“The Sisters of Hhugs are bright flowers in the garden. I first heard about the dear sisters of Hhugs in 2004 when I was told that these Muslim sisters were willing to help the women whose husbands had been detained without charge or trial and held indefinitely in Belmarsh high security prison. On a trip to London, I had discovered that these wives were living in complete isolation and had no one to turn to apart from their own small community where there seemed to be so much suffering. Their stories were heartbreaking and they desperately need assistance. It was difficult for them to visit their husbands in prison. Their culture forbade them to travel with a man and they could not afford to visit the prison more than once a month. They hired a minibus for this trip. Hhugs stepped forward and offered the wives and children extra transport so many of the families then visited their husbands every two weeks and this made such a difference to their lives. They could visit their husbands more regularly and the detained men's mental health, which was on the verge of collapse, improved when they spend more time with their families. Hhugs created so much happiness with this kind-hearted gesture. They helped start a letter campaign and the detained men began to receive supportive letters and, through their new acquaintances, had support on the outside when they were finally released. The men have told me since that these letters raised their spirits to the highest as many of them, until then, had no contact with the outside world since their imprisonment. Hhugs also visited the families and helped them with shopping trips and they offered financial assistance too. They did a thousand good deeds that I am unaware of but I know with certainty that the sisters who were my friends were overwhelmed with the kindness and solidarity from their sisters in Hhugs. When the men were eventually released in March 2005 under control orders, Hhugs work increased. The single men who lived on their own were particularly secluded and had little aid. Hhugs provided them with household items and financial support. Hhugs was there for them all when they were in most need and I don't know how the men would have coped without them. Hhugs highlighted the desperate situation of the men and their families and held fundraisers to continue their ever expanding work. As more and more Muslims were detained, their work continued to grow. People heard about them through word of mouth and asked for assistance too. Hhugs started a branch in Manchester. When my Algerian friends were rearrested in August 2005 to be held for deportation to their countries of origin, Hhugs ensured that each wife who'd had their husbands cruelly taken from them and were terribly traumatised, had a sister from Hhugs for comfort and support that day. The men were imprisoned a long way from London and Hhugs helped with transport for the wives to visit and they also offered the petrol costs to anyone who had a car and were willing to drive the families to the prisons. Meanwhile, they continued to help the men and their families who remained under control orders. Some of the men were eventually released under house arrest and control orders and Hhugs immediately contacted them and offered their support. One single man under control orders has no arms below his elbows and due to his disability it was impossible for him to cook for himself. He was denied any social service help to receive cooked meals. Hhugs came to the rescue once more and organised delivery of daily meals for him. They have provided meals every evening for this brother for the past seven months! He had a phone connection but because of the small amount of money he had to survive with, he could only afford to receive incoming calls. Again, Hhugs was magnificent and offered to pay the extra costs to allow him to make outgoing calls and they have generously continued to finance this. This brother had been out of contact with his family in Algeria since 2001 and, thanks to Hhugs, he was able to speak to his mum for the first time in all these years. The control orders forbid him to write letters abroad so you can imagine how much his spirits were lifted when he could speak to his family again. The phone took him out of his desperate isolation and it also provided the security he lacked in the past, to make phone calls when he needed help or when he felt lonely and wanted company. I can only speak about a very small part of the amazing work of Hhugs but I am aware that their generosity and kindness has filled the hearts of all of my friends and helped them survive the cruel injustices inflicted on them. They are comforted by the knowledge that they are not forgotten and that they have their sisters at Hhugs only a phone call away when they need them.
'What would we do without Hhugs?' is asked often and I honestly don't know the answer. If Hhugs had not stepped forward for my Muslim friends in their time of greatest need, I can say with certainty, that many of them would have lost all hope in humanity. And surely this is Hhugs' greatest gift? THE GIFT OF HOPE.”
Ann Alexander – http://www.sacc.org.uk/ – Scotland Against Criminalising Communities