Shamima Begum, the London schoolgirl who ran away to join Islamic State, has asked the public for forgiveness and said she is sorry “from the bottom of my heart”.
She also apologised for comments about the Manchester Arena bombing and said her only crime was being “dumb enough” to join the terror group.
Begum joined Islamic State in Syria in 2015, along with two other girls from the UK, and has had her British citizenship revoked.
Speaking from the al Roj camp in Syria, which houses the families of IS fighters, she said she was unaware she was joining a “death cult” and her role with IS was only to be a “mother and a wife”.
Begum told Good Morning Britain (GMB) she was “groomed and taken advantage of and manipulated”.
“The reason I came to Syria was not for violent reasons,” said the 22-year-old.
“At the time I did not know it was a death cult, I thought it was an Islamic community I was joining,” she added.
“I was being fed a lot of information on the internet by people.”
Interviewed wearing a baseball cap and vest-top, Begum’s appearance was a stark contrast to previous interviews in which she was covered up.
She denied it was a publicity stunt to make her appear more Western.
“I have not been wearing hijab for maybe more than a year now. I took it off for myself, because I felt very constricted in the hijab, I felt like I was not myself,” she said.
Begum is challenging the decision to take away her citizenship on national security grounds, but has been refused permission to return while the process takes place.
Speaking this morning, Sajid Javid – who took the decision when he was home secretary – said there was information that meant banning her from Britain was necessary to “protect the British people”.
She also denied claims she had helped arm ISIS attackers with suicide vests and was a morality enforcer for the group.
“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,” she told GMB.
“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.”
She said she would accept any sentence handed down if she were tried in a UK court, and that she “would rather die than go back to IS”.
Begum, who married a Dutch IS fighter and whose three young children died in Syria, claimed she had been unable to leave the group as she didn’t have the connections or enough money.
She also apologised for comments in 2019 about the Manchester attack, in which she said it was a “two-way thing” and fair retaliation for Western powers bombing IS in Syria.
Begum told GMB she did not believe that “one evil justifies another evil”.
“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,” she said.
The former east Londoner also said “no-one can hate me more than I hate myself for what I’ve done” – and that she would take feelings of “regret” and “disgust” to her grave.
She admitted that many people would never believe her claims of repentance and that she was innocently groomed.
“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,” she told GMB.
She added: “In no way do I agree with what they (IS) did, I don’t, I’m not trying to justify what they did, it’s not justifiable to kill innocent people in the name of religion.”
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Begum, who is effectively stateless but has Bangladeshi ancestry, also said there was no way she could try to travel there as she would face the death penalty.
And when asked if she had a message for Boris Johnson, she said she could help “your fight against terrorism because you clearly don’t know what you’re doing”.
She offered to become “an asset” and help the UK understand how people are recruited and influenced by extremists.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid later told GMB that the decision had been legally and “morally right” to protect the British people.
He also disagreed with Begum’s claims to have had no part in IS terrorism.
“I won’t go into details of the case, but what I will say is that you certainly haven’t seen what I saw,” he said.
“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 added: “The government’s top priority remains maintaining our national security and keeping the public safe.
“We do not routinely comment on individual cases.”
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