Body Language Expert Reveals the Hidden Truth Behind ISIS Bride’s Words

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'
February 21, 2019 Updated: February 21, 2019

A body language expert has analyzed interview footage of runaway ISIS bride Shamima Begum and found that she appears emotionally vacant and arrogant—yet expects people to feel sorry for her.

Judi James, who has written several books on interpreting the messages that body language inadvertently reveals, said, “It is very difficult to feel sympathy” for the 19-year-old Begum, adding that the jihadi bride delivered “unemotional answers, relatively calmly, almost as though she can’t see what any fuss might be about.”

Begum—who has remained defiant about running away from her London home four years ago to join the jihad—is in a Syrian refugee camp with her newborn son. She has pleaded to be allowed back into the UK as American and other forces have decimated the Islamic terror group’s presence in the region and its so-called caliphate crumbles.

British authorities have decided to strip Begum of her citizenship and block her return to the UK.

Rash of Telling Interviews

The jihadi teen has spoken on camera several times since surfacing in a refugee camp in Al-Hawl, northern Syria, and being infamously cited by The Times of London that she had “no regrets” about running away to join the jihadi terror group, while being desperate to return to the UK to have a decent life there with her baby.

She later spoke to Sky News reporter John Sparks on Feb. 17, saying, “a lot of people should have sympathy” toward her “for what I’ve been through,” while admitting “I was okay with beheadings.”

In response to suggestions that she might pose a security threat and her return should be blocked by British authorities, Begum told Sky News she was “just a housewife” and that British authorities had no evidence of her “doing anything dangerous” and that she “never made propaganda” and “never encouraged people to come to Syria.”

But the more recent interview with the BBC reveals that Begum had been featured in ISIS propaganda videos and, according to BBC’s Middle East correspondent Quentin Sommerville, she thus “helped the enemy of Britain.”

“I did hear a lot of people were encouraged to come after,” Begum admitted.

When Sommerville asked her whether she would apologize to the families of victims of the Manchester Arena terror attack, she said “I do feel that it’s wrong that innocent people did get killed,” but added, “It’s a two-way thing, really,” saying it was “just like the women and children in Baghuz that are being killed right now unjustly by the bombings.”

“And it’s kind of retaliation,” she said. “Their justification was that it was retaliation, so I thought, ok, that is a fair justification.”

When British authorities announced on Feb. 19 that they had moved to revoke her citizenship, effectively banning her from entering the country, Begum was interviewed by ITV News Security Editor Rohit Kachroo and asked to comment.

Shamima's sister holds her photo
Renu, the eldest sister of Shamima Begum, holds her sister’s photo while being interviewed by the media at New Scotland Yard in London, on Feb. 22, 2015. (Laura Lean/PA Wire/Getty Images)

“I don’t know what to say,” she told ITV News. “I am not that shocked but I am a bit shocked. It’s a bit upsetting and frustrating. I feel like it’s a bit unjust on me and my son.”

“It’s kind of heartbreaking to read. My family made it sound like it would be a lot easier for me to come back to the UK when I was speaking to them in Baghouz. It’s kind of hard to swallow.”

Begum again appeared defiant during the interview, however, saying she heard of “other people being sent back to Britain” and that “I don’t know why my case is any different.”

She said her message for British authorities was to give her “a reason why they see me as a threat to the UK.”

Shamima Begum interviewed by Sky News
Shamima Begum being interviewed by Sky News in Northern Syria, on Feb. 17, 2019. (Image via Reuters)

‘Not Within the Boundaries of Normal’

After viewing some of the interview footage, James told Mirror Online, “Her head is down and slightly turned at the start but she also uses enough eye contact to suggest some confidence.

“She appears to place a hand on her hip at one point, which could validate this look of confidence although if she has just given birth it could be prompted by discomfort. She uses the words ‘You know’ as though expecting empathy and understanding,” James said.

James said Begum appears to be “unaware that what she has done is not within the boundaries of normal.”

“But perhaps the most puzzling trait is the way her tone and body language remain almost the same throughout, despite discussing things like executions and her friends. This air of ‘normality’ is added to by her use of the mouth shrug,” James continued.

James added that Begum “even performs this diminishing gesture when asked about her parents or her baby possibly being taken away.”

Citizenship Revoked

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid was cited by the Daily Mail as saying that the decision to revoke Begum’s citizenship is “conducive to the public good” on grounds of preventing terrorism.

British officials notified Begum’s family in a Feb. 19 letter of “a decision taken by the Home Secretary, to deprive your daughter, Shamima Begum, of her British citizenship. In light of the circumstances of your daughter, the notice of the Home Secretary’s decision has been served of file today [19th February], and the order removing her British citizenship has subsequently been made.”

Javid had previously said Begum will “face consequences” for backing ISIS and vowed, “Where individuals do manage to return, they will be questioned, investigated and potentially prosecuted.”

The letter noted Begum had a right to appeal.

‘Very Disappointed’

In a statement cited by The Telegraph, the family’s lawyer Tasnime Akunjee said, ” [The] Family are very disappointed with the Home Office’s intention to have an order made depriving Shamima of her citizenship. We are considering all legal avenues to challenge this decision.”

A number of experts warned against letting Begum and others who joined ISIS back into Britain.

Alex Younger, the head of British intelligence service MI6, told Sky News that they were “potentially very dangerous,” because having been in “that sort of position” people like her were likely to have acquired certain “skills or connections.”

Begum left London four years ago with two school friends to join ISIS.

runaway ISIS schoolgirls
(L-R) Kadiza Sultana, Amira Abase and Shamima Begum in photos issued by police. (Metropolitan Police)

While Kadiza Sultana was reported to have been killed in an airstrike in 2016, Begum said she did not know what happened to her other friend, Amira Abase.

Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'