Shamima Begum: How The Drama Of The British Schoolgirls Fleeing To Syria Unfolded

It all started in 2015, when three girls went missing from a school in east London.

Nine months pregnant, two infant children who died and a husband in captivity – life in the “oppressive and corrupt” Islamic State caliphate quickly turned from utopia to nightmare for Shamima Begum.

The east London schoolgirl who left Britain as a 15-year-old has been tracked down by The Times to a refugee camp in northern Syria.

Now 19, all she wants is to “be able to come home and live quietly with my child”.

Stating that “I don’t regret coming here,” she told The Times: “I’m not the same silly little 15-year-old schoolgirl who ran away from Bethnal Green four years ago.”

She also told the paper: “The caliphate is over.

“There was so much oppression and corruption that I don’t think they deserved victory. I know what everyone at home thinks of me as I have read all that was written about me online.

“But I just want to come home to have my child. That’s all I want right now. I’ll do anything required just to be able to come home and live quietly with my child.”

Shamima Begum.
Shamima Begum.
PA Wire/PA Images

Begum was one of three British schoolgirls who fled the UK to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group in 2015, making headlines around the world.

Here’s how events unfolded...


February 17

Kadiza Sultana, 16, and 15-year-olds Shamima Begum and Amira Abase leave their east London homes at 8am to travel to Istanbul in Turkey from Gatwick Airport.

Begum and Abase – who has not yet been publicly named – are reported missing by their families later the same day.

February 18

Sultana is reported missing to the police.

February 20

The Metropolitan Police launch a public appeal for information on the missing girls who are feared to have gone on to Syria.

It emerges the girls are good friends with another 15-year-old girl from their school, Bethnal Green Academy, who fled to Syria in December.

The Met expresses concerns that the missing girls may have fled to join Islamic State.

Detectives reveal that Turkish Airlines did not notify police the three “straight-A students” were on the flight.

PA Wire/PA Images

February 21

Four days after the girls went missing, police believe they may still be in Turkey.

Officers say they may have been able to intervene before the girls departed had they been notified by the airline.

Prime Minister David Cameron says the situation is “deeply concerning”, adding: “Our authorities will do everything we can to help these girls.”

Police reveal Abase’s identity, and families of all three girls appeal directly to them to come home.

It is revealed that at least one of the missing girls had Twitter contact with Aqsa Mahmood, who left her Glasgow home in November 2013 and travelled to Syria after becoming radicalised.

February 22

Abase’s father Abase Hussen says his daughter told him she was going to a wedding on the day she disappeared.

Metropolitan Police officers arrive in Turkey, but refuse to confirm whether they are involved in the search for the teenagers.

Begum said she was put in a house where jihadist brides-to-be waited to be married.

February 23

Mark Keary, the head teacher at Bethnal Green Academy, says police found no evidence the missing students were radicalised there.

Cameron says airlines and internet companies need to do more to prevent radicalised British teenagers travelling to the Middle East to join Isis.

February 24

Turkish deputy prime minister Bulent Arinc criticises British authorities for taking three days to alert the country over the missing schoolgirls.

March 10

It emerges that the girls funded their trip by stealing jewellery. Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, the national police lead for counter-terrorism, tells MPs: “We think it’s linked to taking jewellery from one of their family members.”

Begum was married 10 days after arriving in Raqqa in 2015 to a Dutchman who had converted to Islam. She claims her husband was later arrested, charged with spying and tortured.

Infographic supplied by Statista.
Infographic supplied by Statista.


August 2016

Sultana, 17, is reportedly killed in Raqqa when a suspected Russian air strike obliterates her house. Begum told The Times she has recently heard second-hand from other people that Abase, and the other schoolgirl who left Britain in 2014, may still be alive.


January 2017

Begum left Raqqa in January 2017 with her husband but her children, a girl aged a year and nine months old and a three-month-old boy, both died in the recent months. Her son had an unknown illness worsened by malnutrition, The Times said.

She said she had a “mostly” a “normal life in Raqqa, every now and then bombing and stuff”.

She told the paper: “But when I saw my first severed head in a bin it didn’t faze me at all. It was from a captured fighter seized on the battlefield, an enemy of Islam. I thought only of what he would have done to a Muslim woman if he had the chance.”


February 14

Begum, 19, tells Anthony Loyd of The Times that she wants to return to the UK to give birth to her third child.

Speaking from a refugee camp in Syria, she adds she does not regret joining IS and that she believes, contrary to reports in 2018, that her other companion Abase is still alive in Baghuz.

The family went to Baghuz and she left there two weeks ago along a three-mile long corridor east of the town. Her husband surrendered to a group of Syrian fighters allied to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and she has not seen him since, according to The Times.


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