In her own words: What Shamima Begum knew. What she has said.
What did Shamima Begum actually know before joining ISIS?
Shamima Begum is back in the news. To refresh your memory, Shamima Begum is a British-Born Muslim that left the UK in 2015, then aged 15 to join the Islamic State in Syria. She was dubbed an “ISIS bride” by the media and since then there’s been constant debate about whether she should be allowed to return to the UK.
Narratives about her being “groomed” and “trafficked” have also been pushed. But what is the reality of the situation? What has she said in her own words that may go some way to explaining her motivations? And just how much did she know about what she was getting herself into?
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Before I get into that, it may be worth a brief digression about her citizenship. In 2019 the Home Secretary revoked her British citizenship , essentially making it impossible for her to return to the UK. I believe it’s still open to legitimate debate as to whether this was the correct, moral decision.
People would attempt to make this an issue of race—claiming she was only stripped of her citizenship because she isn’t white. Seemingly, they hadn’t noticed the case of Jack Letts—a white British-Canadian that joined ISIS and also had his British citizenship revoked as a consequence. In comparison, it’s peculiar how little fanfare there was in his defence.
On one hand, I understand the necessity and utility of such an emphatic ruling regarding her citizenship. At a time when we were essentially at war with a terrorist group whose agents were carrying out regular acts of terror across Europe, we needed to let those willing to join our enemy know that they couldn’t just pop over to Syria, violate every human right on the planet, then jump on a plane back to England and enjoy all the rights and comforts they had denied others.
Also, bringing them to justice for their crimes would be an incredibly complicated, expensive and difficult task given that most of the evidence would be strewn across Syrian battlefields. In short, to let them return could be to risk letting them get away with some of the most vile crimes against humanity.
Personally, I think on principle, the right decision would have been to bring Begum home and make her face the justice system in the UK. I say this because I believe she is a problem created in the UK and therefore should be dealt with by UK authorities.
The Syrian people have suffered under her enough. And I suspect were a Syrian national to travel to the UK and commit acts of terror, we would want to invoke the right to strap them into a seat on the next plane back to Syria, post-haste.
You can hear a brief clip of me talking about this on a podcast with a counter-extremist expert in 2020. And as you will hear, although I make my position for her return on principle, I don’t feel the urge to campaign for it too passionately:
Over the years, Islamist interest groups and useful idiots on the left have tried to create a narrative about an innocent teenager that was groomed and tricked into leaving England, crossing the Turkish border and unexpectedly finding themselves part of a murdering, raping, slave-taking death cult. She is the victim here, basically—with no idea what she was getting herself into.
But as you will see, Shamima Begum knew exactly what she was getting into. She joined ISIS at a time when reports of their barbarism were making the headlines daily. In fact, this barbarism formed much of their propaganda and recruitment drive in the West. And in the years that followed her initial journey to Syria, Shamima Begum was happy to make unambiguous statements of support for ISIS’ barbarity and terrorist attacks against British citizens.
What she has said, what she knew, what she did.
In 2019, she told the BBC she joined ISIS after watching their propaganda. She confirms this included videos of beheadings when she says:
“Not just the beheading videos, the videos they show of families in the park you know, the good life.”
Who wouldn’t overlook the odd beheading when in search of “the good life”?
She was more direct on this point, also in 2019, aged 19, when asked if she knew that ISIS carried out beheadings before she left to join them in Syria. Her response?:
“Yeah, I knew about those things and I was okay with it. From what I heard, that Islamically, that is allowed, so I was okay with it”
Also, aged 19, she was asked what she thought of the Manchester Arena bombing. The suicide bombing attack that was carried out in my home city of Manchester in May 2017 killing 22 concert goers, the majority of which were teenage girls attending an Ariana Grande concert. Shamima Begum said she thought it was “Justified”.
According to intelligence reports, Shamima Begum was alleged to have stitched suicide bombers into explosive suicide vests. She was also reported to be a strict enforcer in the ‘morality police’, carrying a rifle and imposing harsh sharia conditions on others.
