British ISIS bride gives birth in Syrian refugee camp, wants to return home

London, PTI | Updated : 18 February 2019, 07:38 AM
Photo for representational purpose only
Photo for representational purpose only

A pregnant British girl of Bangladeshi descent who fled to join Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria as a 15-year-old schoolgirl in 2015 has given birth to a baby boy in Syria. Shamima Begum, now 19, was traced in a refugee camp in Syria by a war reporter, who found her heavily-pregnant with her third child and keen to leave the war zone for the safety of her unborn child. Her family on Sunday said they had been informed that the child has now been born. Their lawyer released a statement saying the family had been told Begum gave birth on Saturday to a boy and that mother and son were doing well.

"They are obviously very happy and joyous that Shamima has successfully given birth and that she's healthy," Mohammed Tasnime Akunjee, the family's lawyer, told BBC. But he added that following the death of Begum's two children before this, the family were "very concerned" about the baby's health and wanted both her and the child to return to the UK.

He insisted that the baby was "no threat" and that legally Begum should be allowed to return as a British citizen. "But in the end, she will have to answer for her actions," UK culture secretary Jeremy Wright said in connection with the case.

"So, I think it is right that if she's able to come back to the UK that she does so, but if she does so she will do it on the understanding that we can hold her to account for her behaviour thus far," the Cabinet minister said. Fellow Cabinet minister, UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid, had earlier said that he would everything in his power to ensure Begum faces full interrogation in the event that she is allowed back into the UK.

"I'm not the same silly little 15-year-old schoolgirl who ran away from Bethnal Green four years ago. I don't regret coming here," Begum told 'The Times' in an interview from Syria earlier this week. "I really want to get back to Britain because I know it (unborn child) will be taken care of - health-wise, at least. I'll do anything required just to be able to come home and live quietly with my child," she said.

Begum was a student of Bethnal Green Academy in east London alongside Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana when the three teenagers hit the headlines in February 2015 as on-the-run jihadi brides - women who choose to marry Islamist extremists to bear them children to carry on the fight. The girls flew from Gatwick Airport near London to Turkey after telling their parents they were going out for the day and later crossed the border into Syria.

After arriving in Raqqa, Begum recalls staying at a house with other newly-arrived jihadi brides-to-be. The jihadi bride was married off to Yago Riedijk, 27, a Dutch convert to Islam, 10 days after arriving in the city of Raqqa in 2015.

In her interview from the refugee camp in Syria, she talked about losing two babies - one to malnutrition and the other to illness - an experience she says was a big shock. With her third pregnancy at its final stages, she said it was her concern for her unborn child that led to her decision to leave Baghuz, the last ISIS stronghold.  

First Published: Monday, February 18, 2019 07:38 AM
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