Shamima Begum was a minor when she travelled to Syria but she must face the consequences of her actions

19th February 2019

This is a cross post from SEDAA by Tehmina Kazi

Of all the reprehensible things said by jihadi bride Shamima Begum in her notorious Times interview, what sticks out the most is her callous indifference to seeing “severed heads in bins” in ISIS territory, “because they were enemies of Islam.”

In a follow-up interview with Sky News, she admitted that she knew of this aspect of ISIS’ practice even before she left for Syria in 2015 as a 15-year-old, alongside her school friends Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana.  In her own words on beheading, “from what I heard, Islamically that is all allowed. So I was okay with it.”

Nineteen-year-old Begum has been living in ISIS territory for the last four years, between Iraq and Syria, and has just given birth to her third child in a Syrian refugee camp (her first two children died of malnutrition).  Her husband, a Dutch-born convert, is currently being held captive.

So how did she end up here?  In February 2015, Begum fled her home in Bethnal Green, where she, Sultana and Abase were straight-A students at the Bethnal Green Academy.  They lied to their parents about attending a wedding, sold family jewellery they had stolen, and paid more than £1,000 each to travel to Turkey, where they were eventually smuggled across the Syrian border.  The plan was to meet Sharmeena Begum (no relation), a fellow 15-year-old and former classmate who had fled to Syria and ISIS in December 2014.

Many commentators have emphasised the fact that Shamima Begum and her friends were groomed to join this barbaric death cult — and since ISIS have used female propagandists to offer practical advice and a Utopian vision of the Islamic State, this may have played a role.

But by all accounts, peer pressure and the friendship bond between the four girls was a much bigger factor in their decision to go to Syria.  Sharmeena Begum had been deeply unhappy following the death of her mother and her father’s remarriage, and played a key role in convincing her friends to join her.

Social services recognised this, albeit too late for the four, and in March 2015, a High Court judge barred five other girls from the Bethnal Green Academy from travelling abroad.

The marriages of these teenage girls have also been scrutinised for signs of pre-travel exploitation.  And while supposedly “halal” teenage sex and romance was part of the draw for girls like Begum — even now, she says, “I married my husband. I wouldn’t have found someone like him back in the UK” — the actual marriages were not decided upon until the girls set foot in Syria.

Begum may have been a minor when she travelled to Syria to join ISIS.  But it would be a grave mistake to use this fact to excuse her actions, or to assert that she should face no consequences for them.  The age of criminal responsibility in the UK is 10.  Her actions, as described above, actually show high levels of agency and co-ordination.

If she manages to come back to the UK as she now wishes — and I believe she only wants to return because of the death of her first two children, her husband being held in captivity and the failure of the ISIS Caliphate — her newborn son should be taken into care and she must be investigated and prosecuted.

Read the rest, here