A British woman who fled to Syria with her five children in search of her jihadist husband, has warned other women against joining Isis (IS). Shukee Begum said she left her home in Manchester and travelled to the terror group's self declared capital of Raqqa, with the intention of persuading her husband Jamal al-Harith, a former Guantánamo Bay detainee, to return home with her.
After spending the past 10 months in the town of al-Bab in northern Syria, teaching English to the children of foreign jihadis, she reportedly described IS as 'not Islamic' and pleaded for help to return to the UK after her house was bombed by US-led coalition warplanes.
Begum escaped the IS stronghold and was held captive by smugglers in Aleppo. She is now appealing for help to return to the UK with her three daughters and two sons, who are aged between one and 12.
"I would love to go back to the UK," the 33-year-old told Channel 4 News. "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 explained.
She insists that she did not travel to Syria intending to join IS and just wanted her husband to come back home The Guardian reports. Jamal al-Harith, a Muslim convert formerly known as Ronald Fiddler, was given £1m in compensation from the British government after he was detained in Guantanamo Bay accused of being a British Spy. It later emerged that he was an IS sympathiser and 18 months ago he fled to Syria to join the terror group.
"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. For me to take the children to see him and then come away from there that would have been more powerful than anything else I had to say to him at the time."
Begum said the romantic notion of life in IS is an illusion and she portrayed the bleak reality. "You have got hundreds of families living in one hall and sharing perhaps one or two bathrooms between them. You have got children crying, children who are sick. There was a gangster kind of mentality among single women there. Violence was talked about, war, killing. They would sit together, huddle around their laptops, watch Isis videos. It just wasn't my cup of tea."
Begum said that once she learnt that her husband had died, she was denied permission to leave by IS courts. She warned that anyone travelling to Syria, would not be allowed to leave.
"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."