A 26-year-old British mother who took her toddler son to Syria and posted pictures of him next to a weapon was jailed on Monday for six years for belonging to the Islamic State (IS).Tareena Shakil, a health worker, became the first British woman to be convicted of the offense after being found guilty at Birmingham Crown Court on Friday. She was also convicted of encouraging terrorism on social media.
After telling her family she was going on holiday, she boarded a plane to Turkey in October 2014 with her one-year-old boy, crossed the border into Syria and spent three months there, West Midlands police said in a statement.
During the trial she told the court she had gone to Syria simply because she wanted to live under Sharia law, and thought the media had exaggerated stories of IS atrocities, reported the Guardian.
She said she spent two months living in a mansion with other women of different nationalities, waiting to be married off to fighters, but she had become disillusioned and escaped back across the border.
Her barrister claimed she was “groomed” by IS recruiters following the collapse of her marriage.
She denied joining IS but detectives said Shakil had become a member of the extremist group. Photographs displayed to the jury showed her posing in Syria underneath an IS flag and with an AK-47, and her and her child wearing IS balaclavas.
Messages she sent to friends back home calling on them to “take up arms,” and saying she wanted to die a “martyr” were also read out in court.
She was arrested by counter-terrorism officers when she returned to Britain on February 18 after landing at Heathrow Airport. The child was taken into care.
“Tareena Shakil had self-radicalized by viewing extremist material on the internet, before leaving the UK,” said Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale in the statement.
“Our assessment is that she was not naïve. She had absolutely clear intentions when she left the UK, sending tweets encouraging the public to commit acts of terrorism here and then taking her young child to join Daesh (IS) in Syria.
“Photographs seized from her phone showed Ms Shakil posing with a firearm and wearing a Daesh balaclava. Another showed a rucksack with a Daesh logo and person holding a handgun. These were taken while she was in Syria.”
Her father Mohammed Shakil told ITV News that the family would appeal against her conviction. While acknowledging his daughter had made a “mistake,” he said: “(She is) the perfect daughter, the daughter who never went out nightclubbing and never went out doing this or going there, who kept herself busy in studies, and who wanted to be somebody in life and have an important role. That’s who she wanted to be: a somebody, not a nobody.”
But during her sentencing her on Monday, Mr Justice Inman said Shakil had shown no remorse and knew her son would ultimately be used as an IS fighter.
Security services estmate some 600 Britons have joined the ranks of Islamic State and other militant groups in Syria and Iraq, many of them crossing via Turkey. About half are believed to have returned to Britain.