A woman who was used as a sex slave by ISIS has described seeing Shamima Begum at a terrorist training camp in 2015 – and branded the former ISIS bride’s new reformed persona as ‘fake’.
The woman, using the pseudonym ‘Dila’, hails from the Yazidi people of Kurdistan who were subjected to a genocide by ISIS, with at least 5,000 murdered and twice that number kidnapped into slavery.
Dila found herself sold, raped and kept by ISIS for seven years from the age of just 13, The Sun reports.
Now aged 20 and free, Dila described how Begum, who recently lost a Home Office appeal to return to the UK, was friends with a slave dealer who sold girls aged just 14 into a life of sexual servitude, including Dila’s own sister.
Interviewed by soldier-turned-journalist Alan Duncan in north Kurdistan, Dila said she is convinced she saw Begum at the ISIS camp in Deir ez-Zor, Syria, in lessons in which women were taught to use guns and told how to wear suicide belts.
Jihadi bride Shamima Begum (pictured) today lost a legal battle to reclaim her British citizenship
Begum (left) pictured with her schoolfriends Amira Abase (centre) and Kadiza Sultana (right) at Gatwick Airport in February 2015, when they fled the UK. Sultana was later killed in an airstrike, while Abase’s whereabouts are unknown
And she was unconvinced by Begum’s more recent efforts to reinvent herself wearing western clothing and baseball caps.
Dila said: ‘It is fake by Begum. Living with ISIS women and ISIS in general I understand how they think, how loyal they are to their Sharia ideas.
‘Even if they are not in ISIS – I don’t think they have open mentality and those clothes are representing them, I am certain. They are faking facts, women of ISIS will never change, they still believe in what they believe.’
55-year-old Duncan, from Scotland, has spent years probing the atrocities carried out by ISIS, and believes Dila’s testimony to be some of the ‘compelling’ he has come across.
He warned that Dila’s observations suggested returning ISIS brides could be ‘ticking time bombs’.
Former soldier turned journalist Alan Duncan described Dila’s testimony as among the most significant he has come across
Dila, who has seven family members still missing, said she recalls seeing Begum participate in the ‘Students of Sharia’ lessons.
Although a Yazidi slave herself, Dila was forced to go along to the sessions in order to survive her captors – who carried out many forced conversions to Sharia Islam.
She said Begum was close friends with another German-born ISIS bride, who was responsible for selling kidnapped girls into slavery – among them Dila’s 14-year-old sister – who has never been found since.
Begum, now 23, recently brought a challenge against the Home Office at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), where her lawyers argued she should be allowed to return to Britain on the basis she was ‘a victim of child sex trafficking’.
However, the Home Office defended the decision by saying the security services ‘continue to assess’ that she poses a risk to the UK.
Judges dismissed Ms Begum’s challenge, ruling that while there was a ‘credible suspicion’ that Ms Begum was trafficked to Syria for ‘sexual exploitation’ this was not enough for her appeal to succeed.
Mr Justice Jay added that whether she posed a threat to national security was a decision for politicians, not the courts. Ms Begum’s lawyers vowed to appeal the ruling.
Sajid Javid, who was home secretary when Shamima Begum was first stripped of her British citizenship, welcomed the decision
One revelation contained in today’s judgment was the reaction of MI5 spies to Ms Begum’s numerous media appearances, which they branded ‘self-serving’.
The judgment read: ‘In September and November 2021, Ms Begum was interviewed by Good Morning Britain and Sky News. She denied reports in the media that she had sewn suicide vests or been part of ISIL’s [ISIS’s] morality police and claimed that her activities were limited to being a housewife and mother.
‘The MI5 assessment is that many of the comments Ms Begum made in her later interviews are likely to have been self-serving and an attempt to obtain favourable media coverage in the run-up to this appeal.’
Recently, Ms Begum has given several newspaper and broadcast interviews plus been the subject of a ten-part BBC podcast.
Gareth Peirce, a member of Ms Begum’s legal team, called the decision ‘an extraordinary judgment delivered in an extraordinary way’.
Speaking outside Field House in central London, she added that the commission ‘is clearly deeply troubled by the case it is having to decide and by the limitations placed on it by the Supreme Court’.
Shamima Begum Q&A: What does today’s ruling mean for her future and what are her options now?
What happened in court today?
The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) has refused to overturn former home secretary Sajid Javid’s decision to strip her of her British citizenship for fleeing the UK to join ISIS.
Judges said that while there was a ‘credible suspicion’ that Ms Begum was trafficked to Syria for ‘sexual exploitation’ this was not enough for her appeal to succeed.
Mr Justice Jay added that whether she posed a threat to national security was a decision for politicians, not the courts.
What does it mean for Ms Begum?
The ruling means she will not have her British citizenship restored or be allowed to return to the UK.
She will stay in the Al-Hawl refugee camp in Syria, where she is effectively stateless after being rejected by both the UK and Bangladesh – where she also has a claim to citizenship.
What do Ms Begum and her lawyers plan to do next?
Ms Begum’s legal team will now challenge the judgment and seek to have it overturned in the Court of Appeal. Her lawyer Daniel Furner said the case was ‘nowhere near over’ and they would be challenging the ruling.
While he refused to give details about the basis for their appeal, it is likely to focus on their insistence she was a victim of child sex trafficking.
