Teen From UK Who Joined ISIS Has Given Birth in Syria

The Associated Press
By The Associated Press
February 17, 2019World News

LONDON—The family of a British teenager who ran away to join the ISIS terrorist group and now wants to return to the UK said on Feb. 17, that she has given birth to a baby boy.

The family’s lawyer said 19-year-old Shamima Begum and the baby are in good health. In a recent interview with The Times newspaper, Begum said she had previously lost two babies to illness and malnutrition.

(L-R) Kadiza Sultana, Amira Abase, and Shamima Begum in photos issued by police. (Metropolitan Police)

Begum was one of a group of schoolgirls from London’s Bethnal Green neighborhood who went to Syria to marry an ISIS terrorist in 2015 at a time when the group’s online recruitment program lured many impressionable young people to its self-proclaimed caliphate.

Speaking to Britain’s Sky News from Syria, where she has been living in a refugee camp, Begum said she didn’t know what she was getting into when she left and wants to bring her baby back to Britain with her.

“I think a lot of people should have sympathy toward me for everything I’ve been through,” she said in an interview broadcast Sunday.

“I just was hoping that maybe for me, for the sake of me and my child, they let me come back, the young woman said. “Because I can’t live in this camp forever. It’s not really possible. I don’t want to take care of my child in this camp because I’m afraid he might even die in this camp,” she said.

Begum said she had been only a “housewife” during her time with ISIS.

Shamima's sister holds her photo
Renu, the eldest sister of Shamima Begum, holds her sister’s photo while being interviewed by the media at New Scotland Yard, London, on Feb. 22, 2015. (Laura Lean/PA Wire/Getty Images)

“I never did anything dangerous. I never made propaganda. I never encouraged people to come to Syria. So they’d only have proof I didn’t do anything that is dangerous,” she said.

She added she had been “OK” with beheadings carried out by ISIS because she had heard it was allowed under extremist law.

News about Begum and her desire to go back to Britain has ignited a debate in the UK about how to deal with citizens who joined ISIS and want to leave Syria now that the terrorist group is on the verge of collapse.

While it is unclear whether Begum committed any crimes, many have focused on her apparent lack of remorse. In the earlier interview with The Times, Begum said she did not regret her decision to join the terrorists.

3 teens going to Syria
A combination of stills taken from CCTV on Feb. 23, 2015, issued by the Metropolitan Police. (L-R) Kadiza Sultana, Shamima Begum, and Amira Abase going through security at Gatwick Airport, south England, before catching their flight to Turkey. (Metropolitan Police via AP)

Her legal situation remains uncertain; she could face charges for supporting ISIS if she returns to Britain.

Two days before the baby’s birth was announced, Begum’s relatives in Britain said they were “shocked” by her comments but thought she should be brought back and dealt with by the British justice system.

“The welfare of Shamima’s unborn baby is of paramount concern to our family, and we will do everything within our power to protect that baby, who is entirely blameless in these events,” the family had said.

The family said it is concerned about Begum’s mental health and characterizes her as having been groomed by ISIS.

families of runaway jihadi schoolgirls
The families of Shamima Begum and Amira Abase pose for a portrait after being interviewed by the media at New Scotland Yard, London, on Feb. 22, 2015. (Laura Lean/PA Wire/Getty Images)

Will Begum Be Allowed Back?

The British government has stepped up efforts to block ISIS affiliates from returning to the UK on the grounds that they pose a threat.

In cases of individuals involved in combat operations and who may have committed atrocities, the UK government has used a controversial new power to deprive them of British citizenship. In 2017, the new legal authority was used to strip 104 people of their British citizenship, compared to 14 people in 2016.

The government said stripping citizenship is “particularly important in helping prevent the return to the UK of dual-national British citizens involved in terrorism-related activity in Syria or Iraq.”

The power has also been extended to lower-level extremists and criminals, including Rochdale grooming-gang members.

However, the UK government draws a distinction between people who have actually fought under the banner of ISIS and those who joined the terror group as supporters.

British Security Minister Ben Wallace was reported by the BBC as saying that while the government might consider in the case of jihadi brides—understood to fall into the latter category—the British government would consider helping them to come home.

He noted, however, that they would face the possibility of prosecution and a jail sentence for supporting a terrorist group.

Wallace said, as cited by The Telegraph, “The message is to all the people out there. If you have been out there against the advice of the foreign office to go and engage in support or activities of terrorism, you should be prepared to be—if you come back—questioned, investigated, and potentially prosecuted for committing terrorist offenses.”

The Epoch Times reporter Tom Ozimek contributed to this report.

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