The Dutch husband of Shamima Begum, a British-born teenager who fled to join Islamic State, wants to live with her in the Netherlands, the BBC reported Sunday after finding him in Syria.
Yago Riedijk, who is being held in a Kurdish-run detention centre in northeast Syria, married Begum days after she arrived in territory held by IS when he was 23 and she was 15, he told BBC television.
Begum, 19, from east London and now in a refugee camp, has said she would like to return to Britain but has been stripped of her British citizenship by the government which calls her a security threat.
Riedijk, who is 27 and says he now rejects IS, having fought for the jihadist group, says he wants to return home to the Netherlands with his wife and their newborn son. Their first two children died.
In a first extract from the interview released by the BBC, he was asked if he thought marrying a girl of that age was acceptable.
“When my friend came and said there was a girl who was interested in marriage, I wasn’t that interested because of her age, but I accepted the offer anyway,” he replied.
“We sat down and she seemed in a good state of mind. It was her own choice, she was the one who asked to look for a partner for her.
“Then I was invited and yeah, she was very young and it might have been better for her to wait a bit. But she didn’t, she chose to get married and I chose to marry her.”
Riedijk, from Arnhem, told the BBC that he had been imprisoned and tortured after IS suspected him of being a Dutch spy. He surrendered to Syrian fighters.
The case of Begum has highlighted a dilemma facing many European countries, divided over whether to allow jihadists and IS sympathisers home to face prosecution or bar them as the so-called “caliphate” crumbles.
A British teenager who joined the Islamic State group in Syria in 2015 said Wednesday she was shocked by a government decision to revoke her citizenship.
Shamima Begum, who now wants to return home after giving birth in a refugee camp in Syria last weekend, said the order was “unjust”.
“I am a bit shocked,” she told ITV News after learning of the move which was announced in a letter Tuesday from Britain’s interior ministry to her mother in London.
“It’s a bit upsetting and frustrating. I feel like it’s a bit unjust on me and my son.”
Begum’s fate has stirred controversy since she and two friends fled her east London home to join the terror network four years ago when she was aged just 15.
The case highlights a dilemma facing many European countries, divided over whether to allow jihadists and IS sympathisers home to face prosecution or barring them over security concerns as the so-called “caliphate” crumbles.
A spokeswoman for the interior ministry said on Tuesday it would not comment on individual cases, “but any decisions to deprive individuals of their citizenship are based on all available evidence and not taken lightly”.
She added that interior minister Sajid Javid was intent on prioritising “the safety and security of Britain and the people who live here”.
“In order to protect this country, he has the power to deprive someone of their British citizenship where it would not render them stateless.”
Begum gave birth to her third child at the weekend, and appealed to British authorities to show “compassion” by allowing her to raise the baby in Britain — while expressing no regret over having joined IS.
‘All legal avenues’
In the ministry’s letter sent to Begum’s mother, it said the teen had the right to appeal the order.
A lawyer for her family said it was disappointed with the move.
“(The) family are very disappointed with the… intention to have an order made depriving Shamima of her citizenship,” Tasnime Akunjee said on Twitter.
“We are considering all legal avenues to challenge this decision.”
Begum, who is of Bangladeshi heritage, was born in Britain, has never had a Bangladeshi passport and is not a dual citizen, according to Akunjee.
The interior ministry reportedly believes that she is entitled to claim citizenship in the south Asian country.
Chiranjiv Sarker, head of the consular wing and dual nationality issues at Bangladesh’s foreign ministry, told AFP it was aware of the case but had not received any contact from the family.
“So far none of her family members (has) approached us,” he said. “What I learn from newspapers is that Shamima was trying to return to Britain.”
He added that, if approached, the ministry would need to try to verify Begum’s Bangladeshi heritage to assess any possible eligibility for citizenship.
Trump call rebuffed
Begum is currently in a refugee camp in northeast Syria where she fled to escape fighting in the east of the country along with hundreds of other people with links to IS.
She said she has previously given birth to two other children after marrying in Syria. Both children have died, apparently from illness and malnutrition.
