Shamima Begum says she understands public anger over joining Islamic State group

Shamima Begum has said she understands public anger towards her, but insisted she is not a “bad person” in a series of BBC interviews.

Ms Begum told The Shamima Begum Story podcast she accepts she is viewed “as a danger, as a risk”, but blamed her portrayal in the media. She said: “I’m just so much more than Isis (another term for the so-called Islamic State) and I’m so much more than everything I’ve been through.”

Ms Begum was 15 when she travelled from Bethnal Green, east London, through Turkey and into IS-controlled territory with two other schoolgirls in 2015. The 23-year-old is now locked in a legal battle with the UK Government to try to have her citizenship restored.

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It was revoked on national security grounds shortly after she was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019.

Shamima Begum. Picture: BBC

Lawyers for Ms Begum have said she should have been treated as a victim of child trafficking and conflict resolution experts have described the UK Government’s approach towards her as misguided.

But the Home Office has argued that people trafficked to Syria and brainwashed can still be threats to national security, and that Ms Begum expressed no remorse when she initially emerged from IS-controlled territory.

Asked whether she understands public anger towards her, she said: “Yes, I do understand.”

“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.”

Detailing her journey to Syria for the first time, Ms Begum said she and her fellow travellers tried to pack light, but referred to the fact they were expected to marry IS fighters.

“People used to say, like, ‘pack nice clothes so you can dress nicely for your husband’, but I don’t know,” she told the broadcaster.

Ms Begum said she stocked up on chocolate bars that she knew she would not be able to buy in Syria, including “about 30” mint Aero bars. “You can find a lot of things in this country, but you cannot find mint chocolate,” she said.

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Former children’s minister Tim Loughton said public sympathy for Ms Begum when she first went missing had increasingly been replaced by outrage.

He said many people were suspicious she was now “putting on an act” in appearing to “transition from a heavily veiled Muslim young woman to somebody wearing Western clothes”, as if she had “stayed in east London as a normal British teenager”.

Mr Loughton added: “I think most people will say that, frankly, we owe her nothing. She got herself into this mess and frankly it’s down to her to work out how she’s going to get out of it.”

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