Meet Yasmin, the mother of three beautiful children, aged 12, 9 and 5. Yasmin’s husband had left to live abroad in Europe two years ago so Yasmin, in a way, began to feel like a single mother, solely taking care of all of her children’s needs from morning until evening. Her days were tiring but like any mother in the same position, she powered through for her sake of her children and in the hope of giving them the best possible start in life.
“These past two years it has just been me and my kids, I know I’ve done my best for them. I did everything for my kids, from morning to evening. It was quite hard managing three kids alone, but nurturing and bringing them up right was the most important thing for me.”
One day, as Yasmin left for a holiday to go and see her husband in Europe, she was arrested at the airport. Yasmin was confused; at first assuming she was undergoing a routine check when she was taking into a room for questioning. But before she knew it, police officers had arrived at the scene, handcuffing her and separating her children from her before her very eyesâ€¦.
“I was arrested at the airport – sorry, I am very emotional – it’s because of my kids, they just took me to a room and they took my kids. I had to give them everything: my hijab and everything – even my scrunchie [hair ribbon] from my hair and I had to sit there with my hair out and everything and they took my finger prints, footprints, DNA.”
“I heard from the social worker that when the kids were taken into the room with the police officers at the airport the kids were crying and asking where I was and were asking what was happening to me because of the police around me they got scared.”
Yasmin was taken to a police station and put in a cell while her house was raided. Whilst all of this befell Yasmin, all she could think about was her children; where had they been taken? Were they safe? She sat, alone and afraid, desperate to leave.
“After that day, my whole life has turned upside down. My only concern when I was arrested was my children. I wasn’t really worried about myself; for me, it was about what’s happening to my kids. I saw my kids walking through the security checks – that was the last time I saw my kids.”
When Yasmin was finally released from the station she expected to be reunited with her children immediately, but she received the devastating news that her children had been taken into care. All contact immediately ceased, leaving her stripped of any news of their wellbeing. After days of checks on Yasmin’s parents, social workers eventually approved for the children to stay at their house, but upon condition that Yasmin would be unable to visit. After a long wait, Yasmin was finally reunited with her children in a supervised visit.
“It was emotional. I think for them they didn’t understand what was happening. They were questioned by the police as well – my kids – without me being there. They were asked about their religious beliefs and about Islam.”
Yasmin’s breathed a sigh of relief when her legal charges were eventually dropped. She expected social services to drop the case against her too and for her to be quickly reunited with her children permanently. Her expectations however were to be sorely disappointed – she received the news that is every mother’s worst nightmare. Yasmin cried, as she related:
“A court order has been made that they are not going to be returned back to me until they are adults….”
Yasmin’s worst fears manifested themselves. Not only had she lost custody of her children, but she was given permission for just a single supervised visit each week. Once a week, without any privacy, and for a mere few hours, Yasmin would be able to see her kids.
“My youngest is just five years old and I have to wait 13 years to see him again. I’m going to miss so much of their life, it’s not going to be the same for me. Even the normal routines – waking up in the morning, making their breakfast and things like that, I miss it so much. I miss being able to pick them up from school and taking them madrassa and on the weekends just to sit and watch movies togetherâ€¦their whole lives have turned upside down because of this.”
Life without her children drove Yasmin into a whirlwind of sadness; feeling intense loneliness everyday as she constantly missed her children and recalled them in everything that she did. Engulfed in depression, Yasmin struggled to find meaning in life again.
“I can’t even put it into words about what it has done to me – I suffer from depression; emotionally and psychologically I’m not doing well. Just living at home and seeing everything, all my kids’ things around the house. I was constantly hoping for them to return back to me. I live with it, these constant reminders in the house. My kids are five or ten minutes away from me but I can’t be with them which is torture– I can’t sleep properly and sometimes I don’t eat. It’s like I have lost the will to live.”
Inevitably, the separation from their mother had a devastating effect on Yasmin’s children and their relationship with their mother.
“I’m losing that bond with them. They were with me 24/7 and suddenly we have been taken out of each other’s lives. I don’t know what’s going on in their lives. My son’s behaviour has changed; he’s very unsettled. I was told that there are times where he just switches and starts to beat everyone up which is something he never used to do. My eldest daughter has taken on the motherly role over my youngest. I try to keep things as normal as possible when I see them but it feels like there is a barrier between us.”
Yasmin was under immense pressure and needed to hear comforting words from her husband, but when he wasn’t there for her as she needed him to be, their marriage fell apart.
“At that moment in time when I really needed him, he wasn’t there for me. So I told him to give me a divorce and after a month or two he reluctantly gave it to me, because I said I can’t cope anymore, I just couldn’t do it.”
With the isolation closing in on her, Yasmin found that her old friends had also turned their backs on her.
“There were friends that I had since school – you know when they were going through things I was there for them but when I was going through these things nobody was there to be seen.”
HHUGS began to support Yasmin when the local keyworker heard about her situation. HHUGS stepped in to provide her with the emotional and social support she needed by assigning her a keyworker and arranging for her to undergo counselling therapy. Yasmin is now actively looking for work to support herself and keep busy. To support Yasmin until she finds work and prevent her from falling into debt, HHUGS provide her with shopping vouchers, and cover her petrol costs and electricity. By sending her gifts in Ramadhan and Eid, we remind her that she’s not alone during these times of hardship.
“Even seeing texts from my keyworker, I appreciate it, knowing that somebody is out there thinking about me. The meat and cakes on Eid; it wasn’t something I was expecting –the support and the care you have given to people like me, it means a lot.”
“I would urge people to support HHUGS because sooner or later something is going to happen to them that’s how it is honestly; as Muslims we should be helping each other and supporting each other especially in times like this. My community has not supported me; they say that she has been arrested for terrorism this and that – but sooner or later it might happen to them; so who are they going to turn to? When we need the help the most, nobody is there.”