London: A 33-year-old British Muslim woman who fled to Syria with her five children has said that the dreaded Islamic State terrorist group was not her “cup of tea” and that she wanted to return home to Britain.
Shukee Begum, from Manchester, said she went into the territory held by the jihadist group, also known by its acronym ISIS, only in an attempt to convince her husband, Jamal al-Harith -– a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who had joined the terror group — to return with her.
“There was a gangster kind of mentality among single women there. Violent talk -— talking about war, killing. They would sit together and huddle around their laptops and watch ISIS videos together and discuss them and everything. It was just not my cup of tea,” she told Channel 4 News, from somewhere in Syria.
“I would love to go back to the UK. The UK is my home. I grew up there, my friends are there, my family are there. That is where I consider to be home but I am just not sure at the moment of the track record of the current government if the UK is somewhere I can come back to and achieve justice,” she said.
Explaining why she took her children aged nine, seven, five, three and 11 months to the war zone, the law graduate said she thought they would be a powerful reminder of what her husband, who joined ISIS 18 months ago, was missing.
She said: “I was seeing on the news at this point that Isis was going from bad to worse… So I decided that I was going to try and speak some sense into him.”
“He’s my husband and all of a sudden he’s not there. It didn’t feel like home any more. I was trying to manage school runs, things like that. I was thinking about the children’s futures. Was he part of it? Will he come back? All these things go through your mind.”
After she was reunited with her husband, who refused to help her leave, ISIS authorities would not allow her to go, she claims.
“This is what I want to make clear as well to other women thinking of coming into ISIS territory – that you can’t just expect to come into ISIS territory and then expect that you can just leave again easily. There is no personal autonomy there at all,” Begum said.
She was smuggled out of the territory before being held captive in the city of Aleppo, and is now living somewhere close to the border with Turkey.
The circumstances of her release are unclear, although according to Channel 4 News, Syrian rebels from the Nusra Front intervened to facilitate it.