Shamima Begum

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Shamima Begum
Born1999/2000 (age 19–20)
ResidenceSyria (as of 2019)
  • United Kingdom (revoked February 2019)
  • Bangladesh (disputed)
  • stateless (from February 2019, disputed)
Yago Riedijk (m. 2015)
Children3 (all deceased)

Shamima Begum (born c. 2000) is a British-born woman who left the UK in February 2015, aged 15, to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria. Her intention to return to the UK in February 2019 resulted in a public debate about the handling of returning jihadists.


Begum was born in the UK to parents of Bangladeshi heritage.[1][2] She lived in the London area of Bethnal Green where she attended the Bethnal Green Academy.[3] Together with her friends Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana, she left the UK in February 2015, at the age of fifteen. The trio travelled via Turkey, to join the jihad in Syria.[4][5]

Shortly after her disappearance, Begum's family hoped to learn that she and her school friends had only travelled to ISIL territory to bring back their friend Sharmeena Begum (no relation), who had travelled there in 2014.[6]

Ten days after arriving in Syria, she married Dutch-born Yago Riedijk, who had converted to Islam and arrived in Syria in October 2014.[7][8][9] (This marriage may not be recognised under Dutch law given she was underage at the time.[10]) She had three children. The elder two died. Her youngest child was born in a refugee camp in February 2019 and, in March 2019, reportedly had died of a lung-infection.[11][12]

Anonymous sources told The Daily Telegraph that Begum served in ISIL's "morality police", and also tried to recruit other young women to join the jihadist group.[13] She was allowed to carry a Kalashnikov rifle and earned a reputation as a strict enforcer of ISIL's laws, such as dress codes for women. Additionally, an anti-ISIL activist told The Independent that there are separate allegations of "Begum [stitching] suicide bombers into explosive vests so they could not be removed without detonating."[14]

Intended return[edit]

On 13 February 2019, The Times' war correspondent Anthony Loyd found Begum at the Al-Hawl refugee camp, in what one newspaper described as "scoop of the decade".[15] When interviewed, Begum revealed that she was nine-months pregnant and hoped to return to the UK to raise her child, but did not regret her decision to join ISIL. She said she had been unfazed by seeing the head of a beheaded man as he was "an enemy of Islam", but believes that ISIL did not deserve victory because of their corruption and oppression.[16] When asked if she would be extracted from Syria, Security Minister Ben Wallace said, "I'm not putting at risk British people's lives to go and look for terrorists or former terrorists in a failed state."[17] Three days after Loyd found her, Begum gave birth to a boy.[11]

Begum was interviewed by BBC correspondent Quentin Sommerville on 18 February. During the interview, Begum asked for forgiveness and claimed that she still supports "some British values". She said she was inspired to join ISIL by videos of fighters beheading hostages and also of "the good life" under the group. However, Sommerville noted that she continues to espouse the ISIL ideology and justify its atrocities. When asked about the Manchester Arena bombing, she claimed it was wrong to kill innocent people, but that ISIL deemed it justified as retaliation for the coalition bombing of ISIL-held areas. When questioned about the rape, enslavement and murder of Yazidi women she claimed, "Shia do the same in Iraq".[18]

The following day, UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced that an order had been made with the intention of stripping Begum of her British citizenship.[19] The UK government contends that she holds, or is eligible for, citizenship of Bangladesh.[20] There have been reports that immigration lawyers confirm this position.[19] The Government of Bangladesh, however, stated that Begum does not hold Bangladeshi citizenship and will not be allowed to enter the country.[2][21][22]

British law does not allow that an individual is made stateless and Begum will have the right to appeal the Home Office's decision to revoke her UK citizenship.[19] Javid's decision was criticised by Begum's immediate family members, who sought to stop it through legal methods, but her brother-in-law Muhammad Rahman urged the public to support the government decision. He said: "The information they have is to the best of their ability and the British people should support it".[23] Shamima Begum said that she might consider applying for Dutch citizenship.[24][25]

On 24 February, her father Ahmed Ali said, "If she at least admitted she made a mistake then I would feel sorry for her and other people would feel sorry for her, but she does not accept her wrong." Shamima Begum reacted by stating that she regretted speaking to the media and claimed the UK is making an example out of her.[26]

Begum's lawyer claimed on 1 March that Begum and her son were moved from a Syrian refugee camp and relocated to another after threats against her were made.[27]

On 3 March, Yago Riedijk, her ISIL husband, was interviewed by the BBC and claimed that he wishes to return to the Netherlands alongside Begum.[28] The Dutch government stated that they do not plan to help repatriate him or reunite his family.[29]

On 8 March, it was reported that spokespeople for the Syrian Democratic Forces had confirmed that Begum's son Jarrah, whose imminent birth had apparently motivated her desire to return to the UK, had died in hospital the previous day. The cause of death was given as pneumonia in the medical certificate.[12] Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, and human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, criticized the UK government's decision to block Begum's return to the UK for her son's death.[30]

A government spokesman said that, "The death of any child is tragic and deeply distressing for the family". Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt reiterated the position given by Ben Wallace on the risk of sending officials to recover her, and stated, "Shamima knew when she made the decision to join Daesh, she was going into a country where there was no embassy, there was no consular assistance, and I'm afraid those decisions, awful though it is, they do have consequences," but he also stated that the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development are trying to rescue ISIL brides and the decisions to withdraw citizenship from individuals were based on evidence.[31]

