Shamima Begum finally shown son's grave

By Lucy Marley Journalist,
and Hisham Arafat Local Producer

Jarrah’s body lies in the middle of a gated wasteland in Roj camp.

Crushed cans, cardboard boxes and water bottles are scattered on top of the graves whilst a generator sits in the corner. 
Jarrah is one of over 20 women and children buried in this patch of deserted ground. The bricks are said to represent tombstones.
Jarrah was the third son of Shamima Begum. Her two other children with Yago Riedijk, an Islamic State fighter, died before she reached this camp. 

Who is Shamima Begum?

Shamima was just 15 when she left east London to join ISIS.
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Today she lives in a tent in Roj Camp, along with thousands of other women and children in Syria. 
She’s publicly apologised for joining the terrorist group and says she wants to come home.
Her lawyers are currently fighting the decision by the UK government to remove her UK citizenship - meaning she can’t come home or hold a British passport.
Shamima has been in Syria for over seven years, where all three of her children have died.
Jarrah, her last son, died of pneumonia in the Syrian camp where she is still living now.

We visited Roj camp

We recently travelled to Roj camp and spent some time getting to know Shamima and other women. 
Due to her ongoing battle for British citizenship in the courts this week, she didn’t want to give a formal interview. But whilst chatting with us, she agreed to allow us to report on Jarrah and his final resting place. 
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I’d noticed this patch of land as we made our way through the camp before but never would have guessed it was where Shamima’s son - and other children - were buried.
It’s estimated two children die a week from preventable illnesses in Al-Hol (the other main camp in the area) and Roj. 
Because women are often moved in and out of the camp the population changes. But camp authorities told us there are over 2,660 women and children in Roj. 
And back in May 2022, it was estimated 65% of the camp were under 18, according to REACH (a humanitarian data group). 
The camp authorities confirmed the graveyard is “a problem” and they now need to find new space outside the camp to bury the dead.

Jarrah's death certificate

Shamima says she was only handed Jarrah’s death certificate in early November. He died in March 2019. 
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It reports he had ‘pneumonia and bronchitis and severe respiratory insufficiency associated with severe cyanosis”. 
Pneumonia is an infection in one or both lungs. It can make it difficult to breathe and is most serious for infants with health problems or weak immune systems.
The report was issued from the doctor involved and the Kurdish Red Crescent (medical organisation). It states Jarrah was sent to the hospital for treatment and died due to a “lack of response to treatment.” 

Unmarked graves

Even though Shamima watched her son’s burial in 2019, she was never told exactly where his grave was. 
And in summer 2022, more than three years after her son had died, Shamima noticed officials working near the graveyard who confirmed to her the exact location of Jarrah. 

Graveyard complaints

Women in the camp say they haven’t explicitly been told this is a graveyard but authorities confirmed over 20 women and children are buried here. 
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Some women have reportedly made complaints to the Red Cross about the maintenance of the graveyard and are upset that a generator is now in the corner of the space.
In 2019, Roj camp was much smaller and the graveyard was just outside the camp.
But now the camp has been extended and the graveyard sits between the old and new camp.
We reached out to the Red Cross to ask them if they’d received any complaints - they haven’t replied. 

Shamima's trial

Shamima’s lawyers are currently fighting a legal case against the British government. 
They’re challenging the decision to remove her citizenship and say she should be treated as a child trafficking victim.
Her lawyers argue she was “recruited, transported, transferred, harboured and received in Syria for the purposes of ‘sexual exploitation’ and ‘marriage’ to an adult male”.
The government says people “still be threats to national security even if they were brainwashed”. 
The court also heard a statement from Shamima’s mother. “When she left home in 2015, our worlds fell apart.”
“Shamima and I shared a bedroom and I have not moved anything of hers from our room.
“Her drawers are still full, her perfume, pens and jewellery, her clothes are still there. Her pyjamas are folded neatly.
You can read more on her court appeal on Associated Press here. 
The week's hearing has now finished and a judgement is expected to be made in the new year. 
Follow us for updates. 
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