LONDON — A 19-year-old woman who left Britain in 2015 to join the Islamic State and who says she is nine months pregnant has told a reporter that she fled the last remaining village held by the terrorist group in Syria and wanted to return home.
But the woman, Shamima Begum, faces an uncertain future, with no clear answers about how she would get home to east London, or about whether Britain would try to prosecute her for terrorist offenses if she did.
Speaking to a reporter for The Times of London in Al Hawl refugee camp in northeastern Syria, Ms. Begum said she had left the village of Baghuz, the last speck of land under Islamic State control in Iraq and Syria, as Kurdish-led forces allied with the United States closed in. Her Dutch husband, an Islamic State fighter whom she married soon after arriving in Raqqa, Syria, surrendered to Syrian fighters allied to the Kurdish-led forces.
Ms. Begum said she had lost two children — an 8-month-old son and a daughter who was nearly 2 — to illness and malnutrition in recent months, and that she feared for her unborn child.
“I was weak,” she said. “I could not endure the suffering and hardship that staying on the battlefield involved. But I was also frightened that the child I am about to give birth to would die like my other children if I stayed on. So I fled the caliphate. Now all I want to do is come home to Britain.”
But Ms. Begum said she did not regret traveling to Syria.
“When I saw my first severed head in a bin it didn’t faze me at all,” she told The Times of London. “It was from a captured fighter seized on the battlefield, an enemy of Islam. I thought only of what he would have done to a Muslim woman if he had the chance.”
Ms. Begum drew headlines in 2015 when she and two classmates from Bethnal Green in east London flew to Turkey from Gatwick Airport and then boarded a bus to the Syrian border. Known as the Bethnal Green girls, they became the face of young women attracted to what experts described as a jihadist girl-power subculture.
Barred from combat, the young women supported the group’s state-building efforts as wives, mothers, recruiters and sometimes online cheerleaders for violence.
British police officials said in 2015 that the women would be allowed to return home without facing charges because there was no evidence they had committed terrorism offenses, and a lawyer who represented Ms. Begum’s family urged the authorities this week to honor that promise.
But Ben Wallace, Britain’s security minister, said on Thursday that British officials would not help rescue Ms. Begum because it was too dangerous to provide consular services in Syria. And he warned that anyone who had traveled to support terrorism against the British government’s advice would, if they returned, be “questioned, investigated and potentially prosecuted for committing terrorist offenses.”
Thousands of people have been streaming out of the Islamic State’s fast-shrinking territory in recent weeks. The group once ruled an area the size of Britain, but that is now all but gone.
“The caliphate is over,” Ms. Begum said. “There was so much oppression and corruption that I don’t think they deserved victory.”
She said she had read what people in Britain thought of her, but was intent on returning home.
“I’ll do anything required just to be able to come home and live quietly with my child,” she said.