So many young women seek instant fame, the type they might find by being a contestant on a reality TV show. Was that what drew Shamima Begun to Syria? Was the appeal of ISIS the same?
An extract from The Killing of the Cherrywood MP: In Bronzefield Women’s Prison, Ashford, Tammy Bishop was conveying her good news to her psychiatrist Ali al-Sayed. It was late Friday afternoon, 12 April. She’d been baring her soul to him for months.
He travelled all the way from Cherrywood on a fortnightly basis to listen. And followed everything about her past, picked up on everything instantaneously. Her work for ISIS. What went on with the prisoners. The bullying and backstabbing. He’d absorbed every minor detail. They’d even become rather buddy-buddy. And he wore well-tailored suits, très hot.
She knew the moment she saw his face drop, he’d not taken the announcement of her early release well. So why had she told him in the first place? Because she thought he was an ally, that’s why. Hadn’t he helped to get her freed?
The officers advised the inmates not to let on to anyone if the system gave them an early release. Prisoners had a nose for news which travelled to the wrong people quick as a flash. But she’d never thought that would apply to Ali al-Sayed. His reaction to what she told him had been unexpected. He was being a bloody pain.
Now her stomach was in knots. There was a clattering and a jangling of keys from outside the room . But inside all was silent. She hated that.
‘I want you to tell me exactly what you will do with yourself when you leave here.’ There was a tightness in his eyes.
‘I’m bursting to talk about it. I’ve got loads and loads of ideas.’
The above is an excerpt from my political thriller and those ideas Tammy Bishop was referring to included her fantasy of becoming a reality TV star. But it could easily be the story of Shamima Begum, who left Britain to join the terror group in February 2015 and could shortly be back in the UK.
Ms Begum lived under Islamic State rule for over three years before she was found, nine months pregnant, at the al-Hol refugee camp in Syria in February last year. Three of her babies had died. She told reporters she didn’t regret joining ISIS, but still begged to be rescued and brought back to the UK.
Those in favour of her return say that she was a child when she left the country to join ISIS; that she has renounced her support for Isis, and that she is not in any way a security risk.
Those against believe she is a genuine threat to national security; that she is unlikely to face prosecution in the British courts if she is allowed to return, and that she will become a pin-up for Islamist extremism if this happens. A conundrum indeed.