Scared, paranoid and alone. That’s how Husna felt after the first time she was raided, leaving her sitting restlessly through the nights. She would anxiously look outside her window searching for those who may be watching, sleeping with clothes on and taking little solace in sleep.
“After the first raid, they told me that they will be coming back again so I slept with my clothes on. Any car that I can hear parking outside I check, even if it’s two or three o’clock in the morning I check. You just expect that knock at any time.Once it happens to you – you lose the homely feel to your house, It doesn’t feel like your home anymore.”
The second time the police came, they didn’t just search her home, but they arrested Husna, along with her twenty year old son. Husna had been looking through the window as a part of her routine when she saw caught the eyes of police men who were marching towards her door. Spotting her, they immediately broke open the door and began the search; the search which was the start, for Husna, of a long and painful journey.
“I was not allowed to speak to the kids and the kids were not allowed to have their breakfast or anything. When I wanted to say goodbye to the children I said ‘as salaam alaikum’ to them, the police said ‘it has to be in English’â€¦ I’m sure they knew what it meant.”
Husna was already single parent, so when her children of six, ten and eighteen were left to survive without her, the pressure on Husna became unbearable. After being taken to prison, she looked around at her surroundings, the tall white walls towered over her, making her feel small and powerless. She thought about her children, were they safe? How were they managing without her? Husna began to panic as she contemplated the worst of scenarios and soon after, was taken into hospital.
“I started feeling really bad, I started having panic attacks and they had to call an ambulance. It’s something unreal, you don’t realise what it’s like, the kids are with somebody else and you don’t know how they are doing and you’ve got nothing.”
Prison was a lonely place for Husna; hundreds of miles away from her children, she lived in constant anxiety about their well-being and that of her eldest son who too, was detained. She would crave for company and eagerly awaited their visits, which were sadly scarce in number due to her being placed so far away from them.
Husna was eventually released on bail but with the imposition of devastating license conditions. She was required to wear a tag, adhere to a strict curfew and a number of other restrictions but she also faced a greater challenge; something that neither she, nor anyone around her could have foreseen: financial sanctionsâ€¦
“When we came out of prison they out a tag on us, while they were putting it on somebody came from the police station to hand us papers that we were on this asset freezing thing– I had no clue what it means – no clue what was happening.”
Little did Husna realise that the sanctions would leave her financially disabled. She would be unable to accept any financial support or gifts at all from family or friends. She would be legally obliged to track every penny of expenditure with receipts and be completely reliant on the small amount of benefits she received, to support her entire family. If anyone wanted to provide her with the seemingly most menial contribution, they would have had to seek a license to do so from HM Treasury, or faced prosecution themselves if they failed to do so.
“I heard that I cannot accept anything, any shopping or even a penny from anyone. At the beginning I had nothing and only after a few weeks did I start receiving JSA but eventually, even that was stopped because of my nationality. You’re scared because people want to help but they can’t and we had nothing. I had to sign on three times a week, I had a curfew. You are restricted, your life is being taken over, you feel free but you’re not free if that makes sense – your life is being run by rules, where to go, how to go and when to goâ€¦”
It’s difficult to find people who are willing to support you in your time of need, particularly when you have been arrested for terror related charges, but Husna was fortunate to have a supportive circle. She had friends who were willing to donate to support her but Husna was unable to accept a penny of financial support, or even accept items of food or clothing. Her bail conditions kept her confined to her home, leaving her and her family no choice but to go through Ramadan alone.
“During Ramadan, you don’t have the same feeling, you can’t go to friend’s house and you can’t go anywhere because you have the curfew. People don’t come to your house out of fear that the house is bugged and you feel that you cannot speak freely. My son used to go every year for tarawih with the boys but he couldn’t at that time, so you’re stuck inside the house and the Ramadan feeling isn’t the same.”
Upon learning of Husna’s circumstances, HHUGS immediately stepped in. In order to support her, HHUGS would regularly apply for a license from HM Treasury via her solicitor, which meant that they were able to provide her with the financial support that she was desperately in need of.
“When your assets are frozen you have to be really careful from whom you accept anything, so I stuck to HHUGS. I couldn’t trust anyone else. Someone might put some money in through the letter box and it could bring me more problems.Without HHUGS, I don’t know where I would be today.“
In this manner, HHUGS were able to pay for Husna’s car insurance, her TV license and for Winter clothing for her children. They even arranged for Husna and her children to attend a day trip for all the HHUGS families at Chessington World of Adventures. After seeing the impact the arrest had had on Husna’s children and their education, and with the prospect of their mother being separated permanently from them after the trial, HHUGS tried to offer some stability in this turbulent period by contributing towards their educational needs. HHUGS also paid for kickboxing classes to provide an outlet and some light relief from the hardships they endured, whilst their mother was under license.
“It was really just HHUGS that were helping. HHUGS helped me with the insurance and other things. The kickboxing helped my son get his anger out, before that my kids couldn’t do what they wanted. HHUGS even funded my kid’s school for the first year, when I was facing the prospect of separation from them in a prison sentence. They said that if I needed anything to get in touch – they still do.”
After several months under these conditions, Husna’s trial began. She was in constant fear of being separated from her family all over again; as her anxiety mounted, the pressure became overbearing for Husna.
“It was so intense, every day for 9 days I had to spend in the solicitor’s office. I was facing two or fourteen years. You don’t know the way it goes in court, it is like a psychological game – it’s just people playing a game with your life, it’s something you can’t comprehend. After that I broke off, I just cracked, which made them want to do tests on me. Even now, I always need to see the window or the door, I don’t go to the masjid to avoid that situation-The kids are the reason why I’m living, the little ones…”
Despite both Husna and her son being found not guilty, the sanctions remained in place, leaving her in a never-ending state of difficulty. The children had stood by, powerless to help, as their mother and brother were torn from them during the raid; they saw their condition in prison during visits and now they were witnessing their mother’s emotional and financial struggle after her release; inevitably, it took its toll.
“They took it really hard when I spent time in prison. They were behaving coldly because they didn’t know what was going on. My younger son is still affected really badly to this day. He keeps everything inside and once in a while bursts out. When something bad happens, he starts bedwetting started again so I know he is mentally unstable in that sense. He blames the police, any police man; he blames them for doing this to him. How can I explain this kind of stuff to the kids?”
HHUGS assigned Husna a Keyworker to provide her with emotional support. She began attending the HHUGS coffee mornings and Eid parties and found solace in meeting sisters in the same situation.Husna’s financial sanctions were eventually lifted, her application for benefits accepted and she managed to find work; subsequently, she is no longer in need of HHUGS support. She is moving forward with her life, focusing on her role as a mother and beginning the healing process she needs to move on from this traumatic chapter of her life towards a brighter future.
“They did an enormous job behind the scenes; whether it is financially or emotionally, or any other way. When something like this happens it is not only the adults who suffer, but also the children. It is a very emotional experience for them when their mum is taken away from them. It takes a very long time to get over. HHUGS were always there if I needed them. They offered counselling, they organised gifts and Eid parties for us as families as well as sport activities for the children.
“HHUGS makes us feel that we are not forgotten during these testing times.”