Devyani Prabhat, a professor at the University of Bristol Law School, said the ruling in Shamima Begum’s case is ‘far from the end of the legal issues, as this will be followed by appeals and other proceedings by her team’, adding: ‘It only highlights the complexity of the issues and is one step in a long journey in Begum’s cancellation of citizenship proceedings.’
The ‘wide discretion’ given to home secretaries to deprive someone of their British citizenship on national security grounds makes it ‘quite difficult to challenge this, especially when there is evidence which is secret or not publicly available’, she said.
How has the Home Office reacted?
The Home Office have said they are ‘pleased’ by the judgment.
In a statement, a spokeswoman said: ‘We are pleased that the court has found in favour of the Government’s position in this case.
‘The Government’s priority remains maintaining the safety and security of the UK and we will robustly defend any decision made in doing so.’
What does this mean for other ISIS members who’ve been stripped of their citizenship?
Dozens of other former ISIS members have had their citizenship taken away after being accused of joining ISIS. These include Jack Letts, nicknamed ‘Jihadi Jack’.
It is not clear today’s ruling will affect their cases because judges based their decision on factors specific to Ms Begum’s case.
She continued: ‘The implication, the outcome, that we face is that no British child who has been trafficked outside the UK will be protected by the British state if the home secretary invokes national security.’
Daniel Furner, also part of Ms Begum’s legal team, said the case was ‘nowhere near over’ and they would be challenging the ruling.
He said: ‘In terms of the legal fight, that’s nowhere near over, we’re not going into details about exactly what that means at this stage.
‘What else this judgment calls out for though is some courage and some leadership from the Home Secretary to look at this case afresh in light of the clear and compelling factual findings this court has made. We are going to challenge this decision.’
But Sajid Javid, who was home secretary when Shamima Begum was first stripped of her British citizenship, lauded the decision.
He said today: ‘I welcome today’s court ruling, which has again upheld my decision to remove an individual’s citizenship on national security grounds.
‘This is a complex case but home secretaries should have the power to prevent anyone entering our country who is assessed to pose a threat to it.’
At a five-day hearing last year, Ms Begum’s barristers Samantha Knights KC and Dan Squires KC said she was ‘recruited, transported, transferred, harboured and received in Syria for the purposes of ‘sexual exploitation’ and ‘marriage’ to an adult male’.
They also argued that the Home Office unlawfully failed to consider that she travelled to Syria and remained there ‘as a victim of child trafficking’.
However, Sir James Eadie KC, for the department, said the security services ‘continue to assess that Ms Begum poses a risk to national security’.
Sir James later said that Mr Javid took into account Ms Begum’s age, how she travelled to Syria – including likely online radicalisation – and her activity in the country, when deciding to remove her British citizenship.
Giving the decision of the tribunal, Mr Justice Jay said that ‘reasonable people will differ’ over the circumstances of Ms Begum’s case.
He said: ‘The commission has fully recognised the considerable force in the submissions advanced on behalf of Ms Begum that the Secretary of State’s conclusion, on expert advice, that Ms Begum travelled voluntarily to Syria is as stark as it is unsympathetic.
‘Further, there is some merit in the argument that those advising the Secretary of State see this as a black and white issue, when many would say that there are shades of grey.’
He continued: ‘If asked to evaluate all the circumstances of Ms Begum’s case, reasonable people with knowledge of all the relevant evidence will differ, in particular in relation to the issue of the extent to which her travel to Syria was voluntary and the weight to be given to that factor in the context of all others.
‘Likewise, reasonable people will differ as to the threat she posed in February 2019 to the national security of the United Kingdom, and as to how that threat should be balanced against all countervailing considerations.
‘However, under our constitutional settlement these sensitive issues are for the Secretary of State to evaluate and not for the commission.’
The Special Immigration Appeals Commission concluded there was a ‘credible suspicion’ that Ms Begum was trafficked to Syria for ‘sexual exploitation’ and that there were ‘arguable breaches of duty’ by state bodies in allowing her to travel to the country.
Ms Begum’s British citizenship was revoked on national security grounds by the former home secretary Sajid Javid shortly after she was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019
Ms Begum’s Dutch jihadi husband Yago Riedijk who fought for ISIS in Syria
But Mr Justice Jay said in a summary of the commission’s decision that the existence of this suspicion was ‘insufficient’ for her to succeed on her arguments that the deprivation of her British citizenship failed to respect her human rights.
He added that given Ms Begum was now in Syria, the Home Secretary was not compelled to facilitate her return nor stopped from using ‘deprivation powers’.
The judge said: ‘The commission concluded that there was a credible suspicion that Ms Begum had been trafficked to Syria within the meaning of relevant international legal instruments.
‘Essentially, and from the perspective of those responsible for the trafficking, the motive for bringing her to Syria was sexual exploitation to which, as a child, she could not give a valid consent.
‘The commission also concluded that there were arguable breaches of duty on the part of various state bodies in permitting Ms Begum to leave the country as she did and eventually cross the border from Turkey into Syria.’
He added: ‘In outline, given that Ms Begum is now in Syria, the state’s corollary investigative duty did not compel the Secretary of State to facilitate her return to the United Kingdom, nor did it prevent him from exercising his deprivation powers.’