Shamima Begum

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Person.png Shamima Begum  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Shamima Begum.jpg
Shamima Begum in 2015
15-year-old Briton who travelled to Syria to join ISIS in February 2015 in a British/NATO covert operation using Islamic groups that sought to topple the Syrian government.

Amira Abase, Shamima Begum and Kadiza Sultana are three British women who previously attended the Bethnal Green Academy in London before leaving home in February 2015 to join ISIS. According to the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, they were amongst an estimated 550 women and girls from Western countries who had travelled to join ISIS[1]—part of what some[2] have called "a jihadi, girl-power subculture".[3]


On 17 February 2015, Abase, Begum and Sultana flew via Turkish Airlines from Gatwick Airport in West Sussex to Istanbul.[4] Their families went to Turkey in March to probe the disappearance, deeming the police investigation inadequate.[5]

Their disappearance has been attributed to Aqsa Mahmood, a woman from Glasgow who joined ISIS in 2013. There have been electronic communications between the girls and Mahmood. Mahmood faces criminal charges if she returns.[6] Mahmood denies the allegations.[7]

In March 2015, footage was circulated of Abase Hussen, father of Amira Abase, on a 2012 rally led by Islamist preacher Anjem Choudary against the film Innocence of Muslims. The Metropolitan Police examined the footage but said that it was unlikely that offences had been committed.[8] Hussen said in April that he feels ashamed of his involvement in the rally, as he did not know who had organised it.[9]

The girls stole family jewellery to pay for their flight. At a 2015 Home Affairs Select Committee, then Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe stated that they would not face criminal charges if they returned to the United Kingdom.[10]


The disappearance resulted in the Metropolitan Police giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons on its circumstances in March 2015. The families of the girls received an apology from Scotland Yard, who did not tell them about Sharmeena Begum, the other girl from their school who went to Syria in 2014.[11]

British Prime Minister David Cameron has said that police should not be made "scapegoats" for people joining ISIS.[12] Contrary to the stance of the Metropolitan Police, Cameron said:

"Whoever has gone out to join a terrorist organisation is breaking the law and has to face the consequences of breaking the law and we have to let the law take its course in the proper way".[13]

In March 2015, a travel ban was imposed upon five girls from the Bethnal Green Academy due to concerns from social services that the girls attend the same school as the three who had already joined the group, stating that it was in the public interest.[14]

The teenagers have not made contact with their families since May 2016. Shamima Begum was reported to have married an American jihadist recruit who left her once she became pregnant, whilst Sultana is said to have married a western ISIS fighter with Somali heritage, but wanted to return to the UK after he was killed in battle. Shortly afterwards she was killed in a Russian airstrike.[15] Sultana's family in a phone interview with ITV in August 2016 said that they believed her to have died in an airstrike in May 2016 at the age of 17 while planning to escape.[16][17] The lawyer who represents the family of the teenagers Tasnime Akunjee told ITV that she became too scared of making an escape attempt after another girl Samra Kesinovic was beaten to death for trying to escape.[18] Abase married an 18-year-old Australian jihadist, Abdullah Elmir in July 2016 who was reported by Australian intelligence agencies to have been killed in coalition airstrikes. After the teenagers married foreign jihadists, they moved into the homes of their new husbands in ISIS' de facto capital Raqqa.[19]

Interviewed by Times' journalist

In February 2019, The Times journalist Anthony Loyd found Shamima Begum in a Syrian refugee camp. When interviewed, Begum revealed that she was pregnant and hoped to return to the UK to raise her child, but does not regret her decision to join ISIS. She was unfazed by the head of a beheaded man as he was "an enemy of Islam", but believes that ISIS did not deserve victory because of their corruption and oppression.[20] When asked if she would be extracted from Syria, Security minister Ben Wallace claimed:

"I'm not putting at risk British people's lives to go and look for terrorists or former terrorists in a failed state."[21] On 16 February, Shamima Begum gave birth to a boy.[22]

Shamima Begum was again interviewed by BBC correspondent Quentin Sommerville. During the interview, Begum asked for forgiveness and claimed that she still supports "some British values". She said she was inspired to join ISIS by videos of fighters beheading hostages and also of "the good life" under the group. However, Somerville noted that she continues to espouse the ISIS ideology and justifies its atrocities. When asked about the Manchester Arena bombing, she claimed it was wrong to kill innocent people but justified it as retaliation for the coalition bombing ISIS-held areas. When questioned about the rape, enslavement and murder of Yazidi women she claimed:

"Shia do the same in Iraq".[23]

On 20 February 2019, UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced that an order had been made with the intention of stripping Begum of her UK citizenship. Should the order be confirmed she would be stateless, though eligible for Bangladeshi citizenship.[24][25]

Appeal dismissed

Apparently wanting to return to Britain and help the government fight terrorism,[26] Shamima Begum appealed against the Home Secretary's ruling.

On 23 February 2024, Dame Sue Carr, Lady Chief Justice of England and Wales, said the Judges unanimously dismissed Begum’s appeal:

“It could be argued that the decision in Miss Begum’s case was harsh.
“It could also be argued that Miss Begum is the author of her own misfortune. But it is not for this Court to agree or disagree with either point of view.
“Our only task is to assess whether the deprivation decision was unlawful. We have concluded it was not and the appeal is dismissed.”[27]


Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Did Canadian taxpayers foot Islamic State’s recruitment billArticle5 November 2015Tony GoslingPieces in the secret service puzzle, such as how the girls were persuaded to get on the flight to Istanbul and how Canadian intelligence knew where and when they would be arriving remain unanswered. And this systematic failure of London’s media to report the key facts in this story begs the question: why have we not been told the full story?
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  2. Thomas Hegghammer, an expert on Islamist militancy affiliated with the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment
  15. | archivedate = 2018-07-01
  24. Begum: IS teenager to lose UK citizenship
  25. "Shamima Begum case: I have one citizenship, says IS bride"
  27. "Shamima Begum loses appeal against removal of British citizenship"
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