On 15 April 2019 it was reported that Begum had been granted Legal Aid—financial assistance for those unable to pay for legal representation—to fight the revocation of her British citizenship. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt described the Legal Aid Agency's decision as "very uncomfortable", but said that the UK is "a country that believes that people with limited means should have access to the resources of the state if they want to challenge the decisions the state has made about them".[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Isis bride Shamima Begum 'is a problem for Britain, not Bangladesh'". Metro. 19 February 2019. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  2. ^ a b "IS bride 'is not Bangladeshi citizen'". 21 February 2019. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  3. ^ Mohdin, Aamna (14 February 2019). "Let Shamima Begum come back, say Bethnal Green residents". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  4. ^ Walton, Gregory (23 March 2015). "Isil defector girls' families go to Turkey to probe disappearance". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  5. ^ Barrett, David (10 March 2015). "Three 'Jihadi brides' from London who travelled to Syria will not face terrorism charges if they return". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  6. ^ "Syria girls: Families 'cannot stop crying'". BBC News. 22 February 2015. Archived from the original on 24 October 2018. Retrieved 7 April 2015. She said Shamima had been 'upset' after a friend from her school left for Syria and said the family was hoping the girls had 'gone to go and bring her back'.
  7. ^ Evans, Sophie (16 February 2019). "Shamima Begum's middle-class terrorist husband who 'plotted atrocity in Europe'". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  8. ^ "Schoolgirls who feld home to join Isis are feared dead by their families". Evening Standard. 6 August 2017. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  9. ^ Crime Correspondent, David Brown, Arnhem | John Simpson (15 February 2019). "Shamima Begum's Dutch husband is convicted terrorist". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  10. ^ "IS bride 'should live in Holland' - husband". 3 March 2019. Retrieved 15 April 2019 – via
  11. ^ a b Addley, Esther; Boffey, Daniel (21 February 2019). "Shamima Begum's family hope to bring her baby to UK". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  12. ^ a b "Shamima Begum: IS teenager's baby son has died, SDF confirms". 8 March 2019. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  13. ^ Mendick, Robert (8 April 2019). "Shamima Begum was a cruel enforcer in ISIL's morality police - witness said". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  14. ^ Lizzie, Dearden (8 April 2019). "Shamima Begum 'was member of feared ISIL morality police' in Syria". The Independent. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  15. ^ Twitter, James Walker (14 February 2019). "Times website and app break on day it secures 'major scoop' on London schoolgirl who joined ISIS". Press Gazette. Retrieved 9 March 2019.
  16. ^ Loyd, Anthony (13 February 2019). "Shamima Begum: Bring me home, says Bethnal Green girl who left to join Isis". The Times. Al-Hawl, Northern Syria. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  17. ^ Walker, Amy; Wintour, Patrick (14 February 2019). "UK will not put officials at risk to rescue Isis Britons, says minister". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  18. ^ "'I didn't want to be IS poster girl'". 18 February 2019. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  19. ^ a b c "What is Shamima Begum's legal status?". BBC News. 21 February 2019. Retrieved 24 February 2019. Shamima Begum - the schoolgirl who fled London to join the Islamic State group in Syria - has been stripped of her UK citizenship after expressing a desire to return.
  20. ^ "IS teenager to lose UK citizenship". 20 February 2019. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  21. ^ "Shamima Begum: Moment Islamic State bride learns she's not going home to Britain". Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  22. ^ Dearden, Lizzie (20 February 2019). "Bangladesh says Isis bride Shamima Begum is not a citizen and 'nothing to do with us'". The Independent. Retrieved 24 February 2019. Shamima Begum is not a Bangladeshi citizen and cannot enter the country, its government has said, meaning the UK has made her stateless.
  23. ^ Mellor, Joe (20 February 2019). "Brother in law of Isis bride Shamima Begum has backed the government decision to strip her of her citizenship". The London Economic. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  24. ^ "'ISIL bride' Shamima Begum says she might seek Dutch citizenship". Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  25. ^ ITV News (20 February 2019), Shamima Begum interview: The moment IS bride learns she's lost UK citizenship | ITV News, retrieved 21 February 2019
  26. ^ "Shamima Begum's father 'doesn't have problem' with daughter's citizenship being removed". The Independent. 24 February 2019. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  27. ^ Weaver, Matthew; Parveen, Nazia (1 March 2019). "Shamima Begum moved after threats in Syria camp, says lawyer". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  28. ^ "IS bride 'should live in Holland' - husband". 3 March 2019. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  29. ^ "Jihadi Yago Riedijk 'will not be allowed to live with his family in Netherlands'". 4 March 2019. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  30. ^ Martin Chulov, Nazia Parveen, Mohammed Rasool (8 March 2019). "Shamima Begum: baby son dies in Syrian refugee camp". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 March 2019. Following news of the boy’s death, the shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, also criticised Javid’s decision. She tweeted: 'It is against international law to make someone stateless, and now an innocent child has died as a result of a British woman being stripped of her citizenship. This is callous and inhumane.'CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  31. ^ "Not safe to rescue IS bride's baby - Hunt". BBC News. 10 March 2019. Retrieved 10 March 2019.
  32. ^ "IS teen gets legal aid for citizenship case". BBC News. 15 April 2019. Retrieved 15 April 2019 – via