A British-born woman who ran away to join the Islamic State in Syria is now saying she would rather live in the safety of a United Kingdom prison than continue living in a Syrian refugee camp.
After reporters for the Daily Mail tracked Shamima Begum down at a Syrian refugee camp, she said she was no longer the impressionable 15-year-old she was when she left home four years ago with her friends Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana. Now Begum is begging to return to the U.K.
Begum, who was born in the U.K. to Bangladeshi parents, left her hometown of alongside Abase and Sultana, and flew into Turkey before crossing over the border into the ISIS-controlled areas of Syria.
Within 10 days of her arrival to ISIS territory, Begum was reportedly married off to an ISIS fighter named Yago Riedijk. Riedijk himself was a Dutch-born Muslim convert.
Begum also reportedly became part of the ISIS Hesba morality police. The Hesba was in charge of maintaining ISIS standards for dress and moral behavior and reportedly enforced its codes through beatings and torture.
Begum is also alleged to have helped sew explosive vests for suicide bombers and participated in the efforts to recruit other young women to join ISIS.
Following her marriage to Riedijk, Begum reportedly had three children, all of whom died in a five-month span due to disease and malnourishment.
Begum was first discovered at the Al Hawl internment camp, among other ISIS brides and children fleeing the fall of the last major Syrian ISIS stronghold in Baghuz, which fell to U.S. backed forces in March of this year.
In her first comments to media after being discovered in the refugee camp, Begum reportedly said she did not regret joining ISIS and even said the sight of a severed human head did not bother her in the least.
After an apparent change of heart, Begum wondered if she could find a way out of the refugee camp. While the government of Bangladesh said she would be hanged for her actions, a rumor began that the U.K. government had facilitated a way back to Britain under a new identity, but those rumors were later disproven.
Her renouncement of ISIS, a group she now says she hates, necessitated her removal from the Al Hawl camp, which is populated by some 70,000 ISIS family members according to the Daily Mail. Others who have expressed a falling out with ISIS have reportedly been tortured and killed and the camp’s own Kurdish guards have been attacked.
Begum said her initial statements of continued support for ISIS were only a ploy when she first entered Al Hawl, to win favor with other ISIS family members from whom she feared reprisal.
She also dismissed claims she was in the Hesba as “bullshit” and said she spent many months of her time in the ISIS caliphate waiting at home for the return of her husband, who she said was imprisoned on suspicions of spying.
She said she has tried to use a phone in the camp to call home to her family but they won’t talk to her.
According to Breitbart News, Begum may have some hope in the prospect of the UK Labour party winning over political control, and UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has already voiced support for her repatriation.
Still, Begum has told the Daily Mail she has lost the friends she ran away with to Syria and she is lonely and “in a really bad way” in regards to her mental health.