Should British authorities allow Shamima Begum to come home?
Ms. Begum, 19, doesn’t hail from a particularly radical family, but in 2014 the Islamic English schoolgirl found herself enraptured by online ISIS videos. She quietly fantasized about moving to Syria, marrying a dashing terrorist, having his babies, and helping to inflict genocide and destruction on all manner of infidels.
Then she followed through.
Bethnal Green Academy pupils Ms. Begum and Amira Abase were both 15, while Kadiza Sultana was 16, when they left the UK in February 2015. They flew from Gatwick Airport to Turkey after telling their parents they were going out for the day. They later crossed the border into Syria. After arriving in Raqqa, she stayed at a house with other newly arrived brides-to-be, she told the Times. “I applied to marry an English-speaking fighter between 20 and 25 years old,” she said. Ten days later she married a 27-year-old Dutch man who had converted to Islam. …
She has been with him since then, and the couple escaped from Baghuz — the group’s last territory in eastern Syria — two weeks ago. … Her husband surrendered to a group of Syrian fighters as they left, and she is now one of 39,000 people in a refugee camp in northern Syria.
Begum bet on a bright future for the Caliphate, and lost that bet. Now that ISIS is on the ropes and dwindling into irrelevance, Begum wants to return to England, and she’s got an ace up her sleeve: she’s nine months pregnant, so she
… want[s] to come home for her baby. … She said she’d had two other children who had both died.
The dilemma of whether to repatriate her becomes a little easier, perhaps, if you weigh Ms. Begum’s lack of introspection, much less regret. Sorry not sorry, she’s essentially telling those who ask.
Asked by Times journalist Anthony Loyd whether her experiences of living in the one-time IS stronghold of Raqqa had lived up to her aspirations, Ms. Begum said: “Yes, it did. It was like a normal life. The life that they show on the propaganda videos — it’s a normal life. Every now and then there are bombs and stuff. But other than that…”
She said that seeing her first “severed head” in a bin “didn’t faze me at all.”
“I’m not the same silly little 15-year-old schoolgirl who ran away from Bethnal Green four years ago,” she told Mr. Loyd. “I don’t regret coming here.”
Is the U.K. morally or legally obligated to welcome back an adult who is indubitably a traitor — someone who supported violence and terrorism against her own country and others, and who, by her actions, effectively renounced her British citizenship?
Her relatively young age and her pregnancy are complicating factors for sure, but things don’t look too rosy for Ms. Begum.
Security minister Ben Wallace said he could not comment on Ms. Begum’s case for legal reasons but said any Britons who had gone to Syria to engage or support terrorist activities should be prepared to be questioned, investigated and potentially prosecuted if they came back to the UK. … He added that while the UK had a duty of care to children of Britons in Syria, he also had a duty towards all UK citizens and would do what was “proportionate and necessary” to keep people safe.
Sir Peter Fahy, a retired senior police chief who led the Prevent terrorism prevention program at the time the girls ran away, said he could understand why the government was “not particularly interested” in facilitating her return. “If the woman was showing complete remorse, it would be completely different,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. It would cost a “vast amount of money” and the biggest challenge would be for local police to keep her safe and ensure she did not become a lightning rod for both right-wing extremists and Islamic extremists, he added.
It behooves Shamima Begum that she is concerned for her baby. Perhaps, with her consent, the infant could be given a good life by adoptive parents who can be relied upon to raise him or her in peace and prosperity. (By some measures, in the United States alone, there are 36 couples waiting for each child who is available for adoption.)
For Ms. Begum herself, my feelings are lukewarm at best. By her own volunteered admission, she is no longer “the same silly little 15-year-old schoolgirl who ran away” in 2015, after she’d brainwashed herself with ISIS propaganda. Nonetheless, four years on, she appears to have gained no perspective, no thoughtfulness, and no wisdom. More importantly, she literally offers no regret.
I can overlook such shortcomings in a 15-year-old. Should we not expect better from a tried-and-tested young woman of 19?
(Screenshot via YouTube)