Shamima Begum: I was ‘just a dumb kid’ when I joined Islamic State

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Former ISIS bride Shamima Begum pictured in Al-Roj prison camp in northern Syria - Andy Drury/ Magnus News 
Former ISIS bride Shamima Begum pictured in Al-Roj prison camp in northern Syria - Andy Drury/ Magnus News

Shamima Begum has said that joining the Islamic State in Syria was a mistake she made as a dumb kid in comments to a British filmmaker.

“I don't think I was a terrorist. I think I was just a dumb kid who made one mistake,” she said of her decision as a 15-year-old to run away from home in Bethnal Green, east London, to travel to Syria along with two school friends.

After marrying a Dutch ISIL fighter, Ms Begum gave birth to three children, all of whom died of illness. She finally fled the last holdout IS territory in 2019 and was found by a Times journalist in a detention camp holding IS supporters and affiliates in northeast Syria.

Ms Begum has since distanced herself from her actions, in particular comments she made in her first interviews in which she displayed little remorse for joining IS, by saying she was traumatised at the time.

“People need to understand the situation I was in at the time I was doing all those interviews,” the 21-year-old told Andrew Drury, a self-described “adventure tourist” who featured on the Netflix show Dark Tourist.

“I had just come out of a war zone. I had just lost two kids, I was pregnant. And I was afraid of all the women in the camp because I’d heard stories about them killing people."

Ms Begum chatting with filmmaker Andrew Drury - Andy Drury/ Magnus News 
Ms Begum chatting with filmmaker Andrew Drury - Andy Drury/ Magnus News
Ms Begum no longer wears a hijab as she did previously - Andy Drury/ Magnus News 
Ms Begum no longer wears a hijab as she did previously - Andy Drury/ Magnus News

Since she was first interviewed by a Times journalist in 2019, Ms Begum has remained an object of intense media scrutiny, with reports focusing on her dress and the fact that she no longer wears a veil.

While commentators have speculated on whether her dress could offer any indication of her mindset or religious beliefs, Ms Begum said her clothing choices were about making herself feel bettter.

“I wear these clothes, and I don't wear a hijab, because it makes me happy. And anything in this camp that makes me happy is like a lifesaver,” she told Mr Drury.

Ms Begum pictured in February 2019  - Sam Tarling 
Ms Begum pictured in February 2019 - Sam Tarling
Ms Begum, right, was 15 when she and two other east London schoolgirls travelled to Syria in 2015 -  Metropolitan Police
Ms Begum, right, was 15 when she and two other east London schoolgirls travelled to Syria in 2015 - Metropolitan Police

Despite her protestations that she was just a child when she made the decision to join ISIL, Ms Begum has become a symbol of the thorny issue of how the British government should respond to requests to repatriate their citizens.

Like at least a dozen other women, Ms Begum’s citizenship has been revoked, a decision she is challenging in the Supreme Court.

The government maintains that she poses an ongoing terror threat but Ms Begum said she did not believe she required deradicalisation.

“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 said.

Mr Drury, who is making a film called Danger Zone, did not say how he organised the interview.

Ms Begum pictured in Al -Roj camp when The Telegraph met her in March 2021 - Sam Tarling 
Ms Begum pictured in Al -Roj camp when The Telegraph met her in March 2021 - Sam Tarling

Ms Begum has previously turned down requests from journalists who have arrived at the camp unannounced, including the Telegraph, citing legal advice.

In footage of the interview published by The Daily Mail, the two chatted about the television series Friends, with Ms Begum saying she wished she could have watched a recent reunion special.

“I bet you were Joey,” Mr Drury said, asking her about her favourite character from the show.

“No, I was Chandler,” she replied.

Footage released by Mr Drury showed the two concluding their meeting with an embrace.

“Can I shake your hand,” Mr Drury asked, to which Ms Begum responded, “Can I give you a hug?”

Mr Drury said he believed Ms Begum should be repatriated to face justice in the UK.

"This girl is a vulnerable 21-year-old who did something unbelievably stupid. It was a childish mistake from a 15-year-old," he said, according to The Daily Mail.

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