Former IS bride urges UK to show Shamima Begum mercy | World News
A former British IS bride has urged the public to show Shamima Begum “mercy” – but says the teenager is immature and should be asking for forgiveness.
Tania Joya was married to an American Muslim convert who became one of Islamic State’s leading militants before she became disillusioned with the group and escaped Syria six years ago, pregnant and with three children.
The 35-year-old, who now lives in Texas with her second husband, grew up in Harrow, northwest London, where she was brought up as a Muslim and says she was not taught any other values or beliefs.
She said her situation was very similar to 19-year-old Shamima Begum’s, who wants to return to the UK four years after fleeing to Syria where she married a Dutch IS fighter and recently gave birth to her third child, now her only surviving child.
Ms Joya, who has renounced Islam and now helps other ex-IS wives and jihadists, told Sky News: “I feel that I probably would have made the same mistake as she did if I was 15 years old and in her situation.
“Most conservative Muslim homes do not teach humanism and secular values, we’re usually taught to fear God and God’s law overrides any other law, the rule of law in the country.
“I feel like she doesn’t understand there are other ways of thinking and a form of justice – she’s so young that she hasn’t done the research, the psychology of human beings and why people do the things they do.
“Right now, she’s thinking very binary and everything has to be life or death.
“With people like Shamima, and the situation I was in when I was younger, we were deceived to believe that this life isn’t real, the life after we die is the real existence – it’s all a lie.”
Ms Joya married Texas-based former Greek Orthodox Christian John Georgelas – known as Yahya al Bahrumi – after meeting him on a Muslim marriage website in 2003.
She says he was clever, inspiring and made her believe in IS. From the US, they went to Egypt where he became a more prominent figure in IS circles and he then forced her to go to Syria for a week – then made her stay.
Unlike Ms Joya, Shamima Begum voluntarily joined IS in Syria, but the reformed Islamist said she can understand how the former Bethnal Green schoolgirl got to that point.
“I believe Shamima was in a situation very similar to my own where we weren’t allowed to have that freedom to think for ourselves, we weren’t allowed to be independent-minded women,” she added.
“I think I just needed an answer, at 19 years old – from 17-19 that’s when I became radical. I wasn’t hearing a good argument, nobody could understand what was going through my mind.
“They didn’t understand I turned to religion to cope with my depression.
“I really would have liked to have heard a voice of reason and also good role models in my life, that was something that wasn’t present in my life when I was growing up.
“I think Shamima was in a similar situation, maybe she felt like an outcast, being Bengali, being from an immigrant family, being not well off in the UK.
“Maybe she and her friends felt like they didn’t have the same opportunities. I can only speak for myself but I know that’s how I felt.”
Ms Joya said Shamima Begum’s apparent lack of empathy and apology for joining IS is “despicable”, but she said she is immature and has had “no chance to think otherwise”.
She said: “I can only hope that we can rehabilitate her and teach her about secular humanism and Western principles, because I don’t believe she was taught that to begin with.
“She should be asking for mercy, for forgiveness. Because, she’s asking for forgiveness from people she was at war with.
“She needs counselling and psychiatric help, anti-depressants.
“She’s very young, she doesn’t understand. She needs exposure.”
Ms Joya said she believes Shamima Begum can be taught, especially as she was doing well at school before she left – and she needs to be helped “for the sake of her child”.
“Because if we help her, we can help her child, for the good of society,” she said.
“I hope the British public can have mercy on her.
“She’s still only 19 and she’s been for four years around a group of very draconian-like, brutal people who really are not in tune with the 21st Century.
“I believe through education we can enlighten her.
“Right now, as extremist Muslims they don’t believe in freedom of thought because they’ve been indoctrinated and been taught not to question their Islamic beliefs, not to question Sharia or God.
“But we live in a free society where we can question everything and that’s the only way we can get to the truth.
“I want to explain to her a secular, humanist perspective and there are ways of getting involved with the political process without violence.”
Ms Joya said she hopes Shamima Begum, and others returning from IS, get in contact with her so she can explain how they can change.
“There’s so many things I want to say to her and others. It took me a long time to learn but it was liberating and enlightening and I want her to learn that for her and her child,” she added.