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Terrorist Expert Explains Why Shamima Begum Should Never Return To UK

by : Julia Banim on : 16 Sep 2021 18:38
Terrorist Expert Explains Why Shamima Begum Should Never Return To UKPA Images/Bjoern Kommerell

Two years ago, security expert Will Geddes appeared on ITV’s This Morning to discuss the difficult case of Shamima Begum, a story that continues to divide the nation.

Begum was just 15 years old when she, as well as her two school friends Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana, was groomed and lured away from her Bethnal Green home to join ISIS in Syria.

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In 2019, Begum attempted to return to the UK, arguing that she hadn’t known exactly what she’d signed up for, although she didn’t go as far as to say she regretted her decision.

Will GeddesWill Geddes

Many were moved by the ISIS bride’s painfully-young age, as well as by the horrors she had apparently become deadened to. Decapitated heads in bins became a common sight to the once-ordinary schoolgirl, who told Sky News ‘at first it was nice, it was like how they showed it in the videos’.

At this point, Begum was still just 19 years old, and yet had already lost two children. She would go on to lose her third baby to a lung infection at the refugee camp she by then called home, many miles away from her family.

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A fierce debate was sparked on TV and in parliament, as well as over dinner tables across the country. Here was a young, vulnerable and possibly very naïve girl who had made a terrible mistake. But could she – and should she – be safely brought back to the country she had grown up in?

Ultimately, Begum’s British citizenship was revoked by the British government, and earlier this year Home Secretary Priti Patel stated that she should never be permitted to return.

Shamima Begum (Sky News)Sky News

Speaking on This Morning at the time, Geddes, who has worked in the field of security, counter-terrorism and personal threat management for nearly 30 years, declared that he had ‘zero’ sympathy for Begum, noting the ‘inconsistencies and hypocrisies’ within her statements.

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Two years on, and Begum is once again making headlines following a controversial live broadcast interview on ITV’s Good Morning Britain. Geddes’ stance on the matter has not changed one iota.

During this interview, Begum, now seen wearing western clothing and a Nike baseball cap rather than a black niqab, asked the British people to forgive her, claiming that she had been ‘unaware of what ISIS had done in the UK and in other parts of the world’.

Begum, who is now 22, also apologised for her previous shocking remarks about the Manchester Arena bombing being ‘justified’, claiming she ‘did not know that people were killed’ in the blast, or that women and children had been hurt.

Will GeddesWill Geddes
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Geddes does not hold much stock in Begum’s plea of ignorance on this matter, comparing this apparent naivety to the likelihood of an ordinary British person being ‘unaware that Love Island was on the TV’:

Any terrorist group that has perpetrated a successful attack, whether it be them directly or an associate doing it on their behalf, would no doubt publicise and celebrate, as al-Qaeda did with 9/11.

They would be chatting to each other. They’d be getting another strike, for Islamic State, another successful attack or another successful mission.

Geddes also remains unconvinced by the way Begum has portrayed herself as having simply been a ‘mother and wife’ during her time in Syria, when in fact she had been ‘part of a particular group of women that would enforce Sharia or the Sharia beliefs on other women’, known as the ‘hisba’ or ‘morality police’.

These beliefs enforced by this feared group were among ‘the distorted and some even more perverse interpretations of Sharia’ according to Geddes. In a 2019 report by The Sunday Telegraph, an activist was quoted as having seen Begum brandishing an automatic weapon while yelling at women in Raqqa for wearing brightly-coloured shoes.

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Considering her most recent statements, which on the surface at least appear to be more apologetic than those made in pervious years, Geddes said:

I don’t feel there’s any remorse, really sincere remorse in terms of what her statements were before, but also in terms of the actions which have been carried out, especially Manchester Arena, where so many children were killed as well.

And the age of criminal responsibility in the United Kingdom is 10. So, you know, she was 15 years old. You look at it from another dynamic, she’s older than Greta Thunberg. I’m not saying she’s as smart as Greta Thunberg, but Greta Thunberg certainly gets world leaders’ attention, and she’s younger than Shamima Begum.

Shamima Begum (PA)PA Images

Geddes doesn’t believe that Begum should be allowed back on British soil, an operation that would incur various potential risks.

One of the biggest concerns held by Geddes and other security experts is that there wouldn’t be enough evidence for the Home Office to incarcerate Begum, without ‘sufficient enough information’ about what exactly she did during her time with Isis.

Without this information, Geddes fears, Begum could well ‘walk straight out the door’ while still being of intelligence interest, an outcome that could involve ‘surveillance of various different types […] for a indeterminable period of time’.

According to Geddes:

That’s an awful lot of taxpayer money being spent and invested on yet another possible threat to the country when that’s, as we know, [the security services] have got finite resources that could be better assigned to what is deemed to be a more viable or relevant target than necessarily her.

We’ve heard of way too many occasions when in the wake of a successful terrorist attack that the person had been on the radar but wasn’t currently at the time that they carried out the attack. You know, because, security services have to obviously prioritise certain targets over others. They can’t concentrate on everybody all the time.

Shamima Begum (PA Images)PA Images

With this concern in mind, Geddes pointed to the example of Usman Khan, a convicted terrorist who was released from prison in 2018 on licence after claiming to have been rehabilitated.

In 2019, while attending an offender rehabilitation conference in Central London’s Fishmongers’ Hall, Khan threatened to detonate what later turned out to be a fake suicide vest.

Khan then began attacking people using two knives tied to his wrists, fatally stabbing two of the conference participants before he was shot dead by officers on London Bridge.

Despite such fears, Begum has suggested that she could help rather than hinder counter-terrorism efforts in the UK, and apparently believes she could assist Prime Minister Boris Johnson in fighting against terrorism using ‘my own experience’.

However, Geddes finds this argument to be a ‘bit of a stretch’, telling UNILAD that her intelligence would likely be ‘minimal in terms of any value’:

They will no doubt have interrogated her devices back in the UK from which she obviously was communicating with whoever her handler was. So I think there’s probably very little else that they can achieve or gain from her in terms of intelligence sources.

The various government agencies and intelligence agencies would have had numerous sources in Mosul, and subsequent to the collapse of Mosul, they’d have loads of people potentially who would tell them what the infrastructure was, what living this life, what was going on down there, who recruited, how they were operated, that sort of thing.

Former Home Secretary Sajid Javid is sticking firm to his original decision to revoke Begum’s citizenship, telling Good Morning Britain that this had been ‘absolutely the right decision’, and it looks unlikely the government will be swayed by her apparent regrets anytime soon.

Going forward, Geddes believes there will be very few countries willing to take pity on the young, polarising woman, leaving her in a state of ongoing limbo.

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]

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Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: Featured, ISIS, no-article-matching, Now, Shamima Begum, syria, Terrorism, This Morning, UK

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The Sunday Telegraph and 1 other
  1. The Sunday Telegraph

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  2. Sky News

    IS bride Shamima Begum full transcript: 'It was nice at first, like in the videos'