Manchester mother and law graduate travels to ISIS Territory in Syria with her five children to reconcile with husband, but escapes, describing the jihadists as “not my cup of tea.”
Shukee Begum, a 33-year-old from Manchester, said she left Britain in an attempt to persuade her husband, Jamal al-Harith, to come home. A former Guantanamo Bay detainee, al-Harith joined Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Syria 18 months ago.
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Speaking to Channel 4 News from the Syrian border with Turkey, Begum said she was denied permission to leave Syria and was forced to use people smugglers to secure her return. She said she wants to return to the UK, but is worried about reaction from authorities.
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“I would love to go back to the UK,” she said. “The UK is my home. I grew up there, my friends are there, my family are there.”
“That is where I consider to be home but I am just not sure at the moment of the track record of the current government, if the UK is somewhere I can come back to and achieve justice.”
She explained that she took her children to Syria in an attempt to show al-Harith what he was missing in the UK.
“I was seeing on the news at this point that ISIS was going from bad to worse…so I decided that I was going to try and speak some sense into him,” she said.
“He’s my husband, and all of a sudden he’s not there. It didn’t feel like home anymore. I was trying to manage school runs, things like that.”
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“I was thinking about the children’s futures. Was he part of it? Will he come back? All these things go through your mind.”
“For me to take the children to see him and then come away from there, that would have been more powerful than anything else I had to say to him at the time,” Begum continued.
She described life under Islamic State law, explaining that she stayed in a safe-house in Raqqa, the caliphate’s de-facto capital.
Begum said the fighters were instilled with a “gangster kind of mentality,” and would talk about “war” and “killing.”
“They would sit together and huddle around their laptops and watch ISIS videos together and discuss them and everything. It was just not my cup of tea.”
Begum also sent a warning to other women who might consider joining the extremist group.
“This is what I want to make clear as well, to other women thinking of coming into ISIS territory – that you can’t just expect to come into ISIS territory and then expect that you can just leave again easily,” she said.
“There is no personal autonomy there at all.”
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