Shamima Begum

I haven’t written anything on this blog for almost two whole years. There is one post here, as far as I’m aware, but what I want to discuss is a bit long-winded for a facebook post. Before we get into it, the backstory:

For those of you who don’t know, Shamima Begum is a 19-year-old British girl who left the UK at 15 years old to go and be part of the caliphate under ISIS. She’s now in a refugee camp with her newborn baby and would like to return to the UK. She is seemingly unremorseful for her decisions and claims she was unfazed by the things she saw in Syria.

I’m not going to rehash what’s already been said, that’s not the point of this post. I want to explain what I think and why I think it, and this will include some details about my own personal experiences with trauma. The reason I want to do this is that I think it might be difficult for people who have never experienced this level of fear to understand what might be happening with Shamima Begum. I say ‘might’ because I honestly don’t know. I’m neither a psychologist nor a specialist on the Syrian conflict. I’m just one of many many many uninformed voices sharing what I think may be helpful. Right, let’s get to it.

Shamima Begum should be assessed by a psychologist or psychiatrist before any decision is made.  

As we know, she was groomed before she made the decision to leave the UK, when she was fifteen. The trauma since she has been in Syria must not be underestimated. She may say she is unfazed and does not regret the things she has seen and done, but it would not surprise me if that were a front. I think that it’s possible that her trauma and her survival instincts are possibly masking how she really feels. I think it’s likely that once she was there, she knew the road back was almost impossible and she’s grown to accept her new normal. That’s one possibility.

She is likely afraid of saying too much or being too critical of ISIS while still in Syria.

I imagine Shamima Begum is extremely aware of the fact that whatever she says will possibly be heard by ISIS and could put a target on her back. She’s still in Syria: I’d be interested to see what she had to say if her safety were guaranteed.

I think this because I have personally defended and lied about my feelings about someone who has done something terrible without even actively deciding to do so. Just to briefly cover my backstory: my biological father was violent and terrifying. The police came often, he spent time in prison, etc… I remember when I was twelve or thirteen years old saying to people that I couldn’t wait to go back and live with my dad. I remember telling people I’d rather that than live with my mum. I remember crying so hard when we were leaving. I know now that people in my family would think how awful it was that I would defend and pine for someone who had hurt me and my family so much. I now know these were conditioned responses. I knew that if we had to go back for whatever reason and he found out I hadn’t been on his side, it would be awful. It was only after a few weeks, maybe months when I finally understood we weren’t going back that I started to be honest about how I felt. This is why I think it is possible that Shamima Begum is not really unremorseful, but we cannot know for sure unless we have someone assess this. I don’t think we will really know while she is still in danger, because she cannot risk being seen as a threat by ISIS while she is still in Syria.

That said, I don’t think that she should be allowed to merrily stroll back in without having to answer for her mistakes. I think she should be closely surveilled, assessed and, if possible, rehabilitated. Maybe she is completely unremorseful. Maybe she didn’t care about the people she saw who had died. Maybe she still believes that ISIS is doing the right thing. I don’t know, but I don’t think any sweeping decisions about her future, safety and punishment should be made until her case has been properly assessed. I don’t think a 3-minute interview by ITV news really cuts it as evidence, either.


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