Saturday 24 March 2018

Islamic State was 'not my cup of tea' says British woman who went to Syria

Shukee Begum says she went to Syria to find her husband who had left Britain to fight for ISIS
Shukee Begum says she went to Syria to find her husband who had left Britain to fight for ISIS

David Kearns

A mother-of-five who travelled to Syria with her children to join her husband fighting for Islamic State described the experience as “not my cup of tea”.

Shukee Begum (33) claims she fled ISIS after failing to convince her partner Jamal al-Harith, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who left Britain 18 months ago, to leave the group.

She says she now fears returning to the United Kingdom because she could face terrorism charges for her time with the jihadist group.

“I would love to go back to the UK,” the 33-year-old told Channel 4 News.

Read More: Iran sends fighters to Syria to support Assad's battle preparations for Aleppo

“The UK is my home. I grew up there, my friends are there my family are there. That is where I consider to be home but I am just not sure at the moment of the track record of the current government if the UK is somewhere I can come back to and achieve justice.”  

The law graduate from northern England insists she only travelled to convince her husband to return and never supported the ISIS, who have carved out regions of control in Iraq and Syria.

“I was seeing on the news at this point that ISIS was going from bad to worse… So I decided that I was going to try and speak some sense into him.”

Read More: Thousands of Iranian troops 'arrive in Syria' to join Assad for Aleppo offensive

Ms Begum said she lived in an overcrowded hall in the city of Raqqa with dozens of other women and children kept, many “crying” and “sick”.  

“There was a gangster kind of mentality among single women there. Violent talk, talking about war, killing,” Ms Begum said.

“They would sit together and huddle around their laptops and watch ISIS videos together and discuss them and everything. It was just not my cup of tea.

Shukee Begum took her five children with her to Syria
Shukee Begum took her five children with her to Syria

After she was reunited with her husband, who refused to help her leave, ISIS authorities would not allow her to go, the 33-year-old Begum added.

She said that she wanted other women to know about the reality of life in Isis controlled territory.

Read More: Turkey suspends police, intelligence, security chiefs after bombing

“This is what I want to make clear as well to other women thinking of coming into ISIS territory — that you can’t just expect to come into ISIS territory and then expect that you can just leave again easily.

“There is no personal autonomy there at all.”

Ms Begum travelled from Manchester to Syria with her children to find her husband but months after joining him she and her children aged nine, seven, five, three and 11 months, fled Isis-controlled territory and were held for a time by smugglers in Syria’s war-torn city of Aleppo.

Read More: Turkey focuses on home-grown Islamic State cell in deadly Ankara bombing

Speaking about the reasons why she left the UK to join her husband, she said: “He’s my husband and all of a sudden he’s not there.

"It didn’t feel like home any more. I was trying to manage school runs, things like that. 

“I was thinking about the children’s futures. Was he part of it? Will he come back? All these things go through your mind.”

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