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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

‘I was groomed’: Shamima Begum insists she ‘didn’t hate Britain’ when she fled to Syria

Shamima Begum has claimed she was groomed by friends and older men online before fleeing to Syria to join Islamic State, as she insisted she “didn’t hate Britain”. 

Begum, now 22, left her east London home to join the terror group as a 15-year-old schoolgirl six years ago.

She is challenging the Government’s decision to revoke her British citizenship and said accusations she was involved with terrorism activities are “all completely false”.

Begum, who married a jihadist fighter and had three children, all of whom died, has now issued a fresh plea to stand trial in a British court. 

Speaking from a detention centre in north east Syria, she insisted she “didn’t hate Britain”, when she fled her Bethnal Green home but hated her life as she felt “very constricted”.

Addressing accusations about her activities with IS, she told Sky News: “I’m willing to fight them in a court of law but I’m not being given a chance.”

Begum is among around 900 British nationals who travelled to Syria to join or fight for Isil, including dozens of so-called “Jihadi brides”.

She claimed she was groomed for “weeks and weeks and maybe even months and months”, before leaving, adding: “It wasn’t just a decision I made very quickly, it was a decision I thought about for a while.”

‘I felt very constricted’

“I didn’t hate Britain, I hated my life really,” she said. “I felt very constricted, and I felt I couldn’t live the life that I wanted in the UK as a British woman.”

She went on: “I feel like the only crime I committed was coming here so I would be willing to go to prison for that.  But for the accusations against me, I’m just going to have to fight against them.”

The British government argues Begum poses a security risk so should be kept out of the UK. Membership of a proscribed terrorist organisation carries a prison term of up to 14 years.

In February, Begum lost her legal battle to return to Britain and appeal the 2019 decision to strip her of her British citizenship, when the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the UK government.

Begum remains in the al-Roj refugee camp in Syria, which she said has become a “more scary” place to live in, and said she found “hell on earth” when she fled to the country. 

She said: “For a long time it wasn’t violent but for some reason it’s become more scary to live here. Maybe the women have got tired of waiting for something.”

She said that she would like to reconcile with her family “when the time is right”, and insisted: “I don’t think they failed me, in a way I failed them.”

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