Deleted image recovered from a phone allegedly used by Tareena Shakil, which prosecutors claim shows the woman posing with an AK47 assault rifle
A mother accused of taking her child to Syria to join a feared terror group has told a court how she quit England to live under the rule of sharia law in the Islamic State.
Tareena Shakil, who is on trial for terror charges, said at one point: “This is my struggle, my jihad, to leave England behind and go and live in the Islamic State.”
She was explaining to a jury today why she used the word “jihad” in a message home to loved ones sent while in a safe house in the Syrian countryside with other women in October 2014.
Shakil explained: “It has nothing to do with terrorism or jihad or being a jihadi bride or taking up arms.”
CCTV of Tareena Shakil at East Midlands Airport
The bright 26-year-old flew to Turkey that month telling friends she was going on a beach holiday with her toddler, but ended up living in the IS capital of Raqqa.
It is alleged that while there, she dressed the child in IS-branded clothing and posed it with firearms.
After flying from her resort to Gaziantep on the Turkish border, she claimed a contact she met online arranged for her to be driven by cab to an apartment block full of other women of different nationalities.
Early next morning, there was a knock on the door and she and a few others were told “Get your things, you’re going.”
Her group crossed the border in a vehicle driven across fields, before swapping vans and being driven to a farmhouse near Jarabalus in Syria, where there were women from France, Qatar, Trinidad, and the Philippines.
She stayed there for four days before being taken to Raqqa, where she was housed with others in a walled “mansion” described to her as the former governor’s house.
However, she claimed that a few days after arriving she wanted to leave, telling jurors: “I wanted to come back to England”.
Shakil, who was giving her account for the first time, told jurors: “I know I’m not a terrorist because, like, I know I’m not.”
Earlier, she claimed conversations with a man named Fabio Pocas, whose online profile showed an armed man posing with the black flag of IS, helped to convince her to leave the UK for fear of going straight to hell.
Tareena Shakil posing in a balaclava branded with the Islamic State logo
However, she claimed to have been ignorant of the nature of IS, also known as Isis, and only discovered more about the group when she voluntarily returned home in February 2015.
Shakil denies joining the banned terror group and encouraging acts of terror through Twitter posts.
She told a jury: “He (Pocas) said you can’t live in a country not ruled by sharia, it’s haram (forbidden).”
Shakil, of Beechfield Road in Birmingham but formerly of Burton upon Trent Staffordshire, said she blocked Pocas online because she thought he was coming on to her.
Married Shakil said she had been retweeting images of the black flag of IS but had no idea of their direct association with the terror group.
In relation to a series of other images and Islamic passages which the Crown claims show she was supporting terrorism, Shakil said she only retweeted things if she liked the look or sound of them.
Deleted image showing a burkha-clad woman with an AK47 assault rifle, recovered from a phone allegedly used by Tareena Shakil
Asked by Tim Moloney QC, her barrister, if they were meant to encourage acts of terror she replied: “No, not at all.”
The former University of Wolverhampton student, who dropped out because of family problems in 2010, said her travelling to Syria was “not about fighting or killing anybody” but to live under sharia law.
Shakil, who used to work with victims with acquired brain injuries, said other Britons had “taken up arms” and returned from fighting with the Kurds in Syria and never been before a criminal court.
Opening the case against Shakil last week, Sean Larkin QC for the prosecution said Shakil was “radicalised” in 2014, and started posting messages and pictures in support of IS.
He said: “She travelled to Raqqa to set up her new life as part of Isis.”
The trial continues.