Shamima Begum says she'd 'rather die than go back to IS' as she begs for forgiveness on GMB
Shamima Begum has begged the British public for forgiveness, saying there is “no evidence” she was a key player in preparing terrorist acts.
The 22-year-old, who fled her east London home for Syria as a 15-year-old schoolgirl, said she wanted to be brought back to the UK and face terror charges in order to prove her innocence.
Begum’s British citizenship was revoked on national security grounds shortly after she was found, nine months’ pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019 – and now she cannot return to Britain to appeal against the removal.
Here is everything you need to know about her.
What did she say on Good Morning Britain?
On 15 September, Begum told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I am willing to go to court and face the people who made these claims and refute these claims, because I know I did nothing in IS (so-called Islamic State) but be a mother and a wife.
“These claims are being made to make me look worse because the Government does not have anything on me. There is no evidence because nothing ever happened.”
She said she would “rather die than go back to IS” and added: “The only crime I committed was being dumb enough to join IS.”
Asking for forgiveness, she said: “I know it’s very hard for the British people to try and forgive me because they have lived in fear of IS and lost loved ones because of IS, but I also have lived in fear of IS and I also lost loved ones because of IS, so I can sympathise with them in that way.
“I know it is very hard for them to forgive me but I say from the bottom of my heart that I am so sorry if I ever offended anyone by coming here, if I ever offended anyone by the things I said.
“I know there are some people, no matter what I say or what I do, they will not believe that I have changed, believe that I want to help.
“But for those who have even a drop of mercy and compassion and empathy in their hearts, I tell you from the bottom of my heart that I regret every, every decision I’ve made since I stepped into Syria and I will live with it for the rest of my life.”
In a direct plea to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Begum said: “I think I could very much help you in your fight against terrorism because you clearly don’t know what you’re doing.”
She added: “I want them (the British public) to see me as an asset rather than a threat to them.”
What did she say about the Manchester bombing?
Begum had previously compared the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing – in which 22 men, women and children died after homegrown jihadi Salman Abedi detonated a suicide bomb – to military strikes on IS strongholds, calling the terror attack “retaliation”.
But she clarified her comments on Wednesday.
She said: “I do not believe that one evil justifies another evil. I don’t think that women and children should be killed for other people’s motives and for other people’s agendas.”
Begum said she did not know that women and children were hurt in Manchester.
She said: “I did not know about the Manchester bombing when I was asked. I did not know that people were killed, I did not know that women and children were hurt because of it.”
Who is Shamima Begum?
Begum was 15 when she and two other east London schoolgirls from Bethnal Green travelled to Syria to join the so-called Islamic State group (IS) in February 2015.
She said she married Dutch convert Yago Riedijk 10 days after arriving in IS territory.
She told The Times in 2019 that her children, a one-year-old girl and a three-month-old boy, had both since died.
Her third child died from pneumonia in the al-Roj camp in March 2019, shortly after he was born. She previously told reporters her two other children died from malnutrition and disease.
What has she said about joining Isis?
In June 2021, she told journalist Andrew Dury she does not need to be rehabilitated if she returns to the UK - instead she claims that she wishes to help others.
Speaking during an interview at al-Roj prison camp in Syria - near the Turkish and Iranian border - she told Drury, reported in the Daily Mail, that she was “young and naive” when she took off for Syria.
She said: “I don’t think I was a terrorist. I think I was just a dumb kid who made one mistake.
“I personally don’t think that I need to be rehabilitated, but I would want to help other people be rehabilitated. I would love to help.”
She also made claims that she joined the Islamic State because she didn't want to be the “friend that was left behind” - in a documentary about her life in a Syrian refugee camp.
She told Drury that while she has been in Syria that she’s watched reruns of Friends and enjoys Kanye West’s music – and has been able to read about his marriage with Kim Kardashian.
Asked what she would say to those in the UK who do not want her to return, Begum said: “Can I come home please, pretty please?”
What happened to her friends?
Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana - her two school pals who she fled the UK with - were killed in the city of Baghuz, leaving Begum to tell their parents.
“Now I feel like I have no friends anymore, they were everything I had,” she told Drury for the Daily Mail.
Begum also revealed she wanted to kill herself when her three children died in Syria and begged Britain to give her a “second chance”.
She hopes British citizens will keep an open mind and gave Drury, a dad-of-four, an emotional farewell hug as he left the camp.
He went on to tell cameras that he had changed his mind about Begum being a terrorist and she should be allowed back into the UK - and serve time for her crimes.
He said: “This girl is a vulnerable 21-year-old who did something unbelievably stupid. It was a childish mistake from a 15-year-old.”
A version of this article originally appeared on our sister title, NationalWorld