Shamima Begum pleads for forgiveness after joining ISIS—'I did not know it was a death cult'

Shamima Begum has apologized to the British public for joining ISIS as a teenager

Shamima Begum has apologized to the British public for joining ISIS as a teenager
(Image credit: ITV/Good Morning Britain)

Shamima Begum has begged the British public for forgiveness after joining the Islamic State in 2015, insisting she is ‘completely sorry’ for anyone who has been hurt by ISIS. 

The London woman left her home of Bethnal Green to start a new life in the so-called Caliphate at the age of 15, much to the despair of her family and friends back in the UK. Fast forward six years and she is now stuck in a refugee camp in north-eastern Syria, having been stripped of her British citizenship by the Home Office in 2019. With no prospect of a future in the war-torn nation, Begum is desperate to return home to England and finally move on with her life. 

What did Shamima Begum say in her Good Morning Britain interview? 

Begum shared a number of insights into her experience in ISIS during her exclusive interview with Good Morning Britain today (15 September 2021). 

Speaking from the al Roj camp in Syria, she told hosts Susanna Reid and Richard Madeley that she was unaware of the dangers of the Islamic fundamentalist organization when she left Britain on that fateful day six years ago. 

“I did not want to be a terrorist, I thought I was doing the right thing as a Muslim,” she said. “I did not know it was a death cult.” 

After becoming “very religious” as a young teenager, she decided to explore her Islamic faith online and quickly became indoctrinated by ISIS propaganda. 

“I was groomed and taken advantage of,” she said. “I did not know that ISIS was trying to take over the world.” 

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She went on to express empathy with Western victims of the group, “They’ve lived in fear of ISIS, they’ve lost loved ones because of ISIS, but I’ve also lived in fear of ISIS, I’ve also lost loved ones because of ISIS. I can sympathize with them.” 

Begum also recanted her previous comments about the Manchester Arena bombing, adding, “I am completely sorry for anyone who has been affected by ISIS.” 

When pressed by Richard on allegations that she had been directly involved in terrorist activity whilst in Syria, she vehemently denied the accusations.

“I am willing to go to court and face the people who are making these claims and refute these claims,” she said. “There’s no evidence because nothing ever happened.” 

Begum also denied that she has any interest in returning to the terrorist group if it was to regain power in the Middle East, revealing that she would “rather die than go back to ISIS.”

She then offered words of advice to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, suggesting she could aid the UK government's anti-extremism efforts with her background knowledge. 

"I want to say that you are clearly struggling with extremism and terrorism in your country and I want to help with that and telling you my own experience on how they [ISIS] persuade people to do what they do and to come to places like Syria.

"I think I could very much help you in your fight against terrorism because you clearly don’t know what you’re doing and I want to help."

Does Shamima Begum have children? 

Shamima Begum has given birth to three children, all of whom died shortly after delivery. Her first and second children, son Jarrah and daughter Sarayah, died of malnutrition. 

“When she [Sarayah] died it was so hard because I just felt so alone and I felt like my entire world was falling apart in front of me and I couldn't do anything,” she said during a 2019 documentary. 

Begum’s world collapsed when she lost her third baby, named Jarrah after her firstborn, to a lung infection at just three weeks old. 

“He was my last hope, he was the only thing keeping me alive. I didn’t know how,” she said. “That day I just cried for all my children. I cried for all of them. No one could help me, no one could do anything."

Who is Shamima Begum’s husband? 

Shamima Begum married Dutch-born Yago Riedijk shortly after she arrived in Syria. The 29-year-old Islamic convert and convicted terrorist left the Netherlands to join ISIS in 2014, after reportedly becoming radicalised by violent propaganda videos online. He surrendered to a group of Syrian fighters in 2019 and is now languishing in a Kurdish detention centre in the north-eastern part of the war-torn country. If he is repatriated to Holland, he faces six years in prison. 


Yago Riedijk

(Image credit: BBC/BBC Youtube)

What did Shamima Begum say about the Manchester Arena bombing? 

Begum prompted widespread outrage with her comments on the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing, which she described as “a retaliation” and a “fair justification” for the Western powers’ airstrikes on women and children in the Islamic state. When asked about her thoughts on the attack at the Ariana Grande concert, which left 23 people dead and over 1,000 injured, she acknowledged that it was “wrong that innocent people did get killed.” 

However, she also said, “It’s a two-way thing really because women and children are being killed in the Islamic State right now and it’s kind of retaliation. Their justification was that it’s retaliation so I thought OK that is a fair justification.” 

In her Good Morning Britain interview, she recanted these statements, claiming she had been unaware that people were killed in the Manchester Arena bombing. 

Emma Dooney
Lifestyle News Writer

Hailing from the lovely city of Dublin, Emma mainly covers the Royal Family and the entertainment world, as well as the occasional health and wellness feature. Always up for a good conversation, she has a passion for interviewing everyone from A-list celebrities to the local GP - or just about anyone who will chat to her, really.

Emma holds an MA in International Journalism from City, University of London, and a BA in English Literature from Trinity College Dublin.