Reports are varied as to why she left. Some say that she left to help out with humanitarian aid for the numerous refugees of the conflict that has been raging in Northern Syria, or 'Rojava' to the Kurds.
Others say that she planned to join and fight with the Yekîneyên Parastina Jinê (YPJ), the female section of the Kurdish ‘People’s Protection Units’.
The YPJ, and its male dominated counterpart the YPG, is not listed as a terrorist organisation by the UK or EU. Both have been playing a leading role in fighting against ISIS in Northern Syria, most notably during the battle of Kobane.
However, another organisation which has been key in the fight is the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (commonly known as the PKK). The PKK is a listed terrorist organisation, and the conflict against ISIS is not the only one that they have been involved in.
For many years, they fought a guerrilla insurgency against the Turkish state, until a peace agreement was reached in 2013. However, the long, bloody conflict is the cause of deeply rooted tension and mistrust between Turkey, a powerful NATO member, and the Kurds.
The perception of the security services that Shilan was in some way associated with the PKK led to her arrest on 16th January, returning from Germany. She had not been to Syria, indeed, she did not even leave the EU. After some weeks, she returned to the UK. At Stanstead Airport she was arrested under the 2006 Terrorism Act, under the charge of “engaging in conduct in preparation for giving effect to an intention to commit acts of terrorism.” She was released on bail.
However, at her first court hearing, she was ordered to be remanded in custody in Holloway Prison, where her supported staged a small demonstration in solidarity on Friday 13th March. Many at the demo believe that this is a ‘fresh attempt by the UK government to criminalise the Kurds’. There was incredulity at the fact that she had been arrested at all.
This protest at Holloway Prison was held at short notice. By the time the second court hearing was due, on 1st April, there was much more awareness of the case of Shilan Ozcelik. This was illustrated by the extent of activity on social media surrounding the event.
However, protesters reacted with dismay when the case was adjourned until September, with bail for Shilan being refused. A petition had also been set up to campaign for her release, which has so far gained over 3000 signatures.
A vocal demonstration was held outside the court on the day of the hearing.
Many observers have reacted angrily to this case, accusing the UK of hypocrisy. Some have cited the UK's tacit support for the PKK and YPG/YPJ, the Kurdish forces battling ISIS. Along with the US, Britain has supported airstrikes and equipment drops to Kurdish fighters.
There has also been criticism of the way this case has been handled compared with other UK citizens who have fought with Kurdish fighters. Last year, two British former soldiers, James Hughes and Jamie Read, reportedly fought with the YPG in Northern Syria. While they were questioned by the security services on the arrival back in the UK, they were not arrested or charged with terrorism offences. On the contrary, they were given police protection and hailed as heroes by the tabloid press (however, some of their claims have since been questioned).
Others have since found it contradictory that some Britons, who were detained by Turkish authorities close to the Syrian border in early April 2015, had all been released without charge a few weeks later. Yet, Shilan remains in custody, despite not having been anywhere near this volatile and dubious area.
Despite the discrepancies in the case, it has been disputed that this issue is an attempt to criminalise the Kurdish people in the UK, as some people have interpreted.
William Park, of Kings College London, is an expert on European and Turkish security policy. In an interview with the author, he commented: "The 2006 Terrorism Act is too broad anyway for my tastes. But the PKK/PYD is regarded as a terrorist organisation (wrongly in my view, and I agree it is largely as a consequence of Turkish pressure), so combining the over-reach of the act and the misguided attitude to the PKK, the UK authorities are 'at liberty' to apply it, I guess. Beware of Middle Eastern conspiracy theories. I am pro-Kurdish, but it is the PKK ban and the Act that is the root of this. Politically, I don't buy it that there is any fresh attempt to criminalise the Kurdish issue."
Shilan Ozcelik remains imprisoned, and will be until September at the very earliest. Her supporters have vowed to continue their campaign.
However, the case comes at a time when the government and security services are under increasing pressure to assert their control over young citizens travelling abroad to conflict zones.
Added to this, there is a further layer of complexity with the added geopolitical dimension of the UK's precarious relationship with Turkey. This is a game in which pawns are not spared.
The trial of Shilan Ozcelik is set to continue.