Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 June 2019

Former MI6 director says Shamima Begum should be allowed home

Richard Barrett said she should be considered as “a 15-year-old who went badly off the rails”

A pregnant British teenager who fled to Syria to join ISIS should be allowed to come home, a former director of global counter-terrorism at MI6 has said.

Shamima Begum, now 19, left her home in east London with two school friends in 2015. She was recently interviewed by British newspaper The Times in a refugee camp in northern Syria, where she sought safety after the extremist group’s last stronghold came under heavy bombardment.

Despite her lack of remorse, former MI6 director Richard Barrett told local media she should be considered as “a 15-year-old who went badly off the rails” and reintegrated into British society.

By contrast, he said the immediate reaction of the British government “has been a complete lack of concern for her plight”.

Ms Begum told The Times she was nine months pregnant and had fled the fighting in Baghouz after her two other children had died.

“I’ll do anything required just to be able to come home and live quietly with my child,” she said.

The plight of the survivors of the group's short-lived reign of terror has been brought into stark relief by the discovery of a British girl who fled from her home in London’s East End to Syria.

Ms Begum’s story has been highly polarizing as she said she did not regret joining the group in Syria and expressed support for the murder of journalists, whom had been “a security threat for the caliphate”.

In the interview with The Times, she said seeing a severed head in a bin “didn’t faze me at all”.

Begum’s family have appealed for her to be allowed to return. Her brother-in-law Mohammed Rehman told British newspaper The Mail the family had spoken to her on the phone. “Shamima’s mother broke down when she heard her voice ... We want her to come back so that she can be re-educated,” he said.

Her husband, a Dutch fighter, has surrendered to a group of Syrian fighters.

Updated: February 15, 2019 12:17 PM