Bethnal Green teenager says living under IS had made her stronger and tougher
PUBLISHED: 10:28 18 February 2019 | UPDATED: 10:37 18 February 2019
Runaway Bethnal Green schoolgirl Shamima Begum has claimed she was "just a housewife" when she left Britain to join Islamic State (IS) in Syria and does not regret her decision.
Ms Begum, who has given birth to a baby boy, accepted she may have made a mistake but said that living under IS had made her “stronger, tougher”.
The 19-year-old said she had been attracted to go to Syria after seeing news and videos on the internet which emphasised the role of family, adding that her biggest priority now was her son.
But she admitted she knew the group was carrying out beheadings and executions before she left, adding that she was “OK with it at first”.
Asked if she felt she made a mistake travelling to Syria, she said: “In a way, yes, but I don’t regret it because it’s changed me as a person. It’s made me stronger, tougher, you know.
“I married my husband, I wouldn’t have found someone like him back in the UK.
“I had my kids, I did have a good time there. It’s just that then things got harder and I couldn’t take it any more and I had to leave.”
Ms Begum was speaking next to her newborn son, who she said she had named after her previous son who died, in accordance with her husband’s wishes.
The teenager was one of three schoolgirls, along with Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, from Bethnal Green Academy who left the UK to travel to Syria in February 2015.
She told The Times last week while heavily pregnant that she wishes to bring up her baby in the UK, and her family have begged for her to be shown mercy and to be allowed to return to east London.
She said she felt “a lot of people should have sympathy for me” as she did not know what she was getting into when she left the UK, before acknowledging that it would be “really hard” to be rehabilitated into British society.
She said: “It would be really hard, everything I have been through.
“I’m still kind of in the mentality of planes over my head and having the emergency backpack and starving and all these things.
“It would be a really big shock to go back to the UK and start a life again.”
When it was put to her that people in Britain may have concerns about the views she may still have about IS, she said: “That’s something they have to question me about before they take my child away, I guess.”
Asked to respond to comments that she could be potentially very dangerous if she returned, she said: “They don’t have any evidence against me doing anything dangerous, when I went to Syria I was just a housewife, the entire four years I stayed at home, took care of my husband, took care of my kids, I never did anything... I never made propaganda, I never encouraged people to come to Syria.
“They don’t really have proof that I did anything that is dangerous.”
Ms Begum said no British consulate officials had met or spoken to her, only journalists.
Earlier on Sunday, Ms Begum’s family revealed they had been told she had given birth.
In a statement released through their lawyer they said: “We, the family of Shamima Begum, have been informed that Shamima has given birth to her child, we understand that both she and the baby are in good health.
“As yet we have not had direct contact with Shamima, we are hoping to establish communications with her soon so that we can verify the above.”
The lawyer, Tasnime Akunjee, later confirmed: “It’s a boy.”