Shamima Begum, the 19-year-old woman who fled the UK to join ISIS four years ago, has made a case to return to the UK. She has claimed in an interview with Sky News that “a lot of people should have sympathy for [her]”and has seemingly taken on a position of victimhood in order to return.
It is pretty clear that Ms Begum is not quite selling herself in the media, despite using her position as a mother and blaming her young age of 15 when she fled to Syria as prime reasons why she should be allowed to return. After watching a few interviews with her, it is clear she does not seem remotely remorseful and does not understand the extremity of her actions. She claimed she “does not regret” joining IS and that she “had a good time there”, a pretty unusual thing to say when trying to persuade the UK government to allow her to return from a terrorist organisation.
It is very easy for people to call Shamima Begum ignorant for going to Syria in the first place, but we must acknowledge the immense targeting and propaganda that brainwashed her into believing ISIS could provide her with a better life than the UK. Despite this, she claims she knew of the beheadings before she decided to join, and was convinced by videos circulating online, not targeted grooming.
I took to twitter and ran a poll to see what the public’s position on Ms Begum’s return was, and the result was pretty staggering. In just a few hours, 85 people responded to the vote, with 89% sayings she should not be allowed to come back to the UK. Even within the mere 11% who said she should be allowed back, most based their answer on the fact that UK law entitles her to return, but that does not mean she should be free from prosecution.
MP for Wigan Lisa Nandy explained this on BBC Question Time last Thursday; because Ms Begum only has citizenship in the UK, she is entitled by UK law to return, but it does not mean she is free from repercussions. After being classed as potentially dangerous Ms Begum responded to this saying “they have no evidence” of her doing anything dangerous, and that she was just a housewife in Syria. The home secretary has warned Ms Begum that “if you back terror, there must be consequences”, making the point that Ms Begum does not seem to grasp that simply supporting IS makes you compliant with their actions.
Whether or not Shamima Begum is allowed to return to the UK resides in the hands of the government. I think the real issue here is what steps are the government going to take to ensure people like Ms Begum are not enticed by ISIS in the future.