HHUGS: What is your name?
UI:My name is Umm Ibrahim.
HHUGS: How many children do you have?
UI:I have 5 children.
HHUGS: Tell us about the first time the police came to your house?
UI:They came around Fajr time (early morning) whilst we were still sleeping.This was approximately six years ago.
Obviously we were horrified by the way they entered, shouting “Police! Police.” Some of them were dressed in civilian clothing, some in police and military uniforms, whilst others were dressed in white. They were carrying shields and some were also armed. They were a very large group that attacked us fiercely and broke the door down with a big bang. It was as if something had exploded and we were all terrified to the extent where we couldn't even move from our places. There was a lot of shouting. I will never forget that day.
They aimed their guns at us and it was absolutely terrifying. They got hold of my husband and when I got up to scream, they held me by twisting my hand behind my back. I was dressed in my nightclothes and was asking them to let me change but they refused. They also got hold of my kids. Even now, whenever I think of the incident, I'm deeply disturbed. We were all just terrified.
HHUGS: Where did they take your husband? Did they take him downstairs or outside?
UI:They put him down with his face to the ground before taking him outside, and left me and the kids in the house, saying they wanted to search it. They took us downstairs and confiscated all the mobile phones, the computers and all the money we had. They didn't leave us a penny. They then took us to a hotel. I was asking them again to let go of my hand so I could get dressed but they wouldn’t let me. They just said, “You are already wearing clothes, it's ok.”
HHUGS: How old were your children at the time?
UI:They were infants, their ages varied. My eldest, Ibrahim, is now 14 years old.
HHUGS: How long did you spend at the hotel they took you to?
UI:We stayed there for about two days. They had broken the house door. There were two doors; a glass door and a wooden one. The glass door was completely shattered, which must have been blown up with explosives, and the wooden door had a huge crater in it. They then repaired the crater by patching it up with another wooden piece, but they didn't change the door. I'm sure all the neighbours witnessed the incident, as there were many police cars surrounding the house. They must have thought we were a family of terrorists. I was so frightened and was shivering. I couldn't even face the people outside and tell them what had just happened. They saw my husband being taken out of his home. I couldn't take my kids to school after that. After they took us to the so-called hotel, they sent me a letter stating “We have fixed your door and you can now go back home.” I didn't have any money to get a taxi to go back. I asked a friend to kindly pay for my taxi fare to get home so I could dress myself and my children, as they were not wearing jackets. We didn't have mobile phones to call anyone. It was a very difficult time and I don't even want to think about that day.
They didn't tell me what it was all about nor did they arrange for an interpreter. They just told me that my husband is a terrorist and he may be handed over to Libya. At that time, Gaddafi was still the leader. I knew what would happen if they sent him to Libya and I told them he would be killed there. I was shouting and screaming in Arabic, “I have 5 children, how can you do this!”, and they didn't understand me. Unintentionally, I was saying some things in English and I was completely confused.
HHUGS: How did your children feel when the police came?
UI:My children were confused. They didn't know what was going on or even who they were. They were asking, “Why did they take dad? Why did they hold you like that?” They were so terrified that they urinated on themselves.
HHUGS: When you returned home, how did you find the state of your house?
UI:The whole house was a mess; All the bags under the beds were opened and dispersed, shoes were all over the place, mattresses had been opened and the doors were broken – even the carpet had been uplifted. I couldn't tidy the house for it to become liveable again. It was very difficult. Besides, I had to move due to the neighbours who had seen the incident. They now looked at us differently.
HHUGS: So you moved house?
UI:Yes, about two weeks later I had to move to another community where we got a house on lease and the rent was paid for by the community.
HHUGS: How were you left feeling after the incident?
UI:I was frightened and used to cry a lot. I didn't take the children to school. They cried too and asked about their father often. Even I didn't know his whereabouts and couldn't speak English to be able to ask. I don't have family in the UK nor do I have any friends who could help me. Generally, in Muslim families, the husband is the one who takes responsibility for everything. I.e. the shopping, paying the bills etc. I didn't even know how to pay for my shopping or how to get to the shopping centre. Everything was difficult, including speaking English, as my husband used to do everything for the house.
HHUGS: So what did you do during that time? How did you buy food to eat?
UI:I had to take taxis and go where I needed to and my friends used to pay for my fare. I got help from other Muslims and also from HHUGS, who helped us a lot.
A long time after, I applied for benefits to the Home Office explaining that my husband had been taken away and that I had no income. After the new application, they agreed to provide me with benefits.
HHUGS: When was the first time you spoke to your husband after what had happened?
UI:Around 3 days after the incident, he called to say he was in prison and asked me to contact any of his friends to get financial help for the family. He said they could arrange for another place to stay in and introduce us to the community for other forms of help.
The police had told my husband to arrange for school admission for my children and it was done, but there was nobody to take them there. They didn’t arrange any transport and I was unable to take them myself, as I could not afford the taxi.
HHUGS: Besides financial difficulties, what other problems did you face whilst your husband was imprisoned?
UI:It was indeed an extremely challenging time when my husband was detained, despite the fact that he had not done anything wrong.
The children had problems at school that needed to be resolved and letters needed to be read. As a woman who couldn’t get around to places, I had problems when my children got ill and needed to visit the clinic. Shopping for medicine and clothes was also a problem. The children needed someone to talk to and I couldn't do all of this myself. It was very troublesome.
