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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 March 2019

Shamima Begum's Dutch husband wants to take ISIS teen to Netherlands

Yago Riedijk admitted to fighting for ISIS but claimed he was tortured by the terror group

The case of ISIS member Shamima Begum has focused attention on the problem posed by returning foreign fighters and their families. AFP
The case of ISIS member Shamima Begum has focused attention on the problem posed by returning foreign fighters and their families. AFP

ISIS teen Shamima Begum should be allowed to go to the Netherlands, according to her Dutch husband, who is also a member of the terror group.

Yago Riedijk, 27, married Ms Begum in 2015 when she was only 15 and days after her arrival in Syria. Ms Begum recently gave birth to a boy in a Syrian displacement camp and has had her citizenship withdrawn by the British government, fearful she posed a security threat.

Speaking to the BBC Mr Riedijk confirmed he had fought for ISIS but claimed he was later tortured amid accusations he was a Dutch spy. He said he had done nothing wrong by marrying Ms Begum, now 19, at such a young age.

"To be honest, when my friend came and said there was a girl who was interested in marriage, I wasn't that interested because of her age, but I accepted the offer anyway."

“It was her own choice, she was the one who asked for a partner and I was invited. She was very young and maybe it would have been better to have waited,” Mr Riedijk admitted. He justified the decision by describing Ms Begum as "in a good state of mind".

Mr Riedijk is currently held at a detention centre run by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, the US’s main ally on the ground in Syria. He and his wife surrendered to the SDF after recently fleeing the village of Baghouz, ISIS’s last patch of territory.

Ms Begum was reportedly moved from a Syrian displacement camp as fears grew for her safety.

According to Dutch media, Mr Riedijk grew up in the town of Arnhem, close to the Netherlands-Germany border.

The 27-year-old’s upbringing is believed to have been relatively middle-class and stable.

Pictures published by The Sun newspaper show him as a smiling teen arms draped around friends prior to him fleeing to Syria.

Mr Riedijk is one of a handful of Dutch nationals handed down with a sentence while absent from the country. Should he hand himself in to a Netherlands consult or embassy, Mr Riedijk would be sent back to serve his six-year prison term.

The Dutch fighter, who claims he tried to leave the group after growing dissatisfied with their brutal tactics, faces a jail term of six years if he returns home, the BBC said.

Some countries, such as France, have agreed to take back some of their citizens who joined ISIS, while others have been non-committal.

The case of Ms Begum has been particularly divisive. The British government has revoked her citizenship, fearful the impact of her return could have but also under the belief that she was eligible for a Bangladeshi passport.

Critics of the decision say Ms Begum was a naive, easily influenced child when she joined ISIS.

Updated: March 4, 2019 03:57 PM

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