Begum fled Britain with Kadiza Sultana, who has since been reported killed, and Amira Abase.
Begum said in recent media interviews that Abase had stayed in a village where IS fighters are making a final stand against US-backed forces.
European countries have been grappling with what to do with foreign fighters detained in Syria by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, who have warned they may not be able to guard their jails once US troops leave.
The British government on Monday rebuffed US President Donald Trump’s call to take back alleged UK jihadists captured in the war-ravaged country.
Trump had called on Britain, France, Germany and other European allies “to take back over 800 IS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial”.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman said the fighters should instead face justice in places where they committed their crimes.
A teenager who joined the Islamic State group in Syria but now wants to return to Britain on Sunday gave birth in a refugee camp, as European governments grapple with what to do with returning jihadists ahead of a US troop pullout.
Shamima Begum, whose fate has stirred controversy ever since she and two friends fled London to join the terror network in 2015 aged just 15, told Sky News she had delivered a boy.
“I just gave birth so I’m really tired,” the 19-year-old said as she made a renewed appeal to be allowed back to Britain with her newborn baby.
“I’m afraid he might even die in this camp. I feel a lot of people should have sympathy for me, for everything I’ve been through,” she said.
“I didn’t know what I was getting into when I left. I just was hoping that maybe for the sake of me and my child they let me come back,” she added.
Her case comes as European nations struggle with how to deal with jihadists eager to return home following the disintegration of Islamic State’s “caliphate” in eastern Syria.
US President Donald Trump again demanded on Saturday that they take back hundreds of captured IS fighters.
Trump said on Twitter that the United States was asking Britain and other continental allies “to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial”.
The demand came as he prepared — ahead of the pullout of US troops — to declare the group’s so-called “caliphate” destroyed, with US-led Arab and Kurdish forces close to capturing its last Syrian territorial holdout.
“The US does not want to watch as these ISIS fighters permeate Europe,” Trump added.
“Time for others to step up and do the job that they are so capable of doing. We are pulling back after 100% Caliphate victory!”
‘I don’t regret it’
Begum, previously gave birth to two other children after marrying in Syria. Both children died.
Leading politicians, including interior minister Sajid Javid, have vowed to prevent her return, pointing to her lack of remorse for joining the terror group.
Begum told Sky News she was aware of IS’s brutal tactics, including conducting beheadings but did not regret going to Syria.
“I knew about those things and I was OK with it at first,” she said. “They take care of you… you’re living under Islamic law.
“I don’t regret it because it’s changed me as a person, made me stronger, tougher.”
The teenager, who said she had had no contact with British officials, added the government should not block her homecoming because she was “just a housewife” while there.
“I never made propaganda, I never encouraged people to come to Syria.
“They don’t really have proof that I did anything that is dangerous,” she said.
Europe has long been grappling with how to respond to foreign fighters, and their supporters or dependants, caught in Syria.
However, the looming US departure has created a deadline for those governments whose citizens joined IS and have now been captured by the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Britain’s government appears split on the issue.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright, a former attorney general — the country’s chief legal adviser — told the BBC on Sunday that it was “obliged, at some stage at least, to take them back”.
He noted it was “a matter of international law and domestic law”.
However, writing in The Sunday Times — under the headline “if you run away to join ISIS, I will use all my power to stop you coming back” — Javid insisted the government should strip “dangerous individuals of their British citizenship”.
He said Britain had already exercised this power more than 100 times.
“In considering what actions need to be taken now, I have to think about the safety and security of children living in our country,” Javid wrote.
Other European countries that have chosen to leave the jihadists in SDF detention are now being forced to confront the situation.
“All German citizens — including those who are suspected of fighting for the so-called Islamic state — have a fundamental right to travel back into Germany,” a German foreign ministry source said Sunday.
Belgian justice minister Koen Geens told Flemish broadcaster VRT there was the need for a “European solution” to the issue, but appeared irked by Trump’s blunt call.
“It would have been nice for friendly nations to have these kinds of questions raised through the usual diplomatic channels rather than a tweet in the middle of the night,” he said in Dutch.