HHUGS: When was the first time you got to visit your husband?
UI:I can’t remember any exact dates of when things happened as the police terrified us by barging into our home. I felt as though time had stopped after the incident took place. It is difficult to recall when they took my husband, when they released him and when I visited him. I can’t remember any numbers; any dates and birthdays are very difficult to remember.
HHUGS: Which prison did they take your husband to?
UI:He was transferred to various prisons in Birmingham, and Belmarsh in London. There were a lot of different names.
HHUGS: How did you visit him?
UI:For the first visit, HHUGS helped us out a lot. My husband gave me their number and asked me to call them for help, as I couldn't speak English and it was difficult for me to get around alone. They arranged for the visit and took us there too. Alhamdulillah.
HHUGS: Can you tell us about how your children were affected during the first months when your husband was taken away?
UI:Obviously they were hugely affected, as they no longer had a father who they could celebrate their Eid with. Eid time would come and they were deprived of going out. Their father used to do a lot for them and they lost all of this. They were constantly asking about him and were extremely demoralised. They didn't feel like other normal children who had fathers to take them to school and take them out to enjoy themselves. They lived like they were orphans. They used to ask innocently “Mum, Dad's such a good man – why is he in prison?”
HHUGS: How long did your husband spend in prison?
UI: He was there for two years the first time before he was released on control orders on the condition that he didn’t leave the house. Following this, they became less strict and gave him a small map of where he was allowed to go at certain times. They installed devices in our house that looked like telephones but were quite big; they were for calling the police. There was one upstairs and one downstairs. These devices were very noisy and my husband had to call them before going out and upon entering the house. Most of the time, when he was at home, the device made a very loud noise for no reason. The police used to turn up unexpectedly, knocking on the door really hard. This used to frighten the whole family.
HHUGS: What time did they visit your house?
UI: They used to visit us at any time: At night, in the morning, early morning. The children were frightened by the way they looked and were dressed.
HHUGS: Was there a difference in the way people spoke to/treated you after finding out who you were married to?
UI:I'm sure people must have thought of us as terrorists. Nobody would help us. People looked at us differently; they looked at me as the wife of the terrorist who was taken away.
HHUGS: Did this have an effect on you?
UI: Yes, I had to stay home most of the time and hated to go out.
I felt very disheartened, the children were always afraid and whenever they heard the siren of an ambulance or police car, they cried and worried that I may be taken away like their father. They asked, “What do the police want from us?” They often hid under their beds and some even unintentionally urinated on themselves. I would find some of my children crying as I walked into their room. They would say, “Mum, what if the police take you away like they took dad?” I would reassure them saying that everything would be fine. My children were emotionally destroyed.
HHUGS: Did you ever accept and get used to your situation? Or was it difficult and frightening for you every day?
UI: Every day there were new difficulties and as my children grew up, it got harder. They would want to go out and enjoy themselves. They needed a father, especially the teenagers. As I have adolescents and infants, I couldn't be their mother and father at the same time.
HHUGS: Did it affect your or the children's health?
UI:Yes. It affected my health and also some of my children.
HHUGS: When was the first time you heard about HHUGS?
UI:I heard of them while my husband was in prison for the first time. He had been detained twice, the first time is the one we have just discussed and the second time was similar, but after he was released and was off control orders, they took him again for another two years. I heard of HHUGS from the first time he was detained approximately 6 or 7 years ago.
HHUGS: How did HHUGS help you?
UI: HHUGS were a great help, from arranging prison visits to providing transport for us, especially because the prison was very far. My husband was held in Belmarsh in London and we were in Birmingham. HHUGS also helped out in various problematic situations. For example, when I was in hospital due to certain illnesses I developed thatI wouldn’t like to discuss here, HHUGS looked after my children, helped on Eid occasions organising activities for the kids and made them happy. They often took the elder children on trips and to various activities. Honestly, it is a very helpful charity
HHUGS: Supposing there was no HHUGS, how would you have visited your husband in prison? Would you have taken a train, or would that have been too difficult?
UI: I really don't know how to get around by train or even use public transport so it would have been extremely difficult for me. I don't think I would have made it to visit my husband.
HHUGS: How would you summarise to the people of the UK how a charity like HHUGS can really be helpful?
UI: My message to everyone that is listening to me from the Muslim and the non-Muslim community is: I urge you to contribute towards this charity because they have really helped lots of families who have been oppressed, subjected to various forms of injustice and undergone similar conditions to myself. You should help them as much as you can so they can provide better assistance to these families. There are families who are unknown in the community, families who are cut off and don't have relatives in the UK. This charity helps out the children of these families – had it not been for HHUGS, their situation would have been a lot worse.
HHUGS: Lastly, is there anything you would like to say?
UI: May Allah bless you.
I just want to add that we chose this country over all other countries because other places have no justice. We came here as we heard there is justice, the law is implemented and that everyone gets his or her rights within the system. Unfortunately, we did not get any. There was no justice at all and the law is manipulated by deception. My family has had to bear oppression and discrimination in this country. We have had endless problems.
Support Umm Ibrahim and others like her by donating to HHUGS:
Text ITFH50 £10 to 70070