Jim Allister: Jihadi teen who fled UK should only return in handcuffs
A British schoolgirl who fled her home to join Islamic State should only be allowed back into the UK “in handcuffs”, a unionist MLA has said.
Shamima Begum gave an interview from a refugee camp in northern Syria saying she wanted to come home.
She was one of three schoolgirls, along with Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, from Bethnal Green Academy in east London who left the UK in February 2015.
She told The Times she does not regret her actions, adding: “I’m not the same silly little 15-year-old schoolgirl who ran away from Bethnal Green four years ago.”
Ms Begum was married 10 days after arriving in Raqqa in 2015 to a Dutchman who had converted to Islam.
Now 19, she said she was nine months pregnant with her third child. Her other two children have died.
Security minister Ben Wallace has ruled out launching a rescue mission to Syria, saying he will not put British lives at risk to “go and look for terrorists or former terrorists”.
His comments were echoed by TUV leader and barrister Jim Allister, who said the Ms Begum should “face the consequences of her actions”.
The North Antrim MLA told the News Letter: “If she comes back to the UK it should be in handcuffs. She doesn’t even seem to have any appreciation for what she did.
“I don’t think the UK should be a welcome place for her.”
Former solider turned Ulster Unionist politician Andy Allen also felt that Ms Begum should not be “welcomed back with open arms”.
The East Belfast MLA added: “Certainly there will be very justifiable public concerns that anyone who has chosen to leave the UK to live in a territory controlled by murderous fanatics such as ISIS, may subscribe to beliefs that are incompatible with our British values of tolerance and freedom.
“The fact that this individual has no regrets for having gone and displays a complete lack of empathy is also very concerning.
“The Government has a duty to ensure the safety of the public, and therefore needs to robustly investigate what crimes this person may have committed whilst living with ISIS and prosecute if necessary.
“A clear message should be sent out that you cannot chose to go and join the ranks of a terrorist group and expect to be welcomed back with open arms.”
Ms Begum and the other two schoolgirls flew from Gatwick Airport to Turkey and later crossed the border into Syria.
Another girl, Sharmeena Begum, also from Bethnal Green but not related to Shamima, had travelled to Syria two months earlier.
Ms Sultana was reported to have been killed in an air strike in 2016.
Shamima Begum said she had recently heard second-hand that the other two girls may still be alive.
“In the end, I just could not endure any more,” she said.
“I just couldn’t take it.
“Now all I want to do is come home to Britain.
“Mostly it was a normal life in Raqqa, every now and then bombing and stuff.
“But when I saw my first severed head in a bin it didn’t faze me at all. It was from a captured fighter seized on the battlefield, an enemy of Islam. I thought only of what he would have done to a Muslim woman if he had the chance.”
The couple left Raqqa in 2017 and two weeks ago they escaped from Baghuz, IS’s last territory in eastern Syria.
Ms Begum’s husband surrendered to a group of Syrian fighters, while she is now one of 39,000 people in a refugee camp in the north of the country.
Security minister Mr Wallace said: “Everyone who returns from taking part in the conflict in Syria or Iraq must expect to be investigated by the police to determine if they have committed criminal offences, and to ensure that they do not pose a threat to our national security.”