There's been a new revelation in the case of a British woman accused of joining ISIS as a teenager that now implicates Canada.
Shamima Begum left the UK as a teenager for Syria in 2015, with two of her friends Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase. In Begum's case, the British government accused her of joining the terrorist group and stripped her of her citizenship.
But a book about Begum and other women who joined ISIS, called "Guest House for Young Widows," says that a spy for Canada's intelligence service helped smuggle the teenager into Syria. And this information is casting her story in a new light.
Azadeh Moaveni is the author of the book. She's also the director of the Gender and Conflict Project at the International Crisis Group in New York. She spoke with The World's host Carol Hills about the new revelation and its implications.
Carol Hills: Can you remind our audience about who Shamima Begum is?
Azadeh Moaveni: She was 15. She was in high school in early 2015 when she was groomed and eventually trafficked to the Islamic State in Syria. She left with two other friends. They were part of a group of girls that Islamic State recruiters had been working on, both online and on the streets of London, trying to get them to Syria, because part of the Islamic State's project was to bring in brides for fighters. And that was very much at the center of how it attracted so many thousands of people from around the world.
And what is Shamima Begum's status now and where is she?
Shamima is now in northeast Syria. She's in a detention camp for, basically, women and children who were affiliated with ISIS fighters. And legally, the trouble is that many of these women were teenagers when they were brought to ISIS with their families or were groomed or trafficked there.
And I assume that she has lawyers who are trying to push her case to get her back to the UK.
She does. There have been multiple cases. Most recently, they've appealed to bring her back to the UK so that she could appeal the loss of her citizenship there on grounds that it's quite impossible to do that from a desert camp. But the accusation that she was trafficked is at the center of the case made by her lawyers. So, these revelations are potentially going to really upend, possibly, the legal outcomes for her, because if they can show that she was trafficked by a spy working for Canada as a teenager, then, I think that could have a sort of powerful boost for her legal team.
Explain the accusation that centers on someone working with Canada's intelligence service who trafficked her. What is the claim?
So, these actually are not entirely new claims because the background that's been filled out in the last few days by the new reporting shows that he was a Syrian man, he had applied for citizenship or a visa to Canada. And the Canadians said that he would get that in exchange for spying. So, what he did was he ferried Westerners. He would take them down to the border and then send their information to Canada, which is in an intelligence alliance with the UK, with the US.So, essentially, this was a sort of Western intelligence manner of getting information about citizens of these countries who are traveling to this very dangerous place, who are also potentially going to become involved in terror plots in other parts of the world, too. But to your point about what does it mean that Canada was employing an agent to do this, there was a great deal of that going on at the time. You know, double agents, Western intelligence agencies trying to get information about their nationals, so they could stop them if they came back to their home countries and prosecute them. In this case, though, I think it raises really serious legal implications, because these were minors. In this instance, I think it has really grave implications for Canada, which is why it seems, according to the new reporting, that the Canadians were so eager to cover this up and ask the British to help them with that.
How has Canada responded to these accusations?
Canada has said that it will investigate them thoroughly. The reaction has been quite opaque. But I think another point to raise is, why we're learning about these things now, because the journalists who've been doing this reporting have seemingly known about this for some time, and it's very much in the public interest to know that there was a Canadian asset involved in the trafficking. It's kind of central to the decision by the British authorities to strip Shamima Begum of her British citizenship. So, the media has very much been a real character in the development of the case of Shamima Begum, because they arrived very quickly after she surfaced, and she became a monster in the British press.
So, what comes next for Shamima Begum? Where does this case go?
I suspect that her legal team will bring another appeal to the British courts, asking for her to be brought back to the UK to appeal the loss of her British citizenship from there. It's a sort of circular way of getting her back to the UK for prosecution or whatever is deemed appropriate for her, without challenging the citizenship stripping from this camp in Syria, where it's inconceivable that they could manage it from there. And also, it is a bit of a battle of public opinion.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.AP contributed to this report.
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