Shamima Begum’s friends: what happened to Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana?

Shamima Begum’s recent attempt to get her British citizenship case before the Supreme Court has been rejected.

A judicial spokesperson confirmed this week that the 24-year-old had asked the Court of Appeal to approach the Supreme Court, but her request was denied.

As she desperately tries to regain her British citizenship, Begum still has the option to approach the Supreme Court to have her case heard directly.

Begum has already gone through multiple failed attempts to reclaim her citizenship after it was revoked when she joined the Islamic State at age 15.

She’s currently stuck in a refugee camp in northern Syria, while attempting to get her case heard.

Last year, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) rejected her bid to regain British citizenship, and Court of Appeal judges later backed that decision.

Shamima’s barrister Samantha Knights KC told a hearing at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission last year in London that she had been the victim of a “determined Islamic State propaganda machine” when it lured her to Syria in 2015 when she was a 15-year-old.

That was also the age she left the UK alongside two other friends, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Amira Abase, 15. The trio joined the Islamic State group the same year.

Begum has been prominent in the news in recent years due to her attempts to regain British citizenship and return to the country. It has since been claimed that she was smuggled into Syria by a Canadian spy.

However, less is known about the two girls who left with Begum as teenagers. All three were married to Islamic State members, but their stories differ from then on.

Here’s a look at what happened to Ms Abase and Ms Sultana since leaving the UK.

What happened to Amira Abase?

Amira Abase, 15, was one of three London girls who travelled to Syria
Amira Abase, 15, was one of three London girls who travelled to Syria

Amira Abase married an 18-year-old Australian Islamic State fighter Abdullah Elmir. He was nicknamed the “Ginger Jihadi” owing to his ginger hair.

Elmir was confirmed dead after a drone strike in December 2015, shortly after Abase had left the UK.

After leaving the UK, Abase stayed in contact with her mother via social media, but these messages stopped suddenly.

Although Begum has said she believes her friend to still be alive, Abase’s mother told press that she believes her daughter is dead.

What happened to Kadiza Sultana?

Feared dead: Kadiza Sultana (EPA)
Feared dead: Kadiza Sultana (EPA)

The eldest of the three teenagers, Kadiza Sultana also stayed in contact with her family for a time after leaving the UK. This has been documented in phone calls filmed by ITV News.

Having married an American Islamic State fighter, Sultana maintained she was a housewife. However, intelligence sources claimed she was involved with stitching explosives into suicide vests.

Sultana’s sister told ITV News that she sounded “very terrified”.

“She did get very emotional there as well. It feels… I feel really helpless,” said Halima Sultana. “What can I do? It’s really hard. I don’t think she’s ever made a choice by herself. That was the first one and a very big one. I just look forward to the next call and that’s what keeps me going.”

Sultana is believed to have died in a Russian airstrike a few weeks after those phone calls, in May 2016. However, this has never been independently confirmed.

The family lawyer, Tasnime Akunjee, told BBC Newsnight that the family had received reports of her death.

"We were expecting this in a way," Halima told ITV News. "At least we know she is in a better place. We do not wish her name to come up in the headlines again ... She is gone and we would like to respect her wishes."

Meanwhile, Mr Akunjee said, “The problem with that was the risk factors around leaving are quite terminal in that, if ISIS were able to detect and capture you, then their punishment is quite brutal for trying to leave.

“In the week where she was thinking of these issues, a young Austrian girl had been caught trying to leave ISIS territory and was by all reports beaten to death publicly, so given that that was circulated in the region as well as outside – I think Kadiza took that as a bad omen and decided not to take the risk. I think she found out pretty quickly that the propaganda doesn’t match up with the reality.”

Years afterwards, Begum also spoke openly about the presumed death of her friend: “At first I was in denial. I thought, if we died, we’d die together.”

What happened to Sharmeena Begum?

Aside from Shamima, Kadiza and Amira, another girl named Sharmeena Begum is also linked to their ordeal.

Though they share the same last name, Sharmeena has no relation to Shamima. It’s reported that they were friends as teenagers and that Sharmeena played a role in encouraging Shamima to join IS.

Begum was the first of the Bethnal Green girls to flee to Syria. She was recently tracked down by a BBC reporter, who discovered that she had escaped Syria’s Camp Hol prison for women who were with IS.

Begum is still in Syria, hiding under a different identity. According to the BBC, she has been fundraising for IS and posting about the conditions of the detention camps on social media.

She claimed that the money she was raising was “simply feeding and clothing women and children who are poor”.

However, the BBC reports that IS is regrouping and using money smuggled into the camps to buy weapons and plan attacks.

Shamina has previously said: “Sharmeena was, you know, talking to us face-to-face about, you know, coming to ISIS.

"I was being manipulated into thinking this was the right thing to do and I was being manipulated with lies about where I would be going and what I would be doing.

"I mean, in my opinion, even though Sharmeena probably is still radical, I will say she was also a victim of ISIS.”