Macer Gifford

Shamima Begum is not a victim

Shamima Begum is not a victim
Renu Begum, eldest sister of Shamima Begum, 15, holds her sister's photo (Image: Getty)
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A dark cloud hangs over the Al Hol Camp where Shamima Begum is being held in North-Eastern Syria. She is said to be ‘angry and upset’ at the decision of the Supreme Court to not allow her to return to the UK to contest the loss of her citizenship. This bleak picture stands in stark contrast to the feelings of the vast majority of the British public that will be raising a toast to the Supreme Court and thanking them for putting their interests ahead of an ISIS terrorist. 

Ever since Shamima Begum was ‘discovered’ in a Syrian Democratic Force holding camp by the Times Journalist Anthony Lloyd, the UK has been gripped by the drama surrounding the 21 year old woman. In a very short amount of time, two competing narratives were formed by the public. Those that see Shamima, the 15 year old that left Britain in 2015, as a victim, trafficked and abused by ISIS, and those that see her as a remorseless and dangerous supporter of the ISIS death cult. The victim narrative is being pushed in the usual circles on the far left. 

A motley alliance has emerged online of activists, advocacy groups and politicians that all claim Shamima is a victim, not just of ISIS, but also of a racist and reactionary Conservative Party. This is, of course, complete nonsense. The accusation that a ‘white woman’ wouldn't be treated in the same way as Shamima may gain traction online and receive plenty of ‘likes’ but it doesn't hold up to the fact that Jack Letts, a white, middle class man from Oxford, was also stripped of his British citizenship. 

The UK government's attitude to terrorists that go abroad to murder and rape has actually been quite consistent. I would know. Shamima Begum and I went to Syria at around the same time. While she joined ISIS, I went as an international volunteer to defend local people from the murderous death cult that she had gone to join. I was a fighter in the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US and UK backed force, made up of all the ethnicities and religions persecuted by the fanatics. Between 2014 and 2017, I fought ISIS all across Northern and Eastern Syria, only leaving once we had liberated Raqqa, the so called ‘capital’ of the Caliphate. I saw with my own eyes what people like Shamima did to Syria and Iraq. Indeed, all of us watched on TV as ISIS annihilated entire communities, shot thousands of people in ditches, burned them in cages and threw gay men from buildings. 

It is because of what we all felt and saw, that the British people must never stray from the ultimate goal of destroying the Islamic State and bringing to justice those that joined them. As a country we must move on from Shamima Begum and indeed all the fanatics that left the UK to join ISIS. These people are dangerous. They have shown no remorse for their actions and far from trying to escape from ISIS territory, all waited until ISIS was completely destroyed before being captured on the battlefield. Far from being victims, those left in Syria have proven themselves to be the most fanatical and committed members of the Islamic State. 

If the British government is not willing to bring them back and put them on trail here, another solution is needed. It was the Syrian Democratic Forces alongside the International Coalition that destroyed ISIS. They hold around 30 per cent of Syrian territory and with the backing of the West, their emerging autonomous region is the safest and most progressive part of Syria. The UK government must provide these people with the resources and the diplomatic recognition to put all foreign jihadis on trial and jail them once convicted. It would be an act of monumental stupidity, if the British government withdrew Shamima’s citizenship and did nothing more to ensure her continued incarceration in Syria. 

The Syrian Democratic Forces lost 12,000 fighters in the war against the Islamic State, leaving all of the jihadists to be fed, clothed and housed by their victims is little more than cruelty to a region blighted by conflict. Britain has a legal and moral obligation to do more. The security of the British people and the delivery of justice to ISIS victims must be the cornerstones of a new policy on foreign jihadists in Syria. It would be unethical to bring jihadists to the UK before they have spent their day in court. We shouldn't deprive Syrians of the healing effect of a judicial process, and the chance to look their tormentors in the eye. That can only happen if the world supports local people and realises that Shamima Begum is already exactly where she needs to be.

Written byMacer Gifford

Macer Gifford is the pseudonym of a British former currency trader who travelled to Syria to fight with the Kurdish YPG militia against the Islamic State group.

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