A British mother who took her infant son to Syria to join the Islamic State and then returned, disillusioned, to her hometown has been sentenced to serve six years in jail.
Tareena Shakil’s journey to radicalization began in 2014, when she started to interact with ISIS supporters and recruiters and view extremist material, according to prosecutors who showed her online messages to a jury in Birmingham last month. Shakil said that recruiters were able to target her and convince her because of the breakup of her marriage, The Guardian reported.
In October 2014, Shakil, 26, told friends and relatives she was going on vacation with her son, but instead traveled to Turkey, and then Syria. She lived in a mansion with other women looking to marry ISIS members and sent WhatsApp messages back to women in the UK showing her support of the group, prosecutors said. During her trial, Shakil said she had been forced to send the messages by ISIS members.
Prosecutors showed jury members photos of Shakil and her son wearing an ISIS logo and standing next to an AK47. The words “Father of the British jihad” were written in Arabic on one of the photos, according to the Guardian.
Shakil returned to the UK in January, 2015, claiming that she realized she had made a mistake by joining the group and that she had merely wanted to “live under sharia law,” according to The Guardian.
“For me, what it was about was living a Muslim life. I just wanted to live an Islamic life, not to kill anybody,” she said.
She was arrested at Heathrow airport in London, according to The New York Times, and told police she had been kidnapped, but eventually told jurors that she had been part of ISIS and decided to escape. She testified that she ran across the border into Turkey with her son, according to BuzzFeed.
The Birmingham jury convicted Shakil and a judge admonished her for not only supporting ISIS, but for lying to police about her willingness to go and for being willing to produce “the next generation of fighters.” He said, however, that her decision to return home after she changed her mind acted would help her in sentencing.
“Your role as a woman in ISIS was different to that of a man but you embraced it and were willing to support those in Raqqa, and potentially those outside, to come and play their role in providing fighters of the future and were willing, shamelessly, to allow your son to be photographed in terms that could only be taken as a fighter of the future,” the judge said, according to BuzzFeed.
The woman’s father, Mohammed Shakil, told Sky News that he and his daughter would fight the conviction and that she was “the perfect daughter” and had done nothing wrong.
Shakil was sentenced to six years in prison, four for being a member of ISIS and two for the messages encouraging terror that she sent while she was there. She is the first woman convicted of being a member of ISIS in the UK, according to The New York Times.
Shakil is one of an estimated 600 women from Europe, North America, and Australia who are believed to have gone to Syria to join the Islamic State, according to BuzzFeed. Some of the women have tried to return home after.
Last month, French citizen Sophie Kasiki gave her first interview after returning home to Paris following her journey, with her toddler son, to Raqqa for 10 days before she changed her mind about joining ISIS. Kasiki was convinced by three young men she befriended while working in the Paris suburbs to join them in Syria, and she worked in a hospital there for just 10 days before she escaped with her son under the cover of darkness back to Turkey. She has not been sentenced to jail time, but could still face penalties, according to The Guardian.
In 2015, Australian authorities warned the wife of an ISIS fighter who had traveled to Syria to be with him that she would face legal consequences if she tried to return home. Fatima Elomar, another Australian citizen, pleaded guilty in November, 2015, after she was prosecuted for sending text messages and supplies to her husband who had gone to Syria to join the Islamic State. She was planning to join Mohamed Elomar in Syria and was arrested with cash and supplies at the airport with her children.
British authorities have tried to stem the tide of women and youth fleeing to Syria to join the group by launching a campaign featuring the testimony of Sryian refugee mothers who describe the tragic conditions of life in the group.