Shamima Begum left the United Kingdom in 2015 with two of her school friends to pursue a life they thought to be better; a life in Syria alongside Daesh fighters. She was one of roughly 850 British citizens that have joined Daesh. Upon her arrival, Shamima was soon married off to one of the men, becoming what some call “a Daesh bride.” Within that time, she had two miscarriages, and one live birth (she gave birth to her surviving child on February 16th, 2019).
Fast forward four years, she now lives in a refugee camp mostly inhabited by Daesh brides. Shamima is pleading to return to the U.K. in order to raise her son in a safe environment, a message she is disseminating through her interviews with various U.K.-based news outlets. Throughout those interviews, she initially did not seem to show any remorse for what happened, claiming that she was no more than a “housewife,” and had no hand in anything dangerous or destructive. However, over time her tone changed, and she expressed sorrow for the families of those who died horrific deaths at the hands of Daesh fighters and their followers.
“I don’t actually agree with everything they’ve done…I actually do support some British values and I am willing to go back to the U.K. and settle back again and rehabilitate and that stuff,” Shamima told BBC.
Why Become a Daesh Bride?
On one side of the coin, people have said that Shamima was too young to make such a rash decision by herself, and that she was certainly groomed and brain-washed. Others have said that she was old enough.
What rendered Shamima so misguided that she felt a life as a Daesh wife would be the more favorable choice?
What remains unquestioned, however, is what factors caused this 15-year-old girl to decide that running away to join Daesh was a preferable option over whatever she had in the United Kingdom? What rendered Shamima so misguided that she felt a life as a Daesh wife would be the more favorable choice?
Surely, something had her disillusioned. Maybe those propaganda videos created by Daesh lured her to believe her life would be better with them? She wouldn’t be the first misguided and disillusioned young lady to run into the arms of a heinous group like Daesh.
As time goes by and Daesh may find themselves playing a significantly smaller role in the region as other groups pop up or more government military strikes occur. And with this, we will continue to see their fighters grasping at all the marbles they can to ensure the very little power they have withstands its’ opposition.
“Women and minors are poised to play a significant role in carrying on the ideology and organization of IS now that the caliphate has fallen, so it is essential that governments recognize these affiliates as two distinct groups who need their own unique responses,” said Shiraz Maher, the director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR).
According to the research carried out by the ICSR, between 2013 and 2018, 4,761 (13%) of 41,490 foreign citizens who became affiliated with Daesh in Iraq and Syria were women. Additionally, 4,640 (12%) were minors.
Specifically to the U.K., 850 British citizens were found to have become affiliated with Daesh in Iraq and Syria, including 145 women and 50 minors. Out of the 425 who returned to the U.K., only two women and four minors were confirmed. It’s important to note, however, that these statistics are believed to be underestimates owing to a lack of official government data.
In light of this research, the argument still stands: What was it about Shamima’s daily realities in the United Kingdom that made Daesh propaganda videos an acceptable alternative reality to her? Shamima has stated that she thought the beheading videos put out by Daesh were alright because that type of behavior was Islamically acceptable. Where did this twisted depiction of Islam come from, and how did it reach Shamima?What was it about her Islamic education that made her believe these heinous acts were alright? These are vital questions that need answers, and yet, no one is asking them to begin with.
We need to give our ummah the right Islamic guidance in order to ensure that we don’t have our girls (or guys for that matter) fall victim to the lies and propaganda put out by Daesh.
No matter which side of the argument one falls under, one thing is for certain: It is extremely important that we empower the young women of our ummah to understand that life’s happiness is not dictated by anyone other than Allah (SWT). We need to give our ummah the right Islamic guidance in order to ensure that we don’t have our girls (or guys for that matter) fall victim to the lies and propaganda put out by Daesh.
We need to have these tough, yet important conversations about faith with our loved ones. We cannot leave their Islamic education in the hands of those who may seek to prey on our vulnerable youth on YouTube and underground websites. We need space for more complex conversations about the radicalization of young people, rather than solely relying on a good or evil dichotomy. And even more importantly, we have to remember about the children that these young ladies are bringing into the world. What happens to them? Do they remain in an environment that will ultimately condemn them to a life sentence of danger and uncertainty?
But even before we can answer any question related to Shamima’s baby, we are still left with the haunting question of how she was ever persuaded in falling into Daesh propaganda in the first place? She was only 15! As is to be expected, many people have taken to Twitter to express their opinion on this matter.
One user said: “I’m sorry but Shamima Begum not being allowed back into the UK is absolutely brilliant news… About time this government showed some f*****g backbone.”
Another user said “Shamima Begum has been made stateless through her British citizenship being revoked. Great – bet you all feel that much safer. Know this though – if they’re willing to do that to a 19 year-old and her baby, they can do it to anyone.”
People are divided on whether she should be allowed back into the U.K., with some even calling for her death.
Stateless and Nowhere to Go
So what did the U.K. do? The British government decided to revoke Shamima’s citizenship, leaving her and her newborn son stateless and in a dire situation.
Yes, Shamima should face the consequences of her actions, whatever they might be. However, her son is now in danger of not receiving adequate health care, or even having a stable life because of his mother’s (and father’s) choices.
While it’s fair to assume citizens of the U.K. would have fears to have someone wants to return after running into the arms of Daesh fighters, they really are up in arms for no reason since the British government already denied her re-entrance. This may be the price she will have to pay. No doubt, she did wrong – but we need to understand why she made these decisions for many reasons; but most importantly, to ensure that this never happens again to a young girl. And then there is the question of babies being born out of these unlikely unions: What will happen to them? They are the truly innocent ones. This is the conversation we really need to be having – and yet, we are not. It seems that this more sympathetic dialogue is reserved exclusively for white male shooters.