A young mother who took her one-year-old son to join Islamic State in Syria claims she now regrets taking the ‘wrong path’.
Tareena Shakil was nicknamed the ‘Towie jihadi’ when it emerged that the fan of reality TV shows such as The Only Way Is Essex had fled to the Middle East in 2014.
She was jailed after returning to Britain a year later – and remains the only woman in Britain to have been imprisoned for joining Islamic State.
Then 24, she told her family she was taking her son on a Turkish beach holiday. Instead, using her student loan to fund the trip, she crossed the border into Syria and headed for Raqqa, a stronghold of Islamic State in Syria (Isis).
In her first interview since being released in 2018, having served less than half of her six-year sentence and undergoing a deradicalisation programme, Shakil, 31, said: ‘If I could go back I would have come back.
Then 24, Tareena Shakil (pictured) told her family she was taking her son on a Turkish beach holiday. Instead, using her student loan to fund the trip, she crossed the border into Syria and headed for Raqqa, a stronghold of Islamic State in Syria (Isis)
‘I would have gone to Turkey on holiday and I would have come back. That’s what should have happened – gone on holiday for a week and come back.’
Shakil, from Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, was photographed in Syria wearing an Isis balaclava, along with her son, and posing with an AK-47. She used Twitter rants to encourage others to join the fight.
One post read: ‘If people don’t like the current events in Sham [Syria] take to arms and not the keyboard.’ Confronted with the AK-47 picture, she told ITV’s Exposure programme, broadcast last night: ‘That’s someone who’s just lost her way in life, found a very wrong path.’
She admitted knowing of Islamic State atrocities before she left for Syria, adding: ‘I was aware of violence that had taken place at the hands of Isis. I can’t lie and say that I didn’t because it was everywhere.
‘Being aware of horrific things that were happening in that place and still deciding to run away, not just on your own, with your child – I understand that is hard for people to understand. And to just say you didn’t pay much attention to it, but that’s what it was – I just, I didn’t.
Shakil, (pictured) from Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, was photographed in Syria wearing an Isis balaclava, along with her son, and posing with an AK-47. She used Twitter rants to encourage others to join the fight
‘It’s not something that I’m happy about now looking back, but at the time the only thing I can say is that I was far from the best version of myself.’
Shakil, who now lives in Birmingham, fled Syria and was arrested when she touched down at Heathrow having flown back from Turkey.
She told police and jurors at her trial in 2016 that she had been kidnapped and forced to pose by Isis. But Judge Melbourne Inman described her defence as ‘lie after lie’, and said she had ’embraced IS’ and was ‘willing to become a martyr’.
Detectives believe she wed an IS fighter in Syria, but the marriage quickly turned sour. Asked what she thinks of Isis bride Shamima Begum, who has been stripped of British citizenship and languishes in a Syrian camp, she said: ‘I can’t say, ‘Don’t bring them back’ – that makes me a hypocrite because I’ve been in a very similar situation.
‘It’s not the same situation because I escaped. There may be reasons these people didn’t escape. It’s not easy to escape from there – it’s life and death, not everybody has it in them.’
Tareena: Return From Isis can be viewed on the ITV Hub.
Source: Daily Mail UK