LONDON — The Dutch husband of Shamima Begum, the teenager who fled Britain to join the Islamic State, has told British news outlets that he wants to return to the Netherlands with his wife and their newborn son.
“We should live in Holland,” Ms. Begum’s husband, Yago Riedijk, 27, told the BBC in an interview broadcast on Sunday. He admitted to fighting for the Islamic State, but said he has since rejected the group.
He is being held at a Kurdish detention center in northeastern Syria. Ms. Begum, 19, was recently in the Al Hawl refugee camp in northern Syria, but her family’s lawyer said she was forced to move after receiving threats.
Mr. Riedijk married Ms. Begum days after she arrived in Syria, when he was 23 and she was 15. They have since had three children, two of whom have died. The third was born last month in the refugee camp, after the couple fled the last remaining Islamic State stronghold in Syria.
Mr. Riedijik defended their union.
“To be honest, when my friend came and said there was a girl who was interested in marriage, I wasn’t that interested because of her age, but I accepted the offer anyway,” he said.
Then the 23-year-old son of a railway engineer, he had grown up in a well-to-do suburb of Arnhem, in the eastern part of the Netherlands. He was reportedly radicalized after watching online videos, too.
He is on a terrorist watch list in the Netherlands, but he currently retains his citizenship. If he returns, he could face a six-year jail term for joining a terrorist organization, according to the BBC.
It is unclear if he has a right to return to the Netherlands, and if it would be possible for Ms. Begum and their son to accompany him.
She had arrived in Raqqa, Syria, after leaving the Bethnal Green area of London with two friends, having watched videos about the Islamic State online. She asked for an English-speaking husband between the ages of 20 and 25.
“It was her own choice,” Mr. Riedijk told the BBC of her decision to marry. “She asked to look for a partner for her, and I was invited.” He added that she appeared to be in “a good state of mind,” and that it might have been better for her “to wait a bit” before getting married.
“But she didn’t,” he said. “She chose to get married, and I chose to marry her.”
Ms. Begum, who was pregnant when the couple fled Islamic State territory, said they had left so that their child could survive. But it is unclear where the family could live now.
Her pleas to return to Britain for the sake of her son were rebuffed by the British government. Last month, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said Britain would revoke her citizenship.
“In order to protect this country, he has the power to deprive someone of their British citizenship where it would not render them stateless,” a Home Office spokeswoman said at the time, adding that she could not comment on individual cases.
Ms. Begum’s mother has a Bangladeshi passport, but British news outlets reported that Ms. Begum herself had never been there, and the Foreign Ministry in Bangladesh later confirmed that she was not entitled to Bangladeshi citizenship.
The move to revoke Ms. Begum’s citizenship was quickly criticized by leaders from the opposition Labour Party and Liberal Democrats, who said she should instead face consequences within the British legal system.
“She was born in Britain; she has that right to remain in Britain,” Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, said last month. “Obviously, there are a lot of questions she has to answer, but also some support that she needs.”
Ms. Begum said that she did not regret her decision to join the Islamic State, but that she “never did anything dangerous.”
“When I went to Syria, I was just a housewife for the entire four years — stayed at home, took care of my husband, took care of my kids,” she told Sky News last month.
Last week, the Netherlands stripped a 37-year-old man identified only as Outhmane B of his citizenship. He had traveled to Syria to join the Islamic State in 2014, the same year as Mr. Riedijk, and was added to the national terrorism list.