Shamima Begum left her London home to join Daesh as a “jihadi bride” in February 2015. She was one of the three Bethnal Green schoolgirls who travelled to Syria last year, including Kadiza Sultana, reported to have been killed in an airstrike in May 2016.
Like many girls her age, Shamima liked to read, watch television and hang out with her friends. But her sister Renu described her as not particularly adventurous. She wasn’t interested in going out alone too often and she wasn’t especially religious, but she excelled academically.
So what happened to this brilliant student, whose life seemed so similar to other 15 year olds, and what drove her to make the dangerous journey to join a terrorist organisation in Syria?
Shamima’s family claim to have missed the signs, because she appeared as normal as ever in the days before she left home. Renu believes Shamima’s journey was a combination of online radicalisation and the influence of peers. The family also discovered written instructions for particular prayers not in Shamima’s handwriting, suggesting that members of her social circle had an impact on.
What is now known is that Shamima Begum was housed in a compound for widows and potential brides in Raqqa under constant supervision, while Daesh tested her loyalty. It is thought that she was swiftly married to a fighter shortly after her allegiance to Daesh was established.
With news of the death of Kadiza Sultana, Shamima’s family now fear for their own daughter’s life too.
At FAST, we encourage families to stay vigilant. Many young people continue to be vulnerable to the lure of extremist organisations despite their intelligence, academic achievements and lifestyle.
Educating our girls on the dangers they will face if they become tempted by extremist propaganda is imperative. Spotting the signs of radicalisation as early as possible is the best way to avoid tragedy. FAST also offer care and support for families already experiencing the pain and trauma of losing a child to radicalisation. Please get in touch for more information.