By Karim El-Bar
LONDON (AA) – London-born Shamima Begum, who joined Daesh/ISIS in 2015 as a teenager, spoke out for the first time in a U.S. TV interview set to be aired Tuesday after losing her appeal against the U.K. Home Office's decision to strip her of her British citizenship.
“I kind of saw it coming because I did do my research just before I came out. I thought I would be a bit different because I had not done anything wrong before I came to ISIS,” Begum said in an interview with U.S. broadcaster ABC News.
“When my citizenship got rejected, I felt like my whole world fell apart right in front of me. You know, especially the way I was told. I wasn’t even told by a government official. I had to be told by journalists.”
When Begum was found by reporters in al-Hawl refugee camp in Syria last year, she was unrepentant with regards to her decision to join Daesh/ISIS.
ABC News challenged her over her attitude towards the terrorist group. She replied that she had felt threatened in the camp she was in at the time.
“I had just given birth. I was hearing all these stories about women threatening other women, you know, folk uncovering their faces or speaking to men, or doing interviews, or anything like that. I just was afraid for my life,” she said.
She is now in al-Roj refugee camp for women in northeast Syria. She was filmed wearing a loose-fitting hijab, jeans, boots and a jacket rather than a burqa as in her previous interviews, which is part of the camp’s deradicalization drive.
British no more
Dubbed a "Daesh bride" for having left the U.K. to marry a member of the terror group, Begum lost the first stage of her court appeal on Feb. 7 against the Home Office's decision to strip her of British citizenship.
Fifteen years old at the time of her departure from London, Begum is of Bangladeshi origin. Before the decision, she held U.K. citizenship but not of Bangladesh.
She lived in Daesh/ISIS-controlled areas for three years, marrying a Dutch foreign fighter. She is now 20 and resides in the al-Roj camp in Syria close to the Iraqi border.
Her case took place in a special, partly secret court called the Special Immigration Appeals Commission that deals with appeals against British government decisions to strip a citizen of their citizenship for national security reasons.
Though Begum's lawyers assert that the government's decision made her stateless, which is illegal according to both international and U.K. law, the tribunal disagreed and upheld the decision.
The government argued that as Begum is of Bangladeshi origin, she is thus eligible for Bangladeshi citizenship by descent under that country's law and thus cannot be considered stateless.
Begum's lawyers also said the conditions in the camp she currently lives in contravene with her human rights and that depriving her of her citizenship would abandon her there.
However, the government holds that her being in the camp was a consequence of her decision to join Daesh/ISIS rather than its decision on her citizenship.
Begum's lawyers have announced that they will appeal the decision, with the possibility of the case making its way to the Supreme Court.