Sharmeena Begum

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Sharmeena Begum
Native name
শারমিনা বেগম
Born1999 (age 19–20)
Bethnal Green, Tower Hamlets, London, England
ResidenceDaesh-occupied Syria
Alma materBethnal Green Academy, London

Sharmeena Begum (also spelled Shamina, Bengali: শারমিনা বেগম; born 1999) is a woman who left the United Kingdom to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in December 2014. Two months later, in February 2015, school friends Amira Abase, Shamima Begum and Kadiza Sultana joined her in occupied Syria. Begum is one of the youngest British teenagers to join ISIL.

In February 2019 Begum was described as "missing".[1]


Sharmeena Begum was born to Shahnaz Begum and Mohammad Uddin. She was raised by her mother until her father joined them in the UK in 2007. Begum's mother died, suddenly, of cancer, in January 2014. Her father remarried in September 2014, and Begum left for Syria in December 2014. Begum's father, Mohammad Uddin, said that her behavior changed, she stopped listening to western music, and started going to her room to pray, but he assumed this was a simple grief reaction to her mother's death.[2][3] At the time of her father's remarriage she lived with her grandmother.[4]

The Mail on Sunday reported that members of her family were sure Begum was targetted for recruitment by a group, known as the "Sisters Forum", within the Islamic Forum of Europe, that met at an east London Mosque.[3][5][6][7] Begum used her grandmother's passport, telling her she needed to borrow it for a school project. She paid for her ticket with money she told her grandmother she needed for shopping.

Women from the group that recruited her have been described as "brainwashing" her, telling her she would meet her recently deceased mother in paradise, if she died a martyr. Women from the group are reported to have taken her to the airport, for her departure.[3]

Sharmeena Begum was friends with Amira Abase, Shamima Begum (unrelated) and Kadiza Sultana. All four went to Bethnal Green Academy.[8][9]

Joining ISIL[edit]

After her mother died, Begum became increasingly interested in religious themes, although her family had previously described her as non-religious.[10] She is said to have began to pray and stopped listening to western music.[2][4] According to the police, Begum was groomed by two unidentified women to join ISIL and that those two had taken her to Gatwick Airport on a flight to Turkey, from where she made her way to Syria. According to reports by the family, she has received GBP 500 from her grandmother to purchase the plane ticket.[4]

Begum was not getting along with her new step-mother, and had gone to live with one of her grandmothers.[11] She used her grandmother's passport for her travels, telling her she needed to borrow the passport for her schoolwork.[3] She used 500 pounds she told her grandmother she needed, for shopping, to buy her airline ticket.

The women who groomed her are thought to be members of the East London Mosque in Whitechapel and that they are members of a group called the "Sisters Forum" within the Islamic Forum of Europe. The mosque, however, denied any involvement in the radicalisation of Begum.[7]

Two weeks after her departure, she reportedly called her father to inform him that she did not intend to return.[12][13]

Following his daughter's disappearance, Mr Uddin informed the police of his suspicion that his daughter might have been groomed by Islamists and that her three friends might be at risk as well. Police subsequently approached the three girls to question them about Sharmeena. As they were minors, they gave them letters to pass to their parents to seek permission. The letters were not passed on and police did not follow up.[14]

Two months after her departure, she was joined by her three friends from Bethnal Green Academy who had also made their way to Syria via Turkey. According to reports they have been rejoined in Rakka.[12]

It is thought she married a Bosnian fighter who has since been killed.[8] Her current status is unknown.[15]

Jasmine Jawhar, author of "Terrorists' use of the internet: The case of DAESH", characterized Begum and her school chums as being "mesmerised by the 'romantic idea of Jihad'."[16]

Criticism of the response of security officials[edit]

Begum's travel to Daesh-occupied Syria, followed by the travel of three of her friends, triggered a discussion as to whether UK security officials could have prevented the other girls following her example.[17] The parents of fellow students say were unaware that Begum had travelled to Daesh territory.[18] Parents who were aware assumed she had returned to Bangladesh out of grief, following the death of her mother.

Begum's father was critical that warnings he made, to the police, over his concern her friends might follow her example, were ignored.[17][18]

