Government issues ultimatum to British Isil recruit: 'your kids can come back but only without you'

Katie O'Neill
A woman holding a child by the hand walks by at the Kurdish-run al-Hol camp for the displaced in the al-Hasakeh governorate in northeastern Syria - AFP

The government has taken its first steps towards repatriating the children of Isil recruits on the condition that their mother agrees not to accompany them back to the UK.

The government is to “urgently investigate” if it can repatriate four British children who are currently residing in a Syrian refugee camp.

Mehak Aslam has been in the camp with her four children for nearly a year while her husband, Shahan Choudhury, is detained in a nearby prison. The couple has been stripped of their British citizenship. Choudhury is a former Isil gravedigger.

The father of east London-born Mehak, Mohammed, said the government has offered to repatriate his grandchildren. He has encouraged his daughter to sign papers facilitating the children’s repatriation without her. 

If the children are brought back, it could pave the way for dozens of British-born children in Syrian refugee camps to be returned to the UK. 

There are an estimated 60 British-born children trapped in Syrian camps.

Shahan has admitted to burying so-called Islamic State fighters before the collapse of the caliphate. 

 “That’s a hard reality but at least they’ll be safe here - at least they’ll be safe and secure,” said Mohamed Aslam, the children’s maternal grandfather, in an interview with ITV News.

Mr Aslam said he hoped his daughter would eventually be returned to Britain “for the sake of the children” but he said it is the children that are now his priority.

He says he would be willing to care for the four children himself, but added “every child needs their parents no matter how much love and affection we can offer.”

His first grandchild and the children’s sibling was killed in an explosion in Syria and Mr Aslam said he fears for the family’s safety while they remain in the Syrian camp. 

Mr Aslam said he places blame on his daughter and son-in-law for the death of his granddaughter. 

“She passed away - I can never forgive them (her parents) for that. I find it very hard to accept what they’ve done. They wanted to take this step for themselves - that’s fine, that’s their problem. Why involve the kids in this?”

“We’ve lost one, I hope we don’t lose any more. And for that I’m angry - I’m angry with my daughter and son-in-law.”

Shahan Choudhary’s brother, Shuahan, said his brother was radicalised by notorious hate preacher Anjem Choudary while serving an 18-month sentence in Belmarsh on remand before being acquitted. 

After his release, Shahan would go to Anjem’s sermons, according to his brother. 

“He would go to take lessons and stuff like that.

“I saw him on TV as well. I forgot what it was about but there was a protest going on. He was there, Anjem Choudary was there.”

“After I saw that I approached him - I had a word with him. I tried to tell him, basically, Anjem Choudary is not the right person you should be going to to learn Islam off because the way this guy talks, he’s got a lot of venom.”

A Foreign Office spokesperson did not comment on the specifics of the case but said: “Every request for consular assistance is considered on a case by case basis. Decisions take into account all relevant considerations including nationality, national security and feasibility.”