“I should have been on vacation to Turkey with my boy rather than joining IS,” says a woman dubbed “Towie Jihadi” after fleeing Syria. She regrets her decision but maintains that it wasn’t the best of herself.

  • Tareena Shakil, from Burton upon Trent,  took young son to join Islamic State in Syria 
  • In 2014, she fled the UK for Middle East and returned to Britain a year later.
  • Only British woman ever to be imprisoned in connection with Islamic State 

Young mother, who sent her 1-year-old son with Islamic State to Syria as a sign of solidarity, says she regrets choosing the “wrong” path.

Tareena Shahil was known as “Towie the Jihadi” after it became clear that she had fled to The Only Way Is Essex in 2014, having been a big fan of reality television shows like The Only Way Is Essex.

She was jailed after returning to Britain a year later – and remains the only woman in Britain to have been imprisoned for joining Islamic State.

At 24 she informed her family that her son was going on holiday to the Turkish coast. Instead of using her student loans to finance the trip she went for Raqqa in Syria, which is a stronghold by Islamic State (ISIS) and crossed over the border to Syria.

Shakil, 31 years old, stated that she had served less of the six-year sentence than her original sentence. She was also undergoing a program to deradicalize.

Then 24, Tareena Shakil (pictured) told her family she was taking her son on a Turkish beach holiday. Instead, using her student loan to fund the trip, she crossed the border into Syria and headed for Raqqa, a stronghold of Islamic State in Syria (Isis)

Tareena Shakil, then 24, told her family that she would be taking her son to Turkey for a beach vacation. She instead used her student loan to pay for the trip and crossed into Syria with the intention of heading towards Raqqa (a stronghold of Islamic State, Syria (ISIS)).

“I would have traveled to Turkey for holiday, and would have returned.” That’s what should have happened – gone on holiday for a week and come back.’

Shakil from Burton upon Trent in Staffordshire was photographed wearing an ISIS balaclava and posing with her son with an AK-47. Twitter was her platform for encouraging others to fight the battle.

Another post said: “If people don’t like the current affairs in Sham…” [Syria]Take to the arms, not the keyboard. When confronted with her AK47 image, she said to ITV’s Exposure program, last night,: “That’s somebody who just lost their way in life. She found a very wrong track.”

Before she traveled to Syria, she admitted that she knew about the atrocities committed by Islamic State. She also said: “I was aware of the violence perpetrated at ISIS’ hands. It was all around me, so I cannot lie and claim that I did not know.

‘Being aware of horrific things that were happening in that place and still deciding to run away, not just on your own, with your child – I understand that is hard for people to understand. And to just say you didn’t pay much attention to it, but that’s what it was – I just, I didn’t.

Shakil, (pictured) from Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, was photographed in Syria wearing an Isis balaclava, along with her son, and posing with an AK-47. She used Twitter rants to encourage others to join the fight

Shakil from Burton upon Trent in Staffordshire was photographed wearing an ISIS balaclava with her son and posing holding an AK-47. Twitter rants were her way of encouraging others to fight for the cause.

“It wasn’t something I am happy about looking back now, but the only thing that I can remember is that it was not the best me.”

Shakil now resides in Birmingham and fled Syria. She was returning from Turkey when she arrived at Heathrow.

She claimed that she was abducted and forced by Isis to pose as a terrorist in front of jurors during her 2016 trial. However, Judge Melbourne Inman called her defense ‘lie after lies’. He stated that she had “embraced IS” and was “willing to be a martyr”.

Investigators suspect she married an IS fighter from Syria. However, the marriage soon turned ugly. Asked what she thinks of Isis bride Shamima Begum, who has been stripped of British citizenship and languishes in a Syrian camp, she said: ‘I can’t say, ‘Don’t bring them back’ – that makes me a hypocrite because I’ve been in a very similar situation.

“It’s different because I flee. It’s possible that there were reasons why these people couldn’t flee. It’s not easy to escape from there – it’s life and death, not everybody has it in them.’ 

Tareena: The Return From Isis is available on ITV Hub.