On February 19, 2019, Cressida Dick, Commissioner of London's Metropolitan Police Service, defended the Police against claims they should have been able to anticipate Begum's friends following her example.[19] Dick disputed that Begum was traveling on the same plane as another teenage recruit, who was prevented from travelling. Dick acknowledged another 15 year old woman was prevented from traveling the night Begum left, but said she thought the other girl was on a different plane. As for the criticism that the Police could have prevented her friends from following her example, she asserted that the Police did speak with her friends, but, at the time, saw them merely as witnesses, not potential victims, because "knowing somebody's intentions is 'extremely complicated'."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kelly McLaughlin (2019-02-19). "ISIS brides from Canada, the US, and Europe are asking to return home years after fleeing for Syria. Here are their stories". This is insider. Retrieved 2019-02-22. Sultana is now believed to be dead, Sharmeena Begum and Abase are missing, Riedijk has turned himself in to authorities, and Shamima Begum is asking to return to London.
  2. ^ a b Gordon, Bryony (2015-03-16). "Syrian schoolgirl: blame the father, not the police". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Archived from the original on 2017-12-13. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  3. ^ a b c d Dodd, Vikram (2015-03-13). "Sharmeena Begum – British girl left to join Isis after upheavals at home". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  4. ^ a b c Mendick, Robert (2015-03-14). "Girl, 15, fled to Islamic State after mother died from cancer". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  5. ^ Wahid, Omar (2 August 2015). "Britain's jihadi bride groomer: Schoolgirl radicalised in London mosque recruited her three classmates to join ISIS in Syria". Daily Mail. Archived from the original on 2019-02-11. Retrieved 2016-01-01.
  6. ^ "Schoolgirl 'radicalised at east London mosque'". Gulf Times. 2 August 2015. Archived from the original on 2016-03-07. Retrieved 2016-01-01. The group has previously been mired in controversy after one of its founders was accused of murders and war crimes in Bangladesh. The newspaper reported that Sharmeena was effectively brainwashed by the group.
  7. ^ a b Rachel Blundy (2015-08-02). "London schoolgirl who recruited three classmates to join IS in Syria 'was radicalised at east London mosque'". Evening Standard. London. Archived from the original on 2018-07-01. Retrieved 2016-01-01. The Mail on Sunday reported today that Sharmeena was radicalised at the East London Mosque in Whitechapel by women from a group called Islamic Forum of Europe.
  8. ^ a b Perraudin, Frances (2019-02-14). "Shamima Begum tells of fate of friends who joined Isis during half-term". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  9. ^ Smith, Tom Ough and Hannah Lucinda (2015-03-14). "Revealed: first of four teenage schoolgirls who fled to Syria". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  10. ^ Rebecca Davis (2016). "What Do They See? A Look at the Appeal of IS to Young Muslim Women Raised in the United Kingdom". Illinois Journal Of International Security. Retrieved 2019-03-04. Others did not even wear a hijab, the Muslim head scarf, until shortly before leaving the UK. This was true in the instance of Sharmeena Begum, the first girl from the Bethnal Green Academy to leave for IS-controlled territory (Sinmaz and Reid, 2015).
  11. ^ Ben Ferguson (2015-08-03). "Left in the Dark: The Story Behind the Families of Three Girls Groomed by the Islamic State". Vice News. Retrieved 2019-03-04. She wasn't getting along with her father's new wife and had decided to live with her maternal grandmother in East London. In the absence of news of where she was, parents at the school presumed she had returned to Bangladesh.
  12. ^ a b "First missing UK schoolgirl named". BBC News. 2015-03-14. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  13. ^ "Missing schoolgirls: First teenager who fled from east London named as". The Independent. 2015-03-14. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  14. ^ London, Katrin Bennhold in. "How Islamic State lured three UK teenagers". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  15. ^ "Father Of Isis Schoolgirl Tells LBC His Daughter Was "Brainwashed" And Wants Her Home". LBC. Retrieved 2019-03-03.
  16. ^ Jasmine Jawhar (2016). "Terrorists' use of the internet: The case of DAESH" (PDF). Southeast Asia Regional Centre for Counter-Terrorism. Retrieved 2019-03-04. Another concerning development out of this influx is the travelling of women and girls as young as 14 years old into these war zones who are mesmerised by the ‘romantic idea of Jihad’.
  17. ^ a b Buchanan, Rose Troup (14 March 2015). "Missing schoolgirls: First teenager who fled from east London named as Sharmeena Begum as father says he told police to warn trio's families". The Independent. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  18. ^ a b Katrin Bennhold (2015-08-18). "Jihad and Girl Power: How ISIS Lured 3 London Girls". The New York Times. London. p. A1. Retrieved 2019-03-04. Sharmeena’s father, Mohammad Uddin, said he had been surprised that the other girls had not left with his daughter. He told The Daily Mail he had urged the police and the school to keep a close eye on them, though the police say the formal statement Mr. Uddin gave to them on Feb. 10 — a week before the three girls left — held no such warning.
  19. ^ Kirsty Bosley (2019-02-19). "Met says stopping schoolgirls intent on becoming jihadi brides is 'incredibly complicated'". Leicester Mercury. Retrieved 2019-03-04. It was claimed that Sharmeena Begum and another unnamed passenger were on the same plane when the latter was pulled from the runway at Heathrow in December 2014 as she sought to travel to Syria. The Times newspaper said the 15-year-old was arrested but not prosecuted, despite officers finding extremist material on her devices.