Saleh Muslim, one of the most prominent spokespeople of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria and co-chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) spoke to Medya News about Shamima Begum, the young woman whose case is again prominent in UK news.
Saleh Muslim stated that if the UK requests the return of Shamima Begum the administration who are accommodating her in North and East Syria will assist in getting her to the UK, stating that her case is first and foremost a humanitarian issue and should not be used for political purposes.
Shamima Begum travelled with friends to Syria to join ISIS in 2015 when she was just 15 years old. She rapidly became a cause célèbre in the UK after various British journalists interviewed her, first in al Hol camp, and later in Roj camp where she is currently being held by the Kurdish led authorities in northeastern Syria.
Saleh Muslim said that the responsibility of dealing with tens of thousands of ex ISIS fighters and their families should be shared between countries, rather than the issue left solely in the hands of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria.
In relation to Shamima Begum’s case he said, ‘We are ready to do everything from our side, [but] from our side we cannot do anything, as it is related to England.’ Saleh added that Begum is staying in the camp at the moment but that the issue stands with the British government who stripped her of her citizenship, so he suggested that perhaps the United Nations, or another country, could get involved.
He said that in order to faciliatate Shamima Begum’s case, the administration simply requires someone to make a request for their family member or citizen’s return, and pointed out that the administration has facilitated hundreds of other such cases, from dozens of other countries.
Saleh said that the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria will faciliate Begum’s return to the UK if such a request is made, stressing that the administration will not have a problem facilitating Begum’s humanitarian case.
It is a recent story by Josh Baker that has caused so much renewed interest in the UK regarding Begum. Baker followed her case and uncovered files showing that Begum was smuggled into Syria by a man called Mohammed Al Rasheed who was allegedly working for Canadian intelligence.
Shamima Begum was interviewed about this for a BBC Podcast and said that, “[Rasheed] organised the entire trip from Turkey to Syria… I don’t think anyone would have been able to make it to Syria without the help of smugglers. He had helped a lot of people come in… We were just doing everything he was telling us to do because he knew everything, we didn’t know anything.”
In an attempt to regain her British citizenship, Shamima Begum’s lawyers are arguing that Begum was a victim of ‘people smugglers’. Her British citizenship was revoked by the UK government in 2019, leaving her without anywhere to return to.
Saleh Muslim repeated that the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria are ready to do anything they can to help in this case, repeatedly emphasising that Shamima Begum’s case is a humanitarian issue and should not be politicised.