LONDON: Shamima Begum, the 21-year-old Londoner who fled the UK aged 15 to join Daesh, has said she traveled to Syria because she wanted to feel “part of something.”
A new documentary “The Return: Life After ISIS” interviewed her and several other women currently detained at Al-Roj camp in northern Syria.
Begum, who left the UK in 2015 with two other girls from London — Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana — said she had been the “black sheep” of her family, and had traveled to the Middle East as she did not want to be the “friend left behind.”
She added that she had been recruited online by Daesh supporters, who played on her and her friends’ guilt about what was happening to fellow Muslims in Syria.
“It was the holidays when I decided to leave with my friends. I knew it was a big decision, but I just felt compelled to do it quickly. I didn’t want to be the friend that was left behind,” Begum told the documentary.
“My mum didn’t see me walking outside of the door. I didn’t hug her. I really regret not hugging her.”
In the film, Begum describes how she had to inform the parents of Abase and Sultana that they had been killed in the city of Baghuz, saying: “I feel like I have no friends anymore. They were everything I had.”
She also recounted how she had lost two children fleeing from what was left of Daesh’s “caliphate.”
Begum said their deaths had impacted her so much that she wanted to kill herself. “I felt I couldn’t get up anymore,” she added.
“I couldn’t even get up to run when there were bombings. The only thing keeping me alive was my baby that I was pregnant with.” Her third child died a few days after it was born in Al-Roj.
In 2019, the UK government stripped Begum of her British citizenship, preventing her from returning, which has led to a protracted legal battle.
She told the documentary that stories in the media about her had been fabricated to justify the decision, and that she wanted to be given a second chance.
“I would say to the people in the UK, give me a second chance because I was still young when I left,” she said.
“I just want them to put aside everything they’ve heard about me in the media and just have an open mind about why I left and who I am now as a person.”