Former extremist: Shamima Begum should be allowed to return to Britain

Shamima Begum's older sister holds a photograph of the teenager. Image: Getty

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Shamima Begum 'is not a threat' and should be allowed back into Britain to 'turn her life around,' according to a reformed extremist.

The Jihadi bride, who fled London aged just 15 to join Islamic State in Syria, wants to return to the UK to give birth to her third child.

Hanif Qadir, a reformed extremist who now runs the Active Change Foundation, a de-radicalisation project in London, said Begum deserves the opportunity to transform her life and give birth in safety following her 'naive and childish mistake.'

Speaking from the Republic of Mali, where he is running reintegration workshop, Mr Qadir said: "Of course she should be allowed to return home, why should she not?

"She is as much a victim in this as anything.

"If you look at why she left to go to Syria and the circumstances surrounding that, I do believe she is not going to be a threat.

"When they left they were still children - they were all 16 or younger - and they were all very young and naive.

"She needs to be given the right to be rehabilitated and I think human rights has a huge role to place in providing protection."

 

'Vulnerable and naive'

Shamima Begum. Image: PA

Begum called on human rights laws to protect Begum, who he described as a 'vulnerable and naive young girl' who was indoctrinated.

He said: "Nobody is born radical - there is no doubt she can change and she deserves a chance of rehabilitation.

"She saw so much death and destruction out there and she will have PTSD definitely.

"She will have been given those radical believes and she will have internalised them but there is a huge opportunity here.

"There is so much we can learn from her and if we can find out why she left, it could prevent others from doing the same."

Using Begum as an example, Mr Qadir believes the British Government can 'open up doors' to other girls wanting to escape such regimes by allowing her return.

 

Escaping forced marriage

Based on his years of research, Mr Qadir said it is likely Begum fled the Bengali community in east London to escape forced marriage and was 'sold a dream' of marrying a 'warrior' in Syria.

Mr Qadir, who has worked with many girls with similar backgrounds, said: "The reality is the environment Shamima comes from and her cultural background, the Bengali community, has not been open to allow young girls to have a partner of their choice.

"She has been indoctrinated because somebody has given her a false hope.

"When it comes down to marriage, it is not their choice and they often get married to people much, much older than them

"Girls often acknowledged wanting to escape being married to somebody from Bangladesh who was 20 years older than them without having any choice in the matter.

"They think 'we can go and find a partner of our choice' and that is an excuse escaping the pressure of being married off but then they find themselves in Syria."

He is now calling on the British government to use Shamima 'as an example' and prevent other girls from following in her footsteps to join extremist groups.

He said she should face th judiciary process if she returned, and she would most likely be "expecting" that.