'Housewife' Shamima Begum was 'IS morality police enforcer', activists say
Shamima Begum, the London-born teenager who was stripped of her British citizenship this year for having been a member of the Islamic State group, was a member of the force's feared "morality police", Syrian eyewitnesses said.
The hisba ("morality police") played a key role in meting out punishments under IS rule. The all-female al-Khansaa Brigade of the "hisba" patrolled the streets of cities including Raqqa and Mosul to police women's dress and behaviour. Unlike other women under the so-called "caliphate", female members of the "hisba" were allowed to drive and carry weapons.
Begum, a 19-year-old who fled her home in East London four years ago with two other school girls to join the extremist group, has claimed she was only a "housewife" during her time in Syria.
Syrian activists have disputed those claims, telling The Sunday Telegraph that Begum had been sighted patrolling the streets of Raqqa, armed with an automatic weapon and shouting at Syrian women for wearing colourful shoes.
"Members of our group from Raqqa knew her well," Aghiad al-Kheder, an activist from Deir ez-Zour who founded Sound and Picture, an anti-IS group dedicated to publishing information about the group's crimes.
"There were lots of young European women in the hisba. Some of them were very harsh and the local population became very scared."
Kheder added that Begum had a reputation for being strict, and had likely been responsible for ordering the imprisonment and lashing of other women.
Begum allegedly also stitched IS fighters into suicide bomb vests so that they could not remove them, intelligence sources told The Mail on Sunday.
Those allegations are believed to come from the interrogation of other Western IS members by the CIA and Dutch Military Intelligence, but have not been verified.
Begum's case ignited a row in the UK following her arrival to the al-Hol refugee camp in northern Syria in February.
After giving several interviews to the British and international press in which she claimed she had not committed any crimes while living under IS, Begum was stripped of her British citizenship by Home Secretary Sajid Javid.
Her two-week-old son Jarrah died shortly after, causing many to blame Javid for the death of the newborn who had been born a British citizen.
Begum's family lawyer Tasnime Akunjee travelled to Syria in March in order to gain her signature for a legal plea to regain her British citizenship.
Her signature was needed for an appeal to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, which has previously found decisions by the UK government to strip people of their citizenship unlawful.
Akunjee was not permitted to enter the al-Hol camp to visit Begum by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The SDF is responsible for guarding thousands of IS fighters and women and children affiliated with the group in camps and prisons in northern Syria.
The family is proceeding with a separate legal challenge to the government's decision.
The death of Begum's child Jarrah may form part of their case, Akunjee told The Independent.