Case Study: Shahida

In 2003 Shahida’s husband was studying Arabic in North Africa when he was arrested and detained for four months under anti-terrorism legislation.

When this happened UK authorities wanted to take their children into care and send Shahida back to her native European home. The council moved her into a murky hostel, and she desperately sold her jewellery and borrowed money to make ends meet. Finally, Shahida saved enough to find a property with the housing association but soon after, the police found out where she was and paid her visits under a search warrant, taking her belongings and leaving her and her children devastated. Isolated and lonely without her husband, she had almost no one to lean on. Shahida was nearing the brink of hopelessness; her kids were upset and unable to attend school, social services were constantly visiting and questioning her, and her financial situation seemed to never improve.

Shahida’s husband was acquitted of all charges and returned to the UK but continued to face pressure from the security services. Shahida could comfort herself knowing husband was with her, by her side and able to support her financially.

Then one day Shahida and her husband set out to visit some family, on the way they were stopped by police and both of them were arrested.

Shahida told us “…They put handcuffs on me as tight as possible. At the police station I was left without food for two days, I couldn’t call my family or even a solicitor and I felt humiliated.”

Following the ordeal, the charges against Shahida were dropped however her husband was taken to prison and the family continue to be subject to searches.

“Even after that, every single night for a month, they would be knocking at our front door at crazy hours of the morning and going through all of my books.”

During one night search, they seized all of the household laptops and wanted to arrest Shahida for handling stolen goods. Her sister was also arrested and they were both later released without charge. The ordeal added to the emotional pressure already bearing down on Shahida as she witnessed the troubling effects on her sister.

Shahida remembers:

“She was 18 at the time and has been traumatised since. I don’t know if she ever really got over it… she used to lock herself in her room. She stopped going to college and didn’t want to go back.”

Shahida was already suffering financially without her husband, now the entire family were undergoing serious psychological trauma.

“It’s just been a nightmare…my kids have been traumatised, they are withdrawn and cry for no reason and get upset a lot…They believe the police will come for them and hurt them.. When they see police, they ask, ‘Are these the people who came to the house and smashed it and took mummy away?'”

In this never ending tunnel of darkness, HHUGS found Shahida and offered her some light.

‘I was going to meetings and counselling sessions, they were helping me with transport to see my husband and with food vouchers’.

HHUGS cleared a number of Shahida’s debts relieving her of some of her financial burden and allowing her to focus her income on her basic necessities.  Additionally, the family receives monthly food vouchers to help ease the worry of feeding young mouths. When Shahida’s benefits were stopped, HHUGS stepped in to contribute towards her rent.

When a traumatic incident occurs it is important to discuss it with a trained individual who can help to process the event. Therefore HHUGS makes sure that Shahida receives professional counselling and consistent emotional support from her keyworker. HHUGS are also organising counselling sessions for Shahida’s children and her sister, to give them the support they need to regain some normalcy and overcome the traumatic experiences they have endured.

Shahida feels more empowered and independent thanks to the driving lessons that HHUGS provides for her.  She has even been able to enrol in University where she has attained excellent grades, giving her hope for a bright future.

The family have gone on outings through HHUGS to allow Shahida and her children to take their minds off their day to day struggles. HHUGS also have open invitations to coffee mornings and a social gathering where Shahida can meet other sisters in similar situations.

Shahida’s relief speaks for itself:

“Alhamdullillah, we are so grateful to HHUGS for their help. They took us on trips to keep the kids happy and take us away from the little stresses of life. We would have not been able to go through this without them. They are great and people need to be aware of this amazing organisation….If it wasn’t for HHUGS I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t have been able to keep up with it.”