On the day the caliphate suffered a mortal blow the teenage London bride of an Islamic State fighter lifted her veil. Her two infant children were dead; her husband in captivity. Nineteen years old, nine months pregnant, weak and exhausted from her escape across the desert, she nevertheless looked calm and spoke with a collected voice.
“I’m not the same silly little 15-year-old schoolgirl who ran away from Bethnal Green four years ago,” she told me. “And I don’t regret coming here.”
With those words and the act of lifting her niqab, a mystery ended. The girl sitting before me, alone in a teeming Syrian refugee camp of 39,000 people where she is registered as No 28850, was Shamima Begum, the only known survivor of the three schoolgirls from Bethnal Green Academy whose fate has been unknown at home since they fled Britain together in 2015 to join Islamic State.