The Dutch husband of a British teenager who ran away to join ISIS said on Sunday that they both “made a mistake” in joining the extremist group in Syria, and would have to “live with the consequences”.
But Yago Riedijk told UK broadcaster Sky it wasn’t a “very humanitarian decision” to leave his wife and their baby son “to rot in a camp”, and said he hoped the governments of Britain and the Netherlands would consider giving them a “second chance”.
Riedijk’s wife, Shamima Begum, fled east London with two other friends to travel to Syria to marry ISIS members in 2015 at a time when the group’s online recruitment program had lured many impressionable young people to its self-proclaimed caliphate.
Begum recently resurfaced at a refugee camp in Syria and told reporters she wanted to come home with the couple’s newborn son.
But the 19-year-old’s apparent lack of remorse triggered criticism in Britain and the Home Secretary Sajid Javid revoked her citizenship.
Speaking at a Kurdish-run detention center in northeastern Syria, her 27-year-old husband insisted that Begum was not dangerous.
“I know that she’s no danger to anybody whatsoever. She cannot kill a spider, she cannot kill a cockroach. But we made a mistake and we’ll have to live with the consequences,” he said, adding he would go wherever his wife and son ended up going, even if that meant staying in Syria.
Although it is unclear if Begum has committed a crime, her comments - and those of her husband - throw into sharp relief larger questions about how Western societies will deal with others who joined ISIS, but want to return to their home countries.
The Netherlands has declined to comment on individual cases.