Shamima Begum says ‘I was a dumb kid’ and pleads for UK return

·3-min read
Shamima Begum, right, on CCTV at Gatwick Airport as she fled in 2015 (PA)
Shamima Begum, right, on CCTV at Gatwick Airport as she fled in 2015 (PA)

Shamima Begum has said she was a “dumb kid” when she fled the UK to join Isis as a 15-year-old and would love to help others rehabilitate if she was allowed to return home.

The 21-year-old former Bethnal Green schoolgirl was speaking during an interview at al-Roj prison camp in Syria, where she remains stripped of her British citizenship.

She told journalist Andrew Drury in the Daily Mail: “I don’t think I was a terrorist. I think I was just a dumb kid who made one mistake.

“I personally don’t think that I need to be rehabilitated, but I would want to help other people be rehabilitated. I would love to help.”

Dressed in Western clothes with a Nike baseball cap, lipstick and big sunglasses, she explained why she stopped wearing traditional Islamic dress: “I wear these clothes, and I don’t wear a hijab, because it makes me happy. And anything in this camp that makes me happy is like a lifesaver.”

Ms Begum even gave her opinion on the recent Friends reunion hosted by James Corden saying: “I wish I could’ve watched that! But I heard it was not very good anyway.”

She said she has been watching Friends re-runs– “sarcastic” Chandler is her favourite character–and following the latest news of Kanye West’s divorce from Kim Kardashian, from the camp.


Ms Begum was 15 when she and two other east London schoolgirls travelled to Syria to join the so-called Islamic State group (IS) in February 2015.

“I knew it was a big decision but I just felt compelled to do it quickly. I didn’t want to be the friend that was left behind,” Ms Begum has previously said.

In the latest interview, in the Daily Mail, she begged the UK to let her back home and gave Andrew Drury, who starred in Netflix’s Dark Tourist, an emotional farewell hug.

He told cameras: “We were about to say goodbye and I didn’t know the protocol because, bear in mind, she is there as a terrorist,” he said. “I went to shake her hand and she started to cry and said to me, ‘Can I have a hug?”

He added: “This girl is a vulnerable 21-year-old who did something unbelievably stupid. It was a childish mistake from a 15-year-old.”

Asked what she would say to those in the UK who do not want her to return, Begum said: “Can I come home please, pretty please?”

The Supreme Court ruled that Ms Begum cannot return to the UK to pursue an appeal against the removal of her British citizenship.

Ms Begum’s British citizenship was revoked on national security grounds shortly after she was found, nine months’ pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019.

She said she married Dutch convert Yago Riedijk 10 days after arriving in IS territory.

She told The Times in 2019 that her children, a one-year-old girl and a three-month-old boy, had both since died.

Her third child died in the al-Roj camp in March 2019, shortly after he was born.

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