Fauzia is a European citizen, married to an Arab with whom she has four beautiful children. In the year 2000, the happily married couple decided it was time to experience life in a Muslim country and took the plunge to leave the UK and move abroad. Two years passed of utter peace and contentment for the family, until one day Fauzia’s husband informed her that he had to make a short trip to North Africa to help a friend in need. He set out on his journey but whilst in transit, to his shock, he was met by the local authorities who were ready to arrest him.
Detained abroad with no rights, no lawyer and no contact with the outside world, Fauzia’s husband was left to endure intense interrogation and gruesome torture in secret detention. He was exposed to freezing temperatures, sleep deprivation, beatings to the soles of his feet and the forcible extraction of his nails and teeth. Fauzia’s husband needed to find a way out, a means for his nightmare to end, a means to be brought to trial and so he confessed to the allegations made against him.
With the horrific reality unknown to Fauzia, she remained disturbingly unaware of her husband’s whereabouts and welfare for a number of weeks. As life became increasingly difficult and insecure for Fauzia and her children, living alone in a foreign country, effectively in limbo, she made the decision to leave their new home and eventually returned to Europe some months after her husband’s disappearance.
Meanwhile, Fauzia’s husband was deported to Europe, following two months of detention, only to face interrogation upon his arrival. After four years of solitary confinement he was put on trial and placed back into solitary confinement.
Despite their horrific experiences, Fauzia found renewed hope: finally, for the first time in four years,she was able to communicate with her husband once again. She constantly wrote letters to him but was refused visiting rights for an entire year. Eventually, she was allowed to visit for half an hour at a time.
As a result of these traumatic and greatly unsettling experiences, Fauzia suffers acute emotional stress, at times causing her to isolate herself completely. At such times, she feels severely depressed and cannot cope with the most basic domestic duties. When her husband was finally released only to be rearrested Fauzia was sent into a whirlwind of shock and for a number of months struggled to come to terms with reality.
But Fauzia was not the only one to suffer in silence – her children being the invisible victims, left vulnerable without the care and protection of a father. Living in uncertainty, they are unable to make decisions about the future. Fauzia’s eldest daughter has developed an unhealthy obsession with searching the web for information about her father’s case and the accusations made against him.
Fauzia moved once more, in the hope of finding a better environment to raise her children and a more supportive community. But even then, she found herself far from being left in peace. After finally finding a placement, her employers discovered the identity of her husband, and she subsequently lost the chances of being kept on as an employee. Like many families, Fauzia has been the subject of media harassment, with journalists slyly waiting outside her house to speak to her and contacting her sons’ universities for access to their information. She pleaded,“We just want to be left alone and live a peaceful life.”
Despite her experiences, being in the UK has still been a blessing for Fauzia and her family, as she was put in touch with HHUGS.
“They were a great support for me. At the time, I was alone with just a few sisters in the same situation so it was great to find someone who was brave enough to contact me because it was not easy for people to come to us.”
HHUGS immediately stepped in and started to provide Fauzia with the financial support that she urgently needed. HHUGS have for years paid for Fauzia to visit her husband abroad; HHUGS provide her with monthly shopping vouchers so that she is able to make ends meet and manage on a monthly basis, and in the past HHUGS paid for her child’s school fees.
In order to empower Fauzia, HHUGS paid for her to gain a teaching diploma which would increase her chances of finding a job. To provide some relief and distraction from the tests of their situation, HHUGS paid for Fauzia’s daughter to participate in regular sewing classes and paid for her and her son’s gym membership.
“They helped us financially; they were helping with school fees.It was a priority for me to give my children an Islamic environment in every aspect of their life. HHUGS agreed to contribute towards the fees and made it possible for our children, Alhamdulillah. I felt this was essential, not a secondary need, to do our upmost to provide our children with an Islamic environment in and outside the home. Throughout the years it built them like a shield and they acquired good habits.
The big thing they were helping me with was to travel abroad to see my husband... It is a relief. JazakumAllahu khairan, from all the family, for that. It is an immeasurable support and happiness, in this test, that they provide for our family. I could not have travelled abroad to see my family without their help. Without them my life would have been so much more difficult, building a relationship with my kids and their Dad with him being abroad would not be easy.”
With few friends in the UK and no family, HHUGS are present and are consistently providing Fauzia with emotional support, particularly on Eid.
“When I first met the sisters a few years ago I just could not believe that two sisters started this great initiative to help the community in these kinds of situations, that is, of having a close member of the family arrested. Thanks to Allah, now HHUGS is running very well, ma sha' Allah, may Allah reward them for their efforts. When a member of the family is arrested some of yours friend are afraid to be tainted with guilt by association; so at a time when you need more support, you in fact find yourself more alone; you are afraid to make problems for others. That is why HHUGS' role is so important, in all respects, since they do not hesitate to approach you if they know you are in difficulty; they are rather hear to respond to you and welcome you with open arms. I have always felt since I have known HHUGS that I had someone to rely on, and it has made my life easier and my burden lighter.
“It’s not only financially, although that’s a big part; I was here alone with my kids and my husband was in prison abroadâ€¦You know that you always have someone here to help you and to hear you -it’s different from a friend, because friends get tired – but you know that if you call HHUGS they are never tired, they are always here to help you, to listen to you whatever the subjectâ€¦ They always provided legal advice, spoke on my behalf and helped to find solutions to any problems that arose in my situationâ€¦
Each time Eid comes, there is always a card, there is always an event for the children and there are always presents… they don't forget us in these very sensitive moments; Always a call to have news; an invitation during Ramadan.”
Fauzia’s appreciation for HHUGS’ efforts is clear and her positive attitude is inspiring:
“May Allah reward all those in my community who have helped me, especially HHUGS. They do an amazing job to support families. I cannot thank them enough. Not everybody is able to participate in such an organisation or to give their time, but if you can support them financially, it doesn't cost so much, the reward is guaranteed by Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. It is an essential way to participate. And don’t forget: in every single contribution you make, you provide help, support, happiness, relief to Muslim families.I would simply like to remind HHUGS’s supporters and other families tested like ours that no affliction in this life is in vain for a Muslim. Have hope in Allah and you will be among the winners. My family and I thank those who help us throughout our tribulation and HHUGS is among them. May Allah reward you all, ameen.”