Tareena Shakil, Woman Accused Of Joining Isis, Says Son Wore Balaclava Because He 'Loved Wearing Hats'

Mother Accused Of Joining Isis Says Toddler Wore Group's Balaclava 'Because He Loved Hats'

A mother accused of taking her toddler to Syria to join the so-called Islamic State militants has defended putting the child in a black balaclava bearing the group's logo, claiming the boy just "loved wearing hats".

Tareena Shakil travelled to Syria from Turkey in October 2014, where she lived in the Isis stronghold of Raqqa before returning to the UK in February 2015. She was arrested off a flight landing at Heathrow airport.

The 26-year-old denies that her child wearing the balaclava represents any allegiance to the terrorist group, pointing out that in another image her son was wearing a Thomas The Tank Engine hat.

Tareena Shakil

The photograph, found on her phone, was taken in a mansion where she and her boy were living with other single women in the ISIS capital of Raqqa, she said.

She said a group of youngsters, including her toddler, had gone into a grown-ups' room to get the hat and were taking turns wearing it.

The Press Association reports that the former college student said: "I said to a little boy, 'can I just put it on (my son)'?

"He loved wearing hats," she told Birmingham Crown Court on Friday.

"That's why he's laughing in this picture, because he likes wearing hats on his head.

"It's nothing to do with what's printed on it, even if it didn't have that (Isis) logo on it, I would still have taken this picture."

Shakil denies a charge of joining ISIS and another allegation of encouraging acts of terrorism through Twitter.

Shakil also said a picture of a woman holding a pistol on her phone was actually of her ISIS minder, who watched her all the time she lived at the former city governor's mansion - known as the Maqqar.

She added that a comment home to relatives saying "I have a gun" was only sent because she was told what to say by the minder.

Shakil said the message was sent as part of a "test" because she feared a journalist was using the family member's phone to get information through about life under ISIS rule.

Tim Moloney QC, her barrister, asked why she repeatedly told family and friends in messages back home: "I'm happy."

Shakil, of Beechfield Road in Birmingham and formerly of Burton-upon-Trent in Staffordshire, told jurors: "Because I didn't want my family to worry, at that point.

"I didn't know if I'd ever be able to escape from this place, so I had to go from day to day, it was a way of coping."

The former health worker flew from East Midlands Airport to Turkey on October 20 2014, telling friends she was going on a family beach holiday.

But she ended up living in the ISIS capital of Raqqa, after being driven across the border and Syrian countryside in secret.

She returned home with her toddler in February 2015, when she was arrested off a flight landing at Heathrow airport.

Yesterday, Shakil said she had gone to Syria to live under sharia law but denied she was a terrorist.

Opening the case against Shakil last week, Sean Larkin QC for the prosecution said the woman was "radicalised" in 2014, and started posting messages and pictures in support of ISIS.

He said: "This was no spur of the moment decision. This was planned."

Mr Larkin added: "She travelled to Raqqa to set up her new life as part of ISIS."


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