Yet, a narrative has taken hold that something bad has happened to her rather than her choosing to make exceedingly bad things happen to others. As though she was sold lies rather than wholeheartedly buying into a truth.
Shamima Begum is not the victim here. And whatever your view on her citizenship woes our compassion would best be reserved for the people of Syria that lived and died under the raping, slave-taking, murdering death cult that she willingly joined, supported and allegedly participated in.
We can talk about the role indoctrination, her age and upbringing played in her poor decisions, sure. But these absolutely were her decisions. Let’s please stop pretending she was somehow duped by a misrepresentation of what ISIS had to offer her. She found exactly what she expected to find when she arrived. What she didn’t expect was for the whole thing to fall apart so quickly and be forced to demand a return flight to a country whose citizens she considers fair game for suicide attacks.
There’s also something deeply nauseating about Islamist groups and useful idiots on the left co-opting the word “grooming”. The word “grooming” earned significant power in the British consciousness due to the thousands of underaged girls raped in places like Rochdale, Rotherham and Telford by ‘Asian grooming gangs’—crimes largely ignored or denied by the aforementioned useful idiots and Islamists. Yet oddly, the issue of ‘grooming’ becomes remarkably easy for them to spot in the context of one young terrorist.
We need to stop asking what is owed to people like Shamima Begum and instead ask what responsibility she had to a country that gave her every opportunity and freedom in life.
The latest flurry of excitement in conspiracy and terror-apologist circles was provided courtesy of the news story “Spy for Canada smuggled school girl to Syria”.
This so-called “revelation” had many—including a Labour MP—making some extraordinary claims in response:
It’s worth noting the fact that this is the first time this Labour MP appears to have tweeted anything about “grooming”. It's remarkable how Labour MPs will not speak up for the thousands of groomed and raped underage girls in their own constituencies, but somehow find their voice for a terrorist in Syria.
According to Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy (and many others) Shamima Begum was actually “trafficked” at either the instruction or approval of Western authorities. Oh, and this fact was then purposely covered up by the British government. A remarkable conspiracy theory with wide-reaching implications if true. But is it? Of course not.
First thing to note is that Shamima wasn’t “trafficked” in any meaningful sense of the word. She willingly bought tickets for a commercial flight to Turkey and willingly sought the means to cross the border into Syria with the specific goal of reaching ISIS territory. Which she accomplished.
What did happen however, is that the person guilty of smuggling Begum (and many others) over the Turkish border was also moonlighting as an informant for Canadian authorities—sending them images of passports belonging to those heading into ISIS territory.
And this isn’t even new information, as Simon Cottee notes in his Unherd piece:
Mohammed al-Rashed, a people-smuggler who worked for Isis, helped Begum and her two schoolmates, Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, cross from Turkey into Isis-controlled territory in Syria shortly after they flew from London to Istanbul on 17 February, 2015…
…al-Rashed had photographed the girls’ passports and sent the images to his handler with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) at the Jordanian embassy. But by the time the handler had received news of the girls’ travel, it was too late — they were in Syria…
This revelation about Begum is not actually all that revelatory: The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation ran a story on it in March 2015. But it didn’t attract much interest at the time…the BBC and Begum’s legal team and her apologists want to change that, refocusing the story on how Begum was trafficked and how the West had a hand in it.
A British journalist source working in the media told me directly:
“I spoke to a colleague who knows more about this than anyone else in the UK. He was laughing derisively at the ridiculous conspiracy theories. Canadian intelligence had a people-trafficker who was an informant—a valuable informant about what was happening in the caliphate. As simple as that. It’s hardly surprising a people-trafficker was open to taking money for information”.
So in conclusion, a criminal people-smuggler with a side-hustle as an informant helped Begum cross the Turkish border. And now Begum’s legal team, along with the help of Islamists and their useful idiots wish to spin this into a narrative of victimhood and child-trafficking. Don’t let them.