Shamima Begum fled to war-torn Syria at the age of 15 in 2015. (File photo)
The Dutch husband of Shamima Begum, the British-born schoolgirl who fled the UK to join the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group in Syria, wants his wife and new-born baby boy to return with him to the Netherlands.
Yago Riedijk married Begum days after she arrived inside ISIS territory four years ago, when he was 23 and she was 15 years old.
Now, as a 27-year-old ISIS fighter being held in a Kurdish detention centre in north-eastern Syria, Riedijk said he wants to return home to the Netherlands, where he faces at least a six-year jail term for joining a terror organisation.
“We should live in Holland,” he told the BBC in an interview from his detention centre.
His remarks follow UK home secretary Sajid Javid revocation of Begum’s British citizenship last month on security grounds, blocking her return to the UK. Begum’s family is in the process of mounting a legal challenge against that order.
Riedijk, from Arnhem in the Netherlands, joined ISIS in 2014 and has been on a terrorism watch list but his Dutch citizenship has not been revoked.
He surrendered to a group of Syrian fighters recently as his wife and baby ended up among 39,000 people in the Al-Hol refugee camp in northern Syria. Begum and her baby Jarrah have since been moved out of the camp following alleged threats after she made a media appeal to be allowed back into the UK.
Her husband told the BBC that he had now rejected ISIS ideology, but did not regret marrying Begum as an under-age schoolgirl.
“To be honest, when my friend came and said there was a girl who was interested in marriage, I wasn’t that interested because of her age, but I accepted the offer anyway,” he said, adding that she had seemed to be “in a good state of mind” at the time.
“It was her own choice. She asked to look for a partner for her, and I was invited,” he recalled.
He added: “She was very young, maybe it would have been better for her to wait a bit… But she didn’t, she chose to get married and I chose to marry her.”
Begum’s British citizenship has been revoked on the grounds that she is eligible for citizenship of Bangladesh through her parents’ heritage as Bangladeshi citizens. But Bangladesh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has since ruled out Begum being allowed into the country.
Under international law, the UK can revoke a citizenship of a British national only if the individual would not be made stateless.
Begum has since pleaded with the UK government to show her and her baby “mercy”, with her family writing to the UK home minister allowing them to at least bring her baby back to the UK as a British citizen as they legally challenge the order.