A British woman who fled Syria after spending two years in Islamic State-held territory must face justice on her return to the UK, her father said yesterday.
Kolsoma Begum, 22, and her Muslim convert husband Stefan Aristidou, 23, were arrested after surrendering to authorities in Turkey last week.
The British-born couple, who joined Islamic State in 2015, were held on suspicion of terror offences in Kilis, a Turkish town three miles from the Syrian border.
Begum – who gave birth to a girl in the war-torn country – and Aristidou have been trying to return to the UK since last September.
They claim they joined IS to live under Sharia law and not to fight, and that they went into hiding after learning of the terror group’s murderous regime.
In November, while on the run from IS, Aristidou sent the Daily Mail a message in which he said: ‘My wife is nine months pregnant and this a confirmation of me being alive and in good health.’
Last night Begum’s father Ahmed Ali, 47, said his daughter needs to face the law if she wants to return to England.
He said: ‘I would say give them a lesson so they can realise their mistakes,’ he said. ‘They have to face the law. The law will decide what punishment to give them. But, as a father, I’m saying everybody deserves a second chance. They’ve already damaged their lives. They were very young.
‘If they come back, then maybe they’ve learned their lesson. They’ve seen what IS is doing. Maybe because of that they didn’t want to stay.
‘They’ve realised what IS is doing is inhumane. Every father will support their daughter, but if you break the law that’s something different.
‘If I could talk to her, I would say: “Come back and face the law. You know you made a mistake and this is where you belong. You should protect your own country, this is where you’ll be living, and your children will be living and studying.” ’
Begum disappeared in April 2015, just weeks after telling her father she wanted to marry Aristidou. Mr Ali disapproved as she was only 20 years old and was studying to become a midwife.
The pair argued and her father assumed she had gone to stay with a friend when she did not come home for a few days.
He was not aware she had left the country until his flat in Poplar, East London, was raided by counter-terror police.
Bangladesh-born Mr Ali, an unemployed chef who has nine children, said: ‘They told me Kolsoma had gone to Syria but I still can’t believe it.’
Aristidou’s family reported him missing after he ceased contact with them a week after he travelled to Larnaca, Cyprus, on Easter Sunday in 2015.
Up until his disappearance, he lived in Enfield, North London, with his mother and sister. The family are of Greek heritage.
In a telephone interview in March, Aristidou told Sky News that living under IS was like being in a ‘prison’ and he had gone into hiding. ‘I’m just trying to get my life back,’ he said. ‘So be it if I have to go to prison in order to do that. I’m prepared to do that. I’m not here to harm anybody, I’m just here to look after my family and live my life.’
The Turkish authorities are said to be seeking to jail him for up to 15 years. He could face further prosecution under anti-terrorism legislation if he returns to the UK.
It is unclear if Begum is still being detained or what has happened to the couple’s child, but Turkish authorities said Aristidou is suspected of being a member of IS.
Mr Ali believes his daughter and son-in-law became radicalised over the internet as home life was ‘westernised’.
‘Whoever radicalised my daughter is dangerous,’ he said. ‘It’s like a disease. She was a child, studying. If I knew this was happening, she wouldn’t have stepped outside the door.’
‘This is our country, we live here, of course she would be desperate to come back.’
A Foreign Office spokesman said officials were in contact with the Turkish authorities.