Shamima Begum, the ‘Jihadi Bride’ and the moral dilemma we face

By Saima Baig

There are an estimated 400 British nationals (there could be more), who left for Syria to join the Islamic State caliphate. Some have died, some are in refugee camps and there is no information about the rest. Here is the dilemma. What do we do when some of them want to come back to the UK?

The Islamic State are some of the most barbaric psychopaths to exist on this planet, who have committed extremely heinous crimes since they launched their “caliphate” in 2014.

All those who left their countries to join this group may have had lofty ideals of a perfect Islamic caliphate in their minds; they may have been persecuted as minorities in their own countries but one thing is clear, they join ISIS knowing what they we all knew about them: that they are murderous psychopaths.

The UK nationals who joined them also knew this. For me it is hard to relate to the fact that whatever persecution you may face in the UK, (and we know that there is inequality and people do face difficulties due to their race or religion), the option you choose is to join a murderous cult – unless of course you are a psychopath yourself. In which case, I don’t think that they should be allowed to come back.

I am not sure that they will provide the kind of information that the intelligence agencies are seeking. Not only did they participate in the murder of people — of British nationals — but also, if they come back, they will be a burden on citizens.

Then there are the young women: the so-called ‘jihadi brides’, who left to marry members of a murderous cult. Some of these women were adults, who made conscious decisions to give up their lives and become wives of Charles Manson type individuals.

From my vantage point, their lives and liberties in the UK could not have been so bad, even in the worst of situations, that being the fourth wife of Abdullah the Blade in Mosul, was a better option.


The Times front page story of Shamima Begum, who left the UK to join ISIS and now wants to return


However, some of these were young girls – 15 years old — like Shamima Begum, who left with two of her friends to become a jihadi bride. Some experts are of the view that they were groomed and it is entirely possible that they were.

And here is where the moral dilemma arises. Shamima, when she was found in a camp, was pregnant and wanted to return so that she could have her baby in the UK.  She has now given birth to a son and as she is a British national her child will be too.

I am conflicted in this case. She was 15 when she left. A young age. But she would have been able to drive and get married (albeit with parental consent) in another year. These are adult activities. It means that society has deemed it okay for people to enter adulthood at that age.

On the other hand, I can understand the kind of inner turmoil girls like her would be going through. South Asian girls who are born in the UK, can often be restricted from being as free as their white counterparts, their parents imposing their outdated ideologies on their children, especially the girls. Outside the environs of their oppressive households, however, is a completely different world. These girls can be easy targets for groomers, who can promise them paradise.

Should these girls be allowed back?  Shamima does not seem to be repentant. She seems to be proud of her decision to go. She is 19 now. I am not convinced she is post-traumatic. “I saw heads in the bins, they did not faze me,” she said in her interview. Based on that, my initial reaction was that she should be left where she is.

However, there is a child in all this, who did not make any choices in this matter. What is our responsibility to that child? Surely, we cannot let that child grow up in that situation and potentially become a jihadi too, or should we let him or her be brought up in the UK by someone else? I have no sympathy for Shamima, but I do not want society to abandon that child.


Main Pic: L-R: Amira Abase, Kadiza Sultana and Shamima Begum left the UK in 2015 to join ISIS. 


Saima Baig is a is an environmental management, environmental economics and climate change consultant based in the UK. When she is not working on adaptation and mitigation strategies, she writes about religion, feminism, politics and secularism. She is a staunch advocate of science education, in particular astrophysics. Follow her on Twitter.


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