed Patel of Highfields Solicitors is a human rights lawyer from Bradford. He said that to understand why young people are radicalised in such a way that they leave the country to join Isis, they need to be analysed by a team of experts.
He said: “I think it’s important that a team of experts including an Imam, child protection professional, lawyer, and a radicalisation expert sit with Ms Begum and understand why she felt the need to travel to Syria and understand how and why young people are radicalised in such a way. This can only happen if she is returned to the U.K.”
Since at least February 2019, Ms Begum has been in Al-Roj camp in Syria where she stayed since it was revealed that her citizenship to the UK was revoked, leaving her stateless. She is challenging this decision and wants to be allowed to return to the UK to pursue her appeal, but the Supreme Court has stopped this.
During her interview with Good Morning Britain, Ms Begum appealed to prime minister Boris Johnson, asking him to let her re-enter the UK and stand trial.
She said: “You are clearly struggling with extremism and terrorism in the country. I want to help with that, telling my own experience with these extremists, what they say and how they persuade people to do what they do.”
Sajid Javid, who was home secretary in 2019, was the one who decided to revoke Ms Begum’s citizenship. Speaking to ITV News earlier today, Mr Javid stood by his choice and said it was “absolutely the right decision”.
Ms Begum recognised it might be hard for some Brits to forgive her, as they have lived “in fear of ISIS and lost loved ones”. She said: “I do not believe that one evil justifies another evil. I don’t think that women and children should be killed for other people’s motives and other people’s agendas.”
In 2019, Ms Begum told a BBC journalist that “It was wrong to kill innocent people, but that Isis considered it justified as retaliation for coalition bombing of Isis-held areas” regarding the Manchester Bombing attack in 2017.
Today, she said when she initially made the comments, she did not know that women and children were hurt in Manchester. She said: “I did not know about the Manchester bombing when I was asked. I did not know that people were killed, I did not know that women and children were hurt because of it.”
She added: “I would rather die than go back to IS.”
When asked why she cannot go to Bangladesh as a citizen through descent, Shamima Begum told Good Morning Britain that she would face the death penalty there.
She said: “I’ve never been to Bangladesh. I do not have a claim of Bangladeshi citizenship.
“Bangladesh has already said that they will never let me back in and they said If I do ever come back in, it will be the death penalty for me.”
Ms Begum added: “How can a country like the UK, who does not believe in the death penalty, how can they expect me to go to a country where I will be killed.”