An East London schoolgirl who left the UK in 2015 to join the Islamic State was located in Syria, where there is no regret about joining the group. Now she wants to go home because she is nine months pregnant.
19-year-old Shamima Begum said she had fled the last jihadist enclave in Baghuz, eastern Syria, tired of being on a battlefield and worried about her unborn child after the death of her other two children.
"I was weak," she told the Times from the al-Hawl refugee camp in northeastern Syria. "I could not stand the suffering and hardships that remain on the battlefield. But I was also afraid that the child I would give birth would die like my other children, if I stay. So I fled the caliphate. Now I just want to go back to the UK. "
She and two of her colleagues from the Bethnal Green Academy, Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, made headlines when they flew from Gatwick to Turkey in February 2015 and then entered Syria. Begum and Abase were both 15 years old while Sultana was 16 years old. They had told their parents that they would just go out all day.
The Guardian understands that the Begum family believes that the woman identified in the Syrian camp is Shamima.
Begum told the Times that she first settled in Raqqa, where she married a Dutch convert after three weeks. She said that life there alternated between normality and cruelty, adding that the sight of a "decapitated head" in a container would not have disturbed her.
"Mostly it was a normal life in Raqqa, occasional bombing and so on," she said. "But when I saw my first severed head in a garbage bin, that did not bother me at all. It was from a fighter captured on the battlefield, an enemy of Islam. "
She said that Sultana and Abase, along with another young woman, Sharmeena Begum, also from Bethnal Green – who had traveled to Syria two months before the trio and is not a relative of Begum – also married foreign Isis fighters.
Sultana is reported to have died in an air raid on Raqqa in 2016, and Begum confirmed this in an interview.
She reported contradictory about the so-called caliphate. "There was so much oppression and corruption that I did not think they deserved the win," she said. However, she added, "I do not regret coming here."
Begum said that her family had moved down the Euphrates Valley when Isis retreated and ended up in their last fortress, Baghuz. But after the death of her one-year-old daughter and her three-month-old son in recent months of illness and malnutrition, she decided to flee.
She left Baghuz two weeks ago on a three-mile corridor east of Baghuz. Her husband surrendered to a group of Syrian fighters allied with the Syrian Democratic Forces, and she did not see him again, according to the Times.
She said that Sharmeena Begum and Abase probably remained in Isis last fortress. "I heard from other women two weeks ago that they are still living in Baghuz," Shamima Begum said. "But with all the bombing, I'm not sure they survived.
"They were strong … I respect their decision. They demanded patience and perseverance in the caliphate and decided to stay behind in Baghuz. They would be ashamed of me if they survived the bombing and would fight to find out I had left. "
She added, "But I just want to come home to have my child. That's all I want now. I will do everything I can to get home and live peacefully with my child. "
The lawyer representing the family of Shamima Begum said she could return to the UK, and the terrorist campaigners should consider treating her as a victim.
Lawyer Tasnime Akunjee said, "I'm really grateful she's alive. Bernard Hogan-Howe, who served as police chief of the Metropolitan University, said the girls should be treated as victims unless there is evidence that they have committed crimes. I hope that will be honored.
"She has suffered a trauma and I hope she can come back and leave this behind. Anyone who has lost two children needs a lot of help. "
The question of the British who fled to the Isis-controlled area is a nightmare for the British authorities. For those involved in fighting and terrorism, officials realize that they do not want a return.
However, the problem of their relatives and partners is a more difficult problem. It is understood that the Scotland Yard Anti-Terrorist Commando investigated whether Shamima Begum had an activity that endangered British national security or constituted a criminal offense against which it could be charged in the United Kingdom.
Shamima Begum's rise, who is pregnant with her third child, places the Foreign Office at first in a dilemma as to whether she can receive consular support and possibly from the camp where the Times found her.
In the end, Home Secretary Sajid Javid would decide whether to return to Britain if Begum were free.
MI5 and MI6, the British intelligence and counter-terrorism police, will assess the danger they could pose if they decided to leave the UK and join Isis.