Shamima Begum tells podcast fellow teen ISIS bride was an 'idiot'

Shamima Begum tells podcast fellow teen ISIS bride who vanished was ‘stupid’ for leaving behind ‘shopping list’ scrawled on school planner – detailing items needed for escape including make-up, boots, £4 socks and £100 taxi

  • The BBC released a 10-part podcast about Shamima Begum and her life in ISIS 
  • The 23-year-old tells a journalist about her life in a refugee camp in Syria 
  • The broadcaster insists that the show is a ‘robust’ investigation into Begum 

Shamima Begum told a podcast her fellow teenage ISIS bride was ‘stupid’ for leaving behind a ‘shopping list’ scrawled on a school planner which detailed items needed for their escape. 

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The list, which featured make-up, boots, £4 socks and £100 for a taxi fare, was found at Begum’s house. 

But, speaking to the BBC, she denied the list was hers and insisted it had been left by Amira Abase, one of the other girls. ‘We tried so hard to clear up our tracks and just one of us was stupid,’ she said.   

The 23-year-old also recalled how she packed mint chocolate for the trip to Syria and ‘felt relieved’ to leave the UK. 

The BBC has been criticised for ‘giving terrorists a platform’ with the 10-part podcast, while the Taxpayers’ Alliance accused the corporation of ‘wasting’ public money.   

The BBC has released a 10-part podcast about Shamima Begum in which she tells the story of how she joined ISIS

In 2015, Begum (centre), then 15, and her school friends Kadiza Sultana (left), also 15, and Amira Abase (right), 16, fled their east London homes to join IS. Her two companions are believed to have died there

Dr Paul Stott, Head of Security and Extremism, Policy Exchange said: ‘It’s legitimate in media terms to ask her questions and indeed to allow her to state her case, but a 10 part podcast is clearly way more than that.

‘It’s hard to imagine that someone who, for example, had allegedly joined a far-right terrorist group would be given a 10 podcast series from which to pontificate. 

‘I do hope the BBC will balance this series with an equally detailed series devoted to some of the victims of ISIS, or indeed those like the Kurds, who are managing this problem at the sharp end?’

The BBC said the podcast would provide Ms Begum’s ‘full account’ of ‘what really happened’ when she disappeared from London in 2015 to become a jihadi bride.

But it insisted her story would not be ‘unchallenged’, describing the podcast as a ‘robust, public interest investigation’. 

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In 2015, a 15-year-old Begum and her school friends Kadiza Sultana, also 15, and Amira Abase, 16, fled their east London homes to join IS.

Begum said of her departure: ‘My mum walked me to the bus stop. I feel guilty for not giving her a better goodbye knowing I wouldn’t see her again.’ 

Begum, now 23, was found in a refugee camp in 2019 and soon after the UK withdrew her citizenship and banned her from entering Britain.

She now lives at the al-Roj camp in northern Syria, run by the Syrian Democratic Forces, which she described as ‘worse than a prison’.

The BBC Sounds podcast follows an investigative journalist who has been talking to Begum for a year and it gives ‘her full account of what really happened after she disappeared’.

In the first episode, journalist Josh Baker meets Begum in the Syrian detention camp to discover how she joined ISIS and eventually ended up stranded. 

She told him being stuck in a camp ‘is, I feel, worse than a prison I think because at least with prison sentences you know that there will be an end but here you don’t know if there’s going to be an end.’

Begum, who said she does squats in her tent to keep fit, told the BBC she accepts she joined a terror group, but on the topic of public anger aimed at her says: ‘I don’t think it’s actually towards me. I think it’s towards ISIS.

‘When they think of ISIS they think of me because I’ve been put on the media so much but what was there to obsess over?

‘We went to ISIS, that was it. It was over, it was over and done with.’

In the podcast the 23-year-old claims that the refugee camp in Syria where she lives is ‘worse than a prison’

Critics accused the BBC of ‘wasting fee payers’ money’ and said the families of ISIS victims would be ‘mortified’. Pictured are some of the critical tweets

Begum also details her journey to Syria, and how she was given detailed instructions by IS members. 

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But she also researched information herself including looking for IS members online to help her and her friends plan their journey.

The podcast reveals Begum and her friends hid their luggage in advance and game-planned for scenarios such as being quizzed or caught out. She said: ‘There were people online… advising us on what to do and what not to do.

‘Just like how to get the money to buy the tickets, where to buy the tickets, which airport to go to, what to bring, what to wear, when you’re going to the airport, who to talk to, who not to talk to, what excuse to make if you do get caught.’

When asked how she decided what items to take, Begum says: ‘It’s the same as when you go on vacation, you’re just [thinking] what do I need for a vacation, it’s pretty basic items.’

‘I don’t know, people used to say… pack nice clothes so you can dress nicely for your husband.’


Kadiza Sultana – who was killed in an airstrike – and Amira Abase, whose whereabouts are unknown 

She also packed items she knew she wouldn’t find in Syria, including mint chocolate: ‘I took candy. I just like bought candies that I knew I wouldn’t find in Syria. Mint Aero, mint chocolate, like a lot. You can find a lot of things in this country but you cannot find mint chocolate. It’s a tragedy.’

Asked about how she felt about potentially never returning to the UK, she says: ‘Really at that time, I just was not thinking, my mind was like completely blank but I guess yes I thought this is the last time I’m going to see the UK. I mean in a way I felt kind of relieved.’

The BBC said the podcast is not an opportunity for Begum to tell her story unchallenged but is a ‘robust public interest investigation’

Begum also says: ‘I’ve always been a more secluded person. That’s why it’s so hard the way my life has turned out being all over the media because I’m not a person that likes a lot of attention.’

‘My family thought I was too weak to do something so crazy so they did not think in a million years I could do that because of who I am, because of my personality.’    

Josh Baker says: ‘There are different ways to tell the Shamima Begum story. There’s the one about a 15-year-old schoolgirl who was groomed and lured to a war zone by ISIS and now needs saving from a Syrian detention camp.

‘And there’s the one about a traitor, who fled Britain to join ISIS and became known the world over as a terrorist and must be stopped from coming back to Britain.

‘As Shamima challenges the removal of her British citizenship by the UK government, I’ve examined her accounts to give listeners a definitive narrative on this complex, nuanced and shocking story.’

The series says it is aiming to ‘separate fact from fiction’ as it tries to answer the question ‘who is Shamima Begum?’

The podcast will also explore how she got to Syria and what did she did when she arrived.

The broadcaster also states that the podcast is not an opportunity for Begum to tell her story unchallenged, but is a ‘robust public interest investigation’.

  • Episode 1 of ‘I’m Not A Monster’: The Shamima Begum Story is available to listen to today on BBC Sounds. New episodes will be available and will also be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 from 11am.

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