A pregnant British schoolgirl who joined Islamic State in Syria says she does not regret fleeing the UK – but wants to come home so her baby can be looked after.
The girl, who says she is Shamima Begum, has revealed she is going to give birth to her baby “any day now”, having married a young Dutch IS fighter called Yago Riedijk three weeks after she arrived in Syria four years ago.
The 19-year-old fled the UK with two other friends, Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, from Bethnal Green in 2015, and said she has been living “a normal life” in the caliphate, interrupted by “bombing and stuff”.
“Every now and again there are bombs and that, but just a normal life,” she told The Times’ Anthony Loyd from the al-Hawl refugee camp in northern Syria where she is among 39,000 others who have fled fighting in the last IS bastion of Baghuz.
About 20,000 civilians, mostly IS families, were evacuated before the town of Baghuz, near the Iraqi border, came under siege last week by the coalition forces who have said it is the final “decisive” battle against IS.
Speaking confidently and seemingly without any fear for her situation, Begum said she had never seen an execution during her time with IS, “but I saw a beheaded head in the bin”.
“It didn’t faze me at all,” she added.
The trio of schoolgirls had followed another friend from their school, Sharmeena Begum, who fled to Syria in 2014.
Begum said when she arrived in Raqqa she was put in the “house for women”, where jihadist brides-to-be waited to be married.
“I applied to marry an English-speaking fighter between 20 and 25 years old,” she said.
She married Riedijk, from Arnhem, then shortly after her, Sultana married an American, Ms Abase an Australian and Sharmeena Begum a Bosnian.
Begum revealed that she has already given birth to two children, but they died of sickness aged eight months and 21 months, so she is now “overprotective” of her unborn baby.
Talking about losing her first two children, she said: “It came as a shock out of nowhere and was so hard.
“In the end, I just could not endure any more. I just couldn’t take it.
“I am scared this baby is going to get sick in this camp, that’s why I want to get back to Britain, because I know my baby will be looked after.”
Begum left Baghuz two weeks ago with her husband who surrendered to a group of Syrian fighters – and has not seen him since.
She said she had spoken to her mother recently.
“I said I wanted to leave and that I need help, that I needed her to support me if I came back to the UK,” she added.
“I know what everyone at home thinks of me as I have read all that was written about me online.
“But I just want to come home to have my child. That’s all I want right now. I’ll do anything required just to be able to come home and live quietly with my child.”
Begum confirmed that one of the friends who fled with her, Sultana, was killed after her house in Raqqa was bombed.
Sultana was believed to have been killed in the then IS-stronghold in May 2016, but it has never been confirmed.
Begum said: “Her house was bombed. Underground, there was secret stuff going on and a spy had figured out that something was going on and other people got killed as well.
“At first I was in denial. I thought if we died we’d die together. But now I have to think about my baby.”
Despite her friend and her two children dying, and seeing the oppressive nature of IS, Begum said she does not regret joining the terror group.
However, she does not believe it can now survive and was affected by the “oppression of innocent people” she experienced when her husband, shortly after their marriage, was arrested, charged with spying and imprisoned for six and half months.
“I don’t regret it [joining the caliphate], but when I saw underground oppression. It really hit me.
“There is so much oppression going on, I believe they don’t deserve victory.
“You have to remember these people believe that you kill the non-Muslims but you treat the Muslims good.
“My husband, while he was in prison, he told me ‘people were being tortured so badly that they were just going to admit to being a spy so they could kill me’.
She added that her husband, Daulat, “has actually killed Muslims”, and she has mixed feelings about him.