Where is Shamima Begum now?

The 23-year-old still hopes of returning to the UK

An unidentified woman holding a photograph of Shamima Begum before she left for Syria
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Many are wondering where is Shamima Begum now? The former London schoolgirl who travelled to Syria in 2015.

At just 15-years-old, Shamima Begum left her home in Bethnal Green along with two other schoolgirls - Kadiza Sultana, 16, and 15-year-old Amira Abase - and travelled to Syria to join Islamic State, also known as ISIS. 

Begum first made headlines in February 2019 when she announced her desire to return to the UK. The news divided opinion across the country and further afield, with some believing she was groomed and should be allowed to return to the place she grew up in, while others think she should face the consequences of her decision to join Islamic State. Four years on from her plea to return to the UK, many are wondering where is Shamima Begum now and what happened to her?

Where is Shamima Begum now?

Shamima Begum is currently being held in a detention camp in north-east Syria. Speaking from the Al-Roj prison camp, she told iNews (opens in new tab) that she expects to spend the rest of her life in Syria.

Begum has most recently been in the news after it was claimed in a forthcoming book, The Secret of the Five Eyes (opens in new tab), by journalist Richard Kerbaj, that a spy for Canada smuggled her into Syria. The intelligence officer and double agent, Mohammed Al Rasheed, was arrested in Turkey within days of smuggling Begum to IS. Canada initially kept quiet when British authorities launched an international search for Begum and the other two schoolgirls, before eventually convincing officials in Britain to go along with a cover up.

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In the BBC's forthcoming 'I'm not a Monster' podcast (opens in new tab), Shamima Begum said of Mohammed Al Rasheed "He organised the entire trip from Turkey to Syria… I don't think anyone would have been able to make it to Syria without the help of smugglers.

"He had helped a lot of people come in… We were just doing everything he was telling us to do because he knew everything, we didn't know anything."

Is Shamima Begum living in the UK?

No, Shamima Begum is not living in the UK. In 2019, then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid (opens in new tab) announced plans to revoke her British Citizenship on the grounds that she posed a danger to the UK.

In July 2020, the Court of Appeal (opens in new tab) ruled that Shamima Begum should be allowed to return to the UK in order to contest the decision to revoke her citizenship, but in February 2021 the ruling went to the Supreme Court (opens in new tab), which voted unanimously against the decision to allow Begum back to the UK to fight her case.

Shamima Begum has been imprisoned in the Al-Roj camp since 2019, when coalition forces defeated Isis in Baghuz.

What did Shamima Begum do?

Shamima Begum left the UK in 2015 to join IS with two other schoolgirls. Once in Syria. The 15-year-old married a Dutch man, Yago Riedijk (opens in new tab), who was a convert to Islam and a convicted terrorist.

In February 2019, The Times (opens in new tab)’ war correspondent Anthony Loyd found Begum in the al-Hawl refugee camp in north-east Syria. She was nine months pregnant and shared that she hopes to return to the UK to raise her child, but says at this time that she doesn't regret joining IS. She also reveals that she had had two other children who died of malnutrition.

Shortly after Begum gave birth, the UK government announces its intention to strip Begum of her citizenship (opens in new tab), and in October 2019 Begum starts an appeal (opens in new tab) against the Home Office’s decision.

Does Shamima Begum have UK citizenship?

No, Shamima Begum does not have UK citizenship. In February 2020, a tribunal ruled that removing Ms Begum's citizenship was lawful because she was 'a citizen of Bangladesh by descent'.

However, Begum has never visited Bangladesh. Authorities in the country have she does not have citizenship, and she would not be allowed in, leaving her stateless.

What is happening to Shamima Begum now?

Shamima Begum is facing trial by the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, which is building a court inside the camp she is imprisoned in.

In July 2022, Begum made a new plea to be allowed to return to the UK. Speaking to iNews (opens in new tab), she says she should be used as an example to counter extremism. She said: "The problem is at the age of being a teenager you're very arrogant and you don't listen to people, so sometimes you really do have to learn the hard way. 

"I could be used as an example, like you don't want to end up like her. If it stops children making the same mistake that I made of course use me as an example."

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