I.n his first live interview since joining the Islamic State (IS), on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, 22-year-old Shamima Begum made his latest call to return to the UK. She is one of more than 6,000 minors who was affiliated with the Islamic State, but ever since grainy CCTV footage of her leaving the UK with two schoolmates from East London in 2015 surfaced, her case has garnered international media attention.
The Begum case first raises the question of the responsibility of minors who become radicalized. At first, media reports described the three girls as “Attracted” to IS, comparing his childlike innocence with the monstrosity of his recruiters. The then education secretary, Nicky Morgan, wrote to his school saying, “We hope and pray for the safe return of the students.” In the rush to explain the fact that girls could walk away from their lives in Britain to join a terrorist organization, the “jihadist girlfriend” narrative took hold, a catch-all phrase that focuses on girls’ romantic motives. .
However, this term is problematic because it simplifies, sexualizes and stereotypes women’s participation in the group.
Begum claims that her motivation for joining the Islamic State was “to get married, have children and live a purely Islamic life.” However, the growing research on the radicalization of women and girls in the Islamic State has revealed varied and individualized motivations, including the desire for belonging, purpose, adventure, ideological fulfillment, and even thirst for violence.
At articles published by terrorist groups, Marriage and parenting were described as “jihad” and the primary duty of women, but this was not the limit of their activism. Women took on roles as teachers, doctors, bureaucrats, and even front-line combatants and officers in the infamous Islamic State. “moral police”. From innocent schoolgirls to “monsters“These women are now seen as a credible security threat.
However, IS is strict, anonymize the female dress code it has left little evidence of the activities of individual women within the group’s territory. In her interview, Begum states: “I didn’t do anything in Isis other than being a mother and wife … the government doesn’t really have anything on me.”
Begum is now demanding the opportunity to prove his innocence and has renounced his support for the Islamic State. For some, this notably includes it “New style”. When she appeared without her hijab and abaya, her interviewers on Good Morning Britain questioned her need to “look Western” in an attempt to reflect an inner transformation.
Here are two troubling assumptions. First: whether or not your change in appearance is a public relations stunt, Islamic dress should never be construed as a marker or measure of radicalism. While ISIS mandated that all women within its territory must wear the full burqa, this does not in any way mean that all women who choose to wear the burqa are aligned with ISIS or support other extremist groups. These garments are articles of religious dress, not an SI uniform.
Second, this comment normalizes a “western” appearance without a hijab or other signifier of the Islamic faith. It reinforces the discriminatory sentiment that Muslim women do not belong to Western – or here, British – society. The social media accounts of young women and girls who joined the Islamic State constantly speak of lack of acceptance, discrimination, and outright Islamophobia as reasons to join the group. The prejudices in our society that connect radicalization and physical appearance are easily exploited by extremist recruiters.
In April 2019, ISIS lost control of its final enclave in Syria, pushing previously affiliated women and children into safe camps. According to latest estimatesThe largest of these, al-Hol, is home to more than 65,000 women and children, with nearly 10,000 foreign nationals housed in a high-security annex. Overcrowding, poor sanitation, and limited access to health care have led to high rates of infant mortality.
All three of Begum’s children have now passed away. His youngest son, Jarrah, died shortly after his arrival in al-Hol. She describes the very low-budget medical facilities that left her feeling like “there was nothing [she] I could do to help him. Regardless of what one thinks of Begum, the loss of these children is a tragedy. Born in these circumstances, they have paid the highest price for their parents’ choices. But while baby Jarrah’s death can be attributed in part to Begum’s trip to a war zone, it could also have been prevented if he (and his mother) had been allowed to return to Britain.
The UK government’s decision to strip Begum of her British citizenship (claiming she is entitled to Bangladeshi citizenship through her inheritance) has sparked controversy. The British Nationality Act 1981 stipulates that a person born in Great Britain cannot be deprived or stripped of his citizenship if he becomes stateless. In effect, this means that the deprivation of citizenship can only be deployed against the children of migrant parents or children of people with dual nationality, resulting in what some analysts have highlighted as discriminatory. “two-tier system”.
Traveling to Bangladesh, whether possible or not, should not be part of the debate. Begum is / was British. He was born in England and left Great Britain to join the Islamic State. Their actions have consequences that are the responsibility of the UK. Leaving her (and others) in makeshift detention centers only increases the pressure on the Kurdish authorities, who are already overburdened, whose evidence is clear from recent jail breaks and smuggling campaigns.
Begum has once again become the “poster girl”, this time for demonized women who had been affiliated with IS. Regardless of the decisions of states to repatriate or prosecute their citizens, it is clear that many women like Begum have suffered physical and psychological trauma during childhood and early adulthood. Your cases must be handled with sensitivity. Sensational questioning and stereotypes by the media and politicians will hamper prospects for rehabilitation, fuel discriminatory and Islamophobic narratives, and even potentially reignite support for extremism.