British teen Shamima Begum who married ISIS fighter has fled Syrian camp, lawyer says

Begum (above) has been moved from Al Hawl due to safety concerns around her and her baby, it is said.
Begum (above) has been moved from Al Hawl due to safety concerns around her and her baby, it is said.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (NYTIMES) - Shamima Begum, the 19-year-old Briton who married an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighter four years ago and recently asked to be allowed to return home, has been forced to move from her place in a Syrian refugee camp with her newborn after receiving threats, her family's lawyer said on Friday (March 1).

British media outlets reported that Begum may have been moved to another refugee camp closer to the border with Iraq.

But in a phone call on Friday afternoon, the lawyer, Tasnime Akunjee, said: "We don't know where she has been moved to. We don't know if it's within the camp or to another one."

The new development adds to the uncertainty surrounding a case that has split opinion in Britain. Some Britons have said that Begum was so young when she left to join the extremists that she deserves a chance at rehabilitation. Others have called for her never to be allowed back in Britain again.

The British newspaper The Sun was the first to report the threats against Begum in Al Hawl refugee camp in northeastern Syria, to which she fled several weeks ago from the last remaining village held by the ISIS in Syria.

She later told a reporter that she wanted to return home to East London. Since then, she has been in limbo.

The British government told her family it intended to revoke her citizenship, a move that appeared to rest on shaky legal footing and drew condemnation from some Labour and Conservative members of Parliament.


Anger at Begum has run so deep in some quarters that a shooting range in northwestern England offered targets with her superimposed image. In a statement, the shooting range said it had done it to allow people "to have some lighthearted fun".

Begum had given birth to her baby boy in Al Hawl refugee camp. She left Britain at age 15 with two classmates from the Bethnel Green neighbourhood to join ISIS, and soon married a Dutch fighter.

The Sun on Thursday quoted Akunjee as saying: "I can confirm that it is our understanding that Shamima has been moved from Al Hawl due to safety concerns around her and her baby. We further understand that indeed she and her child had been threatened by others at the Al Hawl camp."

The nature of the threats was not clear. The Sun suggested she had been threatened partly because she had been improperly veiled and had shown her face in televised interviews.

"I've been getting death threats, and I'm only the family's lawyer," Akunjee said on Friday. "Imagine what she must be involved with."

He said he was working on flying to Syria to try to meet with the teenager.

Begum previously said that conditions in the camp were difficult but "OK," and that they were certainly better than in Baghuz, the village from where Begum and thousands of others have fled in recent weeks. Baghuz is the last speck of land under ISIS control in Iraq and Syria. (President Donald Trump said on Thursday that the village had been captured, but reports from the battlefront suggested that was not the case.)

"I get fed and I have a heater, but it's kind of difficult going around doing stuff yourself, especially now I have a child," Begum said of Al Hawl.

She said that caring for her child was a strain without money, but added: "I'm not starving. I have a roof over my head, whereas before I was sleeping outside."

Begum's family has said it is considering ways of challenging the British government's decision to try to revoke her citizenship. The government's decision apparently rested on its belief that she could claim Bangladeshi citizenship because her mother has a Bangladeshi passport.

But the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh has said she would not be allowed into the country and that she had been "erroneously identified" as a Bangladeshi national.

Some members of Parliament from both the Labour and Conservative parties have been sharply critical of the home secretary, Sajid Javid, for trying to rescind her citizenship, saying that she had become radicalised in Britain and should be allowed to return home to face any consequences.

Begum has said that she does not regret going to Syria, but that she did little more in the country than take care of her husband and children. She has said that she lost two children - an eight-month-old son and a daughter who was nearly two - to illness and malnutrition in the months before she fled ISIS territory.