Shukee Begum, who was visiting her husband, says there are hundreds of families living in one hall
A mother who took her five children to Syria to “speak some sense” into her husband who had joined Islamic State claims it was "not my cup of tea."
Shukee Begum, 33, claimed she and her children, who were all under nine years old, found themselves in crowded and uncomfortable conditions.
Ms Begum, from Oldham, described the conditions in the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa as “worse than I expected”, reports Manchester Evening News.
She said: “You’ve got hundreds of families living in one hall, sharing perhaps one or two bathrooms between them, one or two kitchens between them.
Trip: Shukee said she wanted her husband to be with their children
“Children crying, children were sick.
“There was a gangster kind of mentality among single women there. Violent talk - talking about war, killing.
“They would sit together and huddle around their laptops and watch ISIS videos together and discuss them and everything. It was just not my cup of tea.”
She claims she travelled to Syria in August 2014 to try and search for her husband, former Guantanamo Bay detainee Jamal al-Harith.
She said she wanted her husband, a Muslim convert who was born as Ronald Fiddler, to be with their children, including a baby - who was four weeks old at the time - whom he had not seen before.
He was suspected of terrorism by the Americans but freed from the US detention centre in 2004 after lobbying by the British government.
She told Channel 4 News: “I was seeing on the news at this point that ISIS was going from bad to worse... So I decided that I was going to try and speak some sense into him.
“At the same time I wanted to see him. I wanted the children to see their father. I wanted the baby to meet his father as well.”
Missing: Shukee claims she travelled to Syria in 2014 to try and search for her husband
Despite al-Harith’s decision to join IS, Ms Begum insisted that her husband of 11 years was a “family man”, adding: “I’ve always known him to be a good man with good characteristics.
“For me to take the children to see him and then come away from there that would have been more powerful than anything else I could have said at the time.”
It is believed that Ms Begum and her children are living in Syria, near the Turkish border.
Ms Begum, who fears she could face terrorism charges, has not returned to Britain, she told Channel 4 News. She insists she is not an IS supporter.
She said home in Britain had felt strange without her husband and she was thinking about the children’s futures and whether he would be part of it when she left for Syria.
Ms Begum claimed she only planned to keep the children in Syria for a month, but she found herself trapped there after a bag containing her phones, travel money and passports was stolen.
Her husband did not help her to get out and an appeal to an Islamic court for permission to leave proved futile as she was told “women and children belong in ISIS territory”, Ms Begum claimed.
She warned others who may wish to make the journey: “This is what I want to make clear as well to other women thinking of coming into ISIS territory - that you can’t just expect to come into ISIS territory and then expect that you can just leave again easily.
“There is no personal autonomy there at all.”