‘TOWIE jihadi’, 32, who became first British woman to be jailed for fleeing to join ISIS in Syria claims she was ‘taken advantage of’ and ‘regrets everything’
- Tareena Shakil fled to Middle East in 2014 and was jailed after returning to UK
- Said she ‘regrets every last thing’ and ‘continues to live with the consequences’
- She has admitted to being aware of ISIS atrocities before joining terror group
A young mother who became the first British woman to be jailed for joining ISIS today said she ‘regrets everything’, claiming she was ‘taken advantage of’ by online groomers.
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 – despite being aware ISIS was guilty of terrible atrocities.
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.
In a rare interview since being released in 2018, having served less than half of her six-year sentence and undergoing a deradicalisation programme, Shakil, 32, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I regret every last thing about running away to Syria with my child and I live with those consequences every day.
‘I’ve been educated about things that IS would say that were not true, it’s been a long journey and along the way I’ve had a lot of conversations with a lot of different people, including imams in prison and mentors outside.’
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
Then 24, Shakil 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).
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.
She has previously admitted knowing of Islamic State atrocities before she left for Syria, but said she was groomed by recruiters online.
‘It’s not something you’re aware of that at this moment I’m being recruited or at this precise moment I’m vulnerable,’ she said. ‘That awareness comes after and it came after for me.
‘And I remember feeling really sad, bitter and taken advantage of. And also ashamed of myself that I had allowed it to happen.
‘When you lived under ISIS, conversations were often listened to and you were generally expected to behave in a certain way,’ she said.
‘There were two girls who were unruly and men came in a van and took them away – we never saw them again.’
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
Shakil insisted she had been completely deradicalised and was no longer a threat.
‘It’s been seven years since I ran away, I’ve done three years in prison and three years outside – I’ve done everything that’s asked of me,’ she said.
‘I’ve built a normal life for myself – I work, nothing bad has happened and I have no intention to do anything apart from get on with my life.’
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 in an earlier interview 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.’
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