In an interview with BBC Middle East correspondent Quentin Sommerville, Yago Riedijk, the Dutch husband of Shamima Begum, who joined Daesh* in 2015, said that he wanted his wife to return to the Netherlands with him.
The 27-year-old, who is now being held in a Kurdish detention centre in north-eastern Syria, admitted that he had fought for the terrorist group, but added that he had rejected it and tried to leave the self-proclaimed caliphate.
As the group lost its positions, Riedijk and Begum, who headed to the war in Syria from London at the age of 15, escaped from the town of Baghouz, the organisation’s last stronghold in eastern Syria.
The Dutchman surrendered to a group of Syrian fighters, while Begum, now 19, and their newborn baby, Jarrah, wound up among thousands of people in a refugee camp in the country’s north. According to her lawyer, she has already fled the camp with her child after receiving death threats.
Speaking with the BBC, Riedijk said that there was nothing wrong with marrying 15-year-old Begum while he was 23, because it was “her choice”:
“To be honest, when my friend came and said there was a girl who was interested in marriage, I wasn’t that interested because of her age, but I accepted the offer anyway. It was her own choice. She asked to look for a partner for her, and I was invited”, he said, adding that “she was very young, maybe it would have been better for her to wait a bit. But she didn’t, she chose to get married and I chose to marry her”.
He also claimed that Begum “seemed in a good state of mind”.
Many social media users, however, are against Daesh terrorists’ return to Europe and are urging governments not to let them return, with some hoping for death sentences:
Please let those people NOT return to europe. Just because the IS failed doesn‘t make them less dangerous. Regret or not, they took their decision and have to bear the consequence of that.— Sietse-Jan (@SietseJan2) 3 марта 2019 г.
This guy chose willingly to fight for #Daesh and probably killed other humans. He should get a death sentence. Even my 15 year old daughter knows what's right or wrong. Under Dutch law that marriage wouldn't happen. The Dutch should renownce his citizenship also— John Karim Oort (@OortJohn) 3 марта 2019 г.
Nazi criminals weren’t interviewed after WW II. They didn’t get the opportunity to act like victims, or say stupid thing like “I wasn’t interested, but…” Instead they were tried in Nürnberg. These are war criminals.— Peter Laman (@Peter_Laman) 3 марта 2019 г.
He was sentenced to 6 years in the Netherlands, 6 years!! God knows wich atrocities he has committed. Our justice department is a joke. I hope the authorities there sentence him to death.— Pascal (@pazcal_s) 3 марта 2019 г.
Begum pleaded that she was willing to change in order to be allowed back in the UK, but sparked fury by refusing to apologise for joining Daesh and contending that the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing was “retaliation” for coalition attacks in Syria.
Bangladesh, however, dismissed that possibility, saying that Begum had been “erroneously identified” as a citizen by the UK government and that she had “never” visited the country.
Since then, Begum has claimed that London’s decision was “unjust” and that they had opted to “make an example” of her because she had been in the epicentre of media attention.
“I feel like I’ve been discriminated against because everyone was saying I was a poster girl for ISIS [Daesh]. I’m being punished right now because I’m famous. I regret speaking to the media. I wish I had stayed low and found a different way to contact my family”, she told The Sunday Telegraph in an interview on 24 February.
*Daesh, also known as IS/ ISIL/ISIS/Islamic State, is a terrorist group banned in Russia and many other countries.