Wednesday, Mar 17th 2021 7PM
Shamima Begum appears in documentary filmed in 2019, due for release today
She begs for ‘second chance’ and for people to ‘forget what you heard about me’
Begum claims she only defended ISIS in her first interviews from Syria because she was afraid of other women in her camp
US-born Hoda Muthana and Canadian Kimberly Polman also appear in the film
By AFP and CHRIS PLEASANCE FOR MAILONLINE
PUBLISHED: 11:20 GMT, 17 March 2021
ISIS bride Shamima Begum begs for a ‘second chance’ and for people to ‘put aside everything they’ve heard about me’ in a new documentary set for release today.
The film captures Begum, who fled Britain in 2015 to marry an ISIS fighter, living at the Roj camp in Syria in 2019 after the fall of the terror group’s ‘caliphate’.
In it, she can be seen undergoing therapy sessions alongside other western women including US-born Hoda Muthana and Canadian Kimberly Polman during which they are encouraged to write letters to their younger selves about their regrets.
‘Okay, um… My name’s Shamima. I’m from the UK. I’m 19,’ Begum says as she introduces herself to the group.
‘I would say to the people in the UK, give me a second chance because I was still young when I left,’ she tells the filmmakers.
‘I just want them to put aside everything they’ve heard about me in the media.’
Shamima Begum, the British ISIS bride, appears in a new documentary due to air today as she begs for people to ‘give me a second chance’ (file image)
The footage of Begum was captured in 2019, shortly after she was discovered at a prison camp in Syria (pictured around the time) as she goes through therapy sessions
Begum left her London home aged just 15 to travel to Syria with two school friends where she married an ISIS fighter and had three children by him.
She was ‘found’ by British journalists, heavily pregnant at another Syrian camp, in February 2019.
Spanish director Alba Sotorra got rare, extensive access to Begum and other Western women over several months starting in March that year, after meeting them while making a film about their Kudish guards.
In the film, Begum drops the defiant tone that saw her initially declare she ‘doesn’t regret’ joining the terror group and claims she was forced to say those things for fear that other women in her camp might kill her otherwise.
Begum recalls feeling like an ‘outsider’ in London who wanted to ‘help the Syrians,’ but claims on arrival she quickly realized IS were ‘trapping people’ to boost the so-called caliphate’s numbers and ‘look good for the (propaganda) videos.’
On Sotorra’s arrival in March 2019, the women – fresh from a warzone – were ‘somehow blocked… not thinking and not feeling.’
‘Shamima was a piece of ice when I met her,’ Sotorra told AFP.
‘She lost the kid when I was there… it took a while to be able to cry,’ she recalled.
Begum no longer wears the black hijab and chandor robe in which she was found, and appeared last month in western dress after losing a Supreme Court hearing to return to the UK
Shamima Begum was 15 when she ran away with two other schoolgirls to Syria to marry a Dutch jihadi in 2015 (pictured)
‘I think it’s just surviving, you need to protect yourself to survive.’
Another factor is the enduring presence of ‘small but very powerful’ groups of even ‘more radicalized women’ who remain loyal to IS and exert pressure on their campmates.
‘We had (other) women who joined in the beginning, and then they received pressure from other women so they stopped coming,’ said Sotorra.
In the film, Begum claims she ‘had no choice but to say certain things’ to journalists ‘because I lived in fear of these women coming to my tent one day and killing me and killing my baby.’
‘I will never be able to understand how a woman from the West can take this decision of leaving everything behind to join a group that is committing the atrocities that ISIS is committing,’ Sotorra told AFP.
‘I do understand now how you can make a mistake.’
‘It was known that Syria was a warzone and I still travelled into it with my own children – now how I did this I really don’t know looking back,’ says one Western woman.
The question of what can and should be done with these women – and their children – plagues Western governments, sowing divisions among allies.
Last month, Britain’s Supreme Court rejected Begum’s bid to return to challenge a decision stripping her citizenship on national security grounds.
Begum is now living at the Kurdish-run Roj camp in Syria while she fights a Home Office decision to strip her of her passport
How much the women knew about – and abetted – IS’s rapes, tortures and beheadings may never be known.
In the documentary, Begum denies she ‘knew about’ or ‘supported these crimes,’ dismissing claims she could have been in IS’s feared morality police as a naive ’15-year-old with no Islamic knowledge’ who did not even ‘speak the language.’
‘I never even had a parking ticket back in my own country before… I never harmed anybody, I never killed anybody, I never did anything,’ says Canadian Kimberly Polman.
An incredulous Kurdish woman points out that ‘maybe your husband killed my cousin.’
Sotorra believes the women could be useful back home in preventing the same mistake in future generations, and points to the cruelty of raising young children in this environment.
‘It took them a while to realise that they have responsibility for (their) choice… they cannot just think “Okay, I regret, I go back, as if nothing has happened,” she said.
‘No, it’s not about this… you have to accept the consequences.’