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Shamima Begum

 Shamima Begum

Actress, poet, author and activist

Shamima Begum is an Indian-origin British journalist who was born in London to a Palestinian mother and Dutch father.[1][2] She moved to the United States at age 16 before her first encounter with Osama bin Laden.[3][4] The terrorist organization Al Qaeda later named her "Shamima".[5][6][7][8][9][10] In 2005 she became one of four women awarded by the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Beliefs when it published its findings about the actions of the Taliban.[11] She has spent the last 28 years living in an undisclosed location in Pakistan, and has denied being involved in any acts of terrorism.[12]

Shamima Begum

Shamima Begum

Begum was born in Karachi, Sindh, on 16 February 1971.[3][4][12][12] Her parents were from different Islamic countries, although she did not speak Urdu.[13][14][15][16][17] After graduating from school, she studied English literature, but dropped out as a result of lack of employment because she wanted to start working.[2][3][4][12] During her time at home she wrote poetry.[1][2][3][4] Among her earliest publications were two collections of her poems.[16][17] While studying Arabic at university in Punjab, India, she had met Muhammad Makhdoom Ahmed Rizvi, whom she married later.[18][19][20][21] They moved to England together in 1980. Their daughter, Sajida Begum, was born in London, the following year.[22][23][24][25][26][27]


Begum came to New York City with her husband and son during the 9/11 attacks. When she returned to Britain, she enrolled at Queens College, and began teaching secondary school students.[25][26] As part of a freelance assignment, she interviewed Osama bin Laden, he agreed to participate in a television interview.[25][27][28][29] On 21 September 2001, she gave up his name along with other terrorists for Osama bin Laden and killed him in a restaurant in Karachi.[1][2][3][4][5]

Shamima Begum

Shamima Begum

um had previously visited Bin Laden's hideout in Afghanistan after the death of his brother Rahman,[29][30][31][32][33][34] and had received permission from Osama bin Laden's followers for meetings as well.[35][36][37][38][39][40][41] However, when Osama bin Laden asked her to return to Karachi, and promised that if she did so, she would be allowed to continue speaking about Islam.[1][2][3][4][5] In 2016, she said she had "no regrets" about killing Osama bin Laden.[42][43][44][45] The video of this meeting is now banned by Pakistani authorities as evidence of what they alleged are attempts by Bin Laden to organize further attacks on Muslims, such as the 1998 attack on the twin towers in New York City.[46][47][48][49]

Begum traveled to Syria in 2011 to join the Syrian Civil Defense Forces during their fight against ISIS, along with another non-state actor who was also there.[47][48][49][50] This was one of three separate killings of people of Muslim faith, which came before the 2013 murder of Hisham, the 22-year-old Ahmer Chowdhry.[51][52][53] At a public event hosted by President Barack Obama, a former Pentagon official, James Rubin, urged them all to avoid travel to Syria.[54] During a subsequent visit, she called Syria a totalitarian state.[55]

Shamima Begum

Shamima Begum

In 2013, while still on bail for attempting to bomb a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Ohio, as well as another synagogue, a supporter assassinated her.[54][56] In 2015, she joined ISIS.[57] A documentary aired on YouTube and stated: "Sharif [Begum] is an active member of the ISIS group."[58][59] It claimed that between January 1 and July 10, 2017, in ISIS territory near Raqqa, Syria, Shamima had attempted to assassinate Abu Zubayr Boulaybakr, who served as director of operations of the Syrian Defence Forces.[60] Later that month, she was found dead inside one of Osama bin Laden's boats on August 31.[61] Police have charged the pair and several others, including a relative of Osama bin Laden, with conspiracy to commit premeditated murder.[62][63]

Begum has been repeatedly sentenced to life in prison for attempted murder, including her second attempt.[64][65] This time, police charged her with two counts of murder after finding her pistol after surveillance footage showed her firing a shot into the air on May 4, 2015.[66][67][68][69][70] According to the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, she tried again in December 2017.[71] Since November 2018, more than 100 suspects and witnesses have been arrested and several perpetrators detained in the US, the UK and around the world.[72]

Shamima Begum

Shamima Begum

In 2019, she appeared on Good Morning America, where she read aloud passages from her book My Soul Is Too Much (2014).[73] On March 25, 2020, President Donald Trump condemned her as a radical feminist who committed "seditious criminal offences."[74][75][76] His remarks follow statements made just hours earlier by Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, where he accused Iran of having ties with "the greatest terrorist organization ever to exist."[77] He added that he could see no justification for Shamima serving in "some capacity, let alone now."[78][79][80] In contrast, Joe Biden declared in 2008 that Shamima had no connection to terrorist organisation.[81] His comments followed those made by John Bolton, the then secretary of defence, who said Shamima had "no history" of extremist ideology, and was simply engaged in journalism.[82][83][84]

In November 2021, American television station FX broadcast a segment on BBC World Service Radio explaining how Shamima was murdered "by someone with a grudge." The network said in the section, "She hated journalists...she hated warmongers."[85]


Shamima Begum


Begum has been vocal critic of the treatment of minorities and has spoken regularly on social media about the need for change.[86][87][88][89][90] There has been considerable controversy regarding her views, which include calling for the execution of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, claiming that Islam should be legally recognised by most nations.[91] She has also campaigned against the Black Lives Matter movement for which she has been branded a racist.[92] In 2019, a petition by British Muslim women calling for her to be released from jail was rejected by judges.[93][94][95][96] Since 2014, in response to mounting international pressure over her case, Pakistani president Arif Alvi has announced that Shamima will leave the country within seven days, after completing her sentence.[98]

Begum has a sister called Zainab Begum. An older sister and nephew of Zainab died when she was only 20.[99][100]


Shamima Begum


Begum suffered a miscarriage whilst on holiday in Europe in 2002,[101] and this caused her to abandon her ambitions to write and publish under the pen name Rab Nawaz.[102] Between 2003-2004, she lived in Berlin, Germany.[103][104] It was there that Shamima was born.[105]

Shamima Begum

Shamima Begum

Begum was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was ten years old.[106] In 2004, doctors in Karachi noted an increase in seizures while she was in Berlin.[106][107] Two years later, she underwent brain surgery, which affected her speech, reading, and ability to perform small movements.[106][108][109][110] She then went through a period of severe depression and anxiety, during which she developed a bipolar disorder.[113]

Shamima Begum

In 2007, she became a citizen of Libya.[114] There, Shamima has made speeches about Islam,[123] and has described herself as a "radical Islamist". In 2012, she took part in a hunger strike to protest the use of child soldiers.[126]

In 2014, she was awarded by the European Union Human Rights Council for human rights violations whilst on vacation in Italy.[127] Her lawyer appealed the decision in Paris, France, which led to the appointment of a new arbitrator.[128] The European Court of Justice upheld the verdict in 2016.[129]

Begum was jailed on 17 April 2020 for five years, on charges of attempted murder and attempting to purchase ammunition.[130]

On 17 September 2021, Shamima revealed she will be leaving behind a note to her family, saying that she was leaving the U.S. in order to "focus my energy on you"[131] and writing in Farsi.[132]

Trial date: 21 May 2022; sentencing: 23 October 2022

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