Former Isis-bride Shamima Begum has begged the British public for forgiveness, saying there is “no evidence” she was a key player in preparing terrorist acts and is prepared to prove her innocence in court.
Begum, who fled her east London home for Syria as a 15-year-old schoolgirl more than six years ago, denied any involvement in terror activities and said she wanted to be brought back to the UK to face charges.
The 22-year-old even said she could be “an asset” in the fight against terror in a direct appeal to the Prime Minister, saying she had been “groomed” to flee to Syria as a “dumb” and impressionable child.
Speaking from a Syrian refugee camp wearing a Nike baseball cap, a grey vest, Casio watch and with her fingernails painted pink, Begum told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I know there are some people, no matter what I say or what I do, they will not believe that I have changed, believe that I want to help.
“But for those who have even a drop of mercy and compassion and empathy in their hearts, I tell you from the bottom of my heart that I regret every, every decision I’ve made since I stepped into Syria and I will live with it for the rest of my life.”
She added: “You may forget about it one day but I will take it to my grave, this feeling of regret and this feeling of disgust at myself.
“No one can hate me more than I hate myself for what I’ve done and all I can say is I’m sorry and just give me a second chance.”
She said she would “rather die than go back to IS” and added: “The only crime I committed was being dumb enough to join IS (so-called Islamic State).”
Begum said: “I am willing to go to court and face the people who made these claims and refute these claims, because I know I did nothing in IS but be a mother and a wife.
“These claims are being made to make me look worse because the Government do not have anything on me.
“There is no evidence because nothing ever happened.”
But Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who was home secretary when the decision was made to strip Begum of her British citizenship, poured cold water on the prospect of overturning the ruling, despite Begum saying she was “pretty sure he would change his mind about my citizenship” if the pair met face-to-face.
He told Good Morning Britain: “The decision is both morally right, absolutely right, but also legally correct and the right one to protect the British people.
“I won’t go into details of the case, but what I will say is that you certainly haven’t seen what I saw.
“If you did know what I knew, because you are sensible, responsible people, you would have made exactly the same decision – of that I have no doubt.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “The Government’s top priority remains maintaining our national security and keeping the public safe.
“We do not routinely comment on individual cases.”
Begum had earlier compared herself with the British public in “living in fear of IS”.
She said: “I also have lived in fear of IS and I also lost loved ones because of IS, so I can sympathise with them (the British public) in that way.
“I know it is very hard for them to forgive me but I say from the bottom of my heart that I am so sorry if I ever offended anyone by coming here, if I ever offended anyone by the things I said.”
And in an appeal to Boris Johnson, Begum said: “I think I could very much help you in your fight against terrorism because you clearly don’t know what you’re doing.”
She added: “I want them (the British public) to see me as an asset rather than a threat to them.”
Begum previously said the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing – in which 22 men, women and children died after homegrown jihadi Salman Abedi detonated a suicide bomb – was similar to military strikes on IS strongholds, calling the terror attack “retaliation”.
But she clarified her comments on Wednesday.
She said: “I do not believe that one evil justifies another evil. I don’t think that women and children should be killed for other people’s motives and for other people’s agendas.”
Begum said she did not know that women and children were hurt in Manchester.
She said: “I did not know about the Manchester bombing when I was asked. I did not know that people were killed, I did not know that women and children were hurt because of it.”
Begum said she married Dutch convert Yago Riedijk 10 days after arriving in IS territory.
She told The Times that she left Raqqa in January 2017 with her husband but her children, a one-year-old girl and a three-month-old boy, had both died.
Her third child died in the al-Roj camp in March 2019, shortly after he was born.
Begum denied that her Western physical appearance – in stark contrast the traditional Islamic dress she previously adorned – was a publicity stunt.