Farida is a pharmaceutical engineering graduate from Bangladesh. She has now retired from her job as a community development officer after 17 years of service. She married and has three kids, Farida’s son, Talha Ahsan, led an ordinary life. Born a British citizen in 1979 with two sisters and a brother, he was later educated at Dulwich College before receiving first class honours in Arabic from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Training to be a librarian, his mother describes him as “a serious, bookish young manâ€¦ a very gentle, softly spoken and thoughtful boy.”
But in 2006 Farida and Talha’s lives turned upside down.
The day started like any other normal day with Talha preparing for a job interview 15-20 police officers arrived at the family home searching the home from 9-9pm.
They arrested Talha and searched each and every corner of their house. Lasting a gruelling 15hours, the raid was a traumatic experience for them all.
“They even took my Grandsons videos. They searched each and every corner of the house, from top to bottom, including the basement, loft, rear garden, the restoration garden, continuously from 9.22 two officers were with Talha continuously. Their intention was to arrest him if they get anything suspicious. All of them left at midnight, then they took some personal belongings, two computers, cassettes and books from Talha’s library and they returned the computers the next day. We did not claim any damage caused in the house and we do not want any money, we want our son back…”
Talha had been arrested under an extradition warrant from the United States of America. Farida and her family travelled the length and breadth of the UK to visit their son during his 6 year detention, where he remained without trial or charge.
Farida is elderly and suffers from a physical disability that would make the long journey to various prisons quite difficult for her. After meeting the family, HHUGS began arranging and facilitating weekly prison visits.
“[The drivers were] from everywhere, Kosovo, Panam, Sicily, lots of reverts, and they just spent that whole day for us… it’s so very touching that kindness and they give us stories from all over.”
Talha’s brother Hamja describing their various drivers
On the 5th October 2012 Talha was extradited to the US and is currently being held in solitary confinement. Having pled guilty he has averted a potential 70 years or life in prison, and later this month, faces a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.
The toll on the family has been catastrophic as they live in a constant state of fear, grief and uncertainty. Talha's mother commented,
“It has broken my soul, my heart, what’s happened to my boy” (Farida Ahsan)
“Not knowing anything… waiting… waiting… there is no limit on this waiting”
His father explained why he cannot share his feelings…
“I dont cry but she cries. I put everything inside because if I cry being the head of the family, everybody starts crying, so that is why I keep everything inside.” (Syed Abu Ahsan)
Elderly, in poor health and financially unable, they can’t visit their own son and as it stands are only allowed three 15-minute conversations with Talha a week.
“It gives me nightmares. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night having a nightmare of Talha being in solitary confinement or being tortured. It has affected me quite badly. I sometimes can’t go to work or school. It’s like the world’s greatest superpower against a small frail Asian family”.
As well as offering emotional support and organising coffee mornings, a befriending scheme and Eid parties we’ve now set up an Extradition Fund, aimed at helping Talha’s family, and those in similar positions, visit their family members in the US.