Samara was a single mother, with three strong headed young girls from her failed marriage. Many years had passed since the end of her marriage, and so, despite the norms of her culture and her family’s objections, she decided to accept the marriage proposal of Samuel, a revert from a background entirely different to her own. Soon after, her three daughters gave into pressure from their biological father’s family and decided to move away from their mother to live with them. Samara was devastated, but with the help of Samuel, was able to visit her daughters regularly and although the house was quiet, her husband had injected an unprecedented sense of happiness in her life; she was content with her situation.
Two months passed and Samara was still on cloud nine, as happy as a newly-wed could possibly be. Her husband took good care of her, ensuring all of her needs were met. But with the arrival of the third month of married life, so came a heavy knocking on the doorâ€¦
Samara had been waiting for her husband to return home that day. Peeping innocently through the window, she suddenly saw herds of black clothed and heavily armed officers soaring towards her door. Her heart began to race, she rushed downstairs to see what was going onâ€¦ a mistake perhaps?
“I thought my husband was involved in some kind of accident, I knew he wasn’t coming late as he usually calls me to say he’s going to come home late to tell me, I thought he was visiting his mother.”
But these officers bore the mortifying news of Samara’s husband’s arrest, coupled with the crippling raid which would follow. The walls began to close in on her; she was subject to a full body search and ordered to leave her home. She was unwell at the time, away from the comfort of her daughters; her family had earlier objected to her marriage, who could she possible turn to now?
“I remember one thing: when they came to arrest him, I was totally shocked out of my life, I never thoughtI would have to go through this. I hated it so much and then when they told me I can’t be in my house for three daysâ€¦ I said I don’t have anywhere else to go! The police officer was saying that they have to search me and with this search it involves taking off clothes – subhanAllah when they told me that, I just thought why me?
“I have a form of gum disease which means my gums inflame quickly and this problem I had for a while so I use to take hydrogen peroxide, but to them they thought it was something else because I had more than one – they didn’t want me to take that with me. That was ridiculous because at that time my gum problem worsened and I needed it.”
Days began to pass and Samara was still not allowed to return home. She was left in a hotel but had no one to speak to, no one to hear her troubles, no one to feel her pain. All of us have that one person we can turn to, in our moments of desperation, who we know will answer the phone and listen to us, but Samara had no one. One day she built up the courage to attend her Qur’an class. After class, she waited behind and soon found herself breaking down before her teacher, weeping and telling an almost complete stranger about her recent trauma.
“The worse thing was staying at the hotel, I’ve never stepped away from my home all alone in an unknown place. Staying there for an hour to me felt like years because all I had in mind was, ‘what’s wrong’ and ‘why are they taking my husband away’ â€¦ when I got to speak to one of the teachers I had to break down and cry to her and tell her, look this is what has happened! I was in a kind of shock and I just couldn’t think straight with anything really. This person, one of the teachers that I had spoken to, I hardly knew her, but she was giving me that courage just to stay strong.”
Samara had not only lost the financial support of her husband, but now had to shoulder the burden of trying to financially support him in prison. If her husband had no money, he wouldn’t be able to call her, leaving her increasingly isolatedâ€¦.
“Financially it was very difficult for me; all I get is my Employment Support Allowance money. I would struggle, not being able to give him money for prison, he couldn’t even call or talