Shamima Begum is 'traumatised', says her lawyer as he likens Isil bride to a First World War soldier

Gareth Davies
Shamima Begum believes people should have 'sympathy' for her - PA

The Isil bride who travelled to Syria to marry a terrorist is "traumatised", according to her lawyer, who likened his client to a First World War soldier. 

Shamima Begum, 19, flew to the Middle East four years ago to join the terror group. There, she married a Dutch-born fighter with whom she had three children. 

Her two eldest children have died, but she gave birth at a refugee camp in northeastern Syria on the weekend and now wants to return to Britain. 

In an interview over the weekend, Begum said that people should be feeling sympathy for her, and her lawyer Tasnime Akunjee defended her attitude. 

He told ITV's Good Morning Britain on Monday: "I think it's difficult to take what she's saying in the current circumstances and try to draw from the lack of emotion that she has. 

"She's a traumatised person. She finds herself in a camp and was clearly quite attached to her husband, it would seem, and suddenly he's not by her side."

When confronted with the fact Begum does not seem traumatised and instead appeared to be composed, Mr Akunjee said: "You might've said the same thing about a World War One soldier in the middle of shellshock."

Presenter Richard Madeley said this comparison was "a bit of a stretch", to which Mr Akumjee responded:  "It's a warzone. They're both warzones."

Lawyer Tasnime Akunjee Credit: Emrah Gurel/AP

The teenager, who gave birth to a baby boy on the weekend, appeared to defend the Manchester Arena bombing as tit-for-tat retaliation for air strikes in Syria. 

In an interview with the BBC, she said the deaths of 22 innocent people in the terrorist attack at an Ariana Grande concert in 2017 were akin to the "women and children" being bombed in Isil territory in Baghuz.

She told the broadcaster: "I do feel that it's wrong that innocent people did get killed. It's one thing to kill a soldier that is fighting you, it's self-defence, but to kill the people like women and children...

"Just people like the women and children in Baghuz that are being killed right now unjustly, the bombings. It's a two-way thing really.

"Because women and children are being killed back in the Islamic State right now and it's kind of retaliation. Like, their justification was that it was retaliation so I thought 'OK, that is a fair justification'."

She was partly inspired by videos of fighters beheading hostages and partly by other propaganda films showing the "good life" IS could offer.

The Begum's family lawyer, Mr Akunjee, said he understood some of the responses to her pleas for sympathy.

He told BBC Breakfast: "The family have gone out of their way from day one to try to get her away from the Isil narrative and the context which she finds herself in.

"She's been there for four years and we would be surprised if she hadn't been further damaged beyond the degree she had already been groomed into.

"The family are concerned, as they have been for the last four years, not just to get her away, but, as of yesterday, to make sure that their grandchild - her child - is not influenced by that sort of thinking."

Mr Akunjee said he anticipated that Begum would probably face criminal proceedings upon any return to the UK, but said it was the family's hope that she would be given professional help following her experience in Syria.

Begum was one of three schoolgirls, along with Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, from Bethnal Green Academy who left the UK for Syria in February 2015.

Ms Sultana was reported to have been killed in an air strike in 2016, while the other two are reported to still be alive.

'Show me some sympathy', says Isil bride after giving birth

The British schoolgirl who ran away to join Isil has appealed for public sympathy following the birth of her son, as a row intensifies over whether she should be allowed to return to the UK.

Shamima Begum, 19, went to Syria in 2015 and was discovered there in a refugee camp last week, heavily pregnant and insisting she wanted to go home.

The birth of her child over the weekend prompted calls for the baby to be subject to care proceedings should Begum be able to return from Syria, as it emerged that the Family Division of the High Court had presided over cases involving at least 150 children deemed at risk of radicalisation in the last five years.

In an interview with Sky News recorded at the Kurdish-controlled camp to which she fled from the last pocket of Isil-controlled territory, Begum said there was "no evidence" she had done anything wrong and she could not see "any reason" why her child should be taken from her when she had simply been living as a housewife.

Speaking just hours after giving birth, her baby at her side, she said she had no regrets about fleeing the family home in Bethnal Green, east London, to support Isil, claiming the experience had made her "stronger, tougher".

Shamima Begum's Dutch-born husband Yago Riedjik

She said she could see a future for herself and her son, whom she has named Jarah after one of the two children she lost to malnutrition and disease in the last three months, "if the UK are willing to take me back and help me start a new life again and try and move on from everything that’s happened in the last four years".

She added: "I wouldn’t have found someone like my husband [Yago Riedijk, 26, a Muslim convert from the Netherlands] in the UK. I had my kids, I had a good time there."

Her other children, Jarah and Surayah, a daughter, died aged 18 months and nine months. Asked how she felt about the debate over whether she should be allowed to return home, Begum said: "I feel a lot of people should have sympathy for me, for everything I’ve been through.

"I didn’t know what I was getting into when I left, I just was hoping that maybe for the sake of me and my child they let me come back. 

"I can’t live in this camp forever. It’s not really possible."

In the interview, Begum apologised for the first time to her family for running away, and said that though she knew it was "like a big slap in the face" for her to ask after she had previously rejected their calls for her to return, "I really need their help".

Tim Loughton, deputy chairman of the home affairs select committee, said he thought it "extraordinary" that Begum was asking to come back while showing "not a scintilla of regret".

The Conservative MP added: "My own feeling is in line with most others, that she has made her bed and should lie in it. But the law must prevail and we are probably going to have to let her back"

"However, I think her child should be subjected to care proceedings due to the threat of radicalisation."

He said a forthcoming report by the Henry Jackson Society disclosed that the Family Division of the High Court had presided over cases involving at least 150 children deemed at risk of radicalisation in the last five years.

Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, said last week that he would "not hesitate" to prevent the return of anyone who supported terrorist organisations abroad.

He reiterated his stance in a Sunday newspaper article, expressing compassion for any child born or brought into a conflict zone, but stating that the safety and security of children living in this country had to be the priority.

Jeremy Wright, the Culture Secretary and former Attorney General, said Britain was "obliged" to take back British citizens. 

However, he added: "That doesn’t mean that we can’t put in place the necessary security measures to monitor their activities. It doesn’t mean either that we can’t seek to hold them to account for their behaviour thus far.” 

He said the nationality of Begum’s baby was a "difficult question", but the pair’s health was the most pressing matter. "In the end she will have to answer for her actions," he added. "So I think it is right that if she’s able to come back to the UK that she does so on the understanding that we can hold her to account for her behaviour thus far."

Ms Begum said she was attracted to Isil by videos that she had seen online, which she said showed "how they’ll take care of you".

She said she knew that the group carried out beheadings, but that she "was OK with it at first. I started becoming religious just before I left and from what I heard Islamically that is all allowed".

"At first it was nice," she said of life in the so-called Islamic State. "It was how they showed it in the videos, you know, you come, make a family together, but then things got harder. 

"We had to keep moving and moving and moving. The situation got fraught." Begum acknowledged that it would be "really hard" to be rehabilitated after everything she had been through.  

"I’m still in that mentality of planes over my head, emergency backpacks, starving... it would be a big shock to go back to the UK and start again," she said.

Writing in The Sunday Times, Mr Javid said that decisions about what to do with potential returnees had to be made on a case-by-case basis, based on the "facts of each case, the law and the threat to national security".

He added: "I think about the children that could in future get caught up in dangerous groups if we don’t take a firm stance against those who support them… And that means sending a message to those who have backed terrorism: there will be consequences."

His comments were described as "sick" by Ms Begum’s lawyer on Sunday. Mr Akunje told Radio 4’s The World This Weekend: "We are talking about a newborn baby who poses no risk or threat to anybody, [who is] not even cognitive, and yet he’s speaking about a child who’s a British citizen in terms of a security threat."

Mr Akunje suggested that the birth of Begum’s child increased pressure on the British authorities to allow her to return home.

He also revealed that Begum’s family has struggled to make direct contact with her and is now considering the possibility of getting out to Syria themselves.

Her family has indicated that if she is jailed for supporting a terrorist group, they want to step in and raise her son themselves.

Begum names boy after Islamic warlord, historian says

Quoting Sunday's Telegraph story on Twitter, leading historian Tom Holland accused Begum of having "the moral self-awareness of a brick". 

He said that the Isil bride's baby boy has been named after Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah - a general from the early days of the Arab conquests chiefly famed for beating infedels. 

Begum said she named the boy after one of her other two children who have since died in Syria. 

But Mr Holland said it was the name her husband took after converting to Islam, insisting it was a deliberate glorification of Islamic brutality. 

Cressida Dick hits back at claims Met failed 

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner has hit back at claims that officers failed to stop another runaway schoolgirl on the same flight as a 15-year-old arrested as she attempted to flee the UK to join Islamic State (IS).

Cressida Dick said it was "incredibly complicated" and difficult to know about somebody's intentions, and claimed the schoolgirls - Sharmeena Begum and another unnamed passenger - were in fact on separate flights as the latter was pulled from the runway at Heathrow in December 2014 when she sought to get to Syria.

The Times newspaper said the 15-year-old was arrested but not prosecuted, despite officers finding extremist material on her devices.

Asked about the flight to Istanbul, on which both Sharmeena Begum and the unnamed 15-year-old were said to have been passengers en route to Syria, Ms Dick told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "I think it was actually a different flight and I think the question that's being asked is whether we were able to pass on sufficient information and understand well enough what these three girls were intending.

"The truth of the matter is it's incredibly hard to know what somebody's intending.

"The moment we informed the school about the girl who came off the flight, we did not know these girls were intending that, they were merely witnesses and we were talking to them as witnesses. These things are incredibly complicated.

"We try to stop people from travelling when we knew they were travelling with ill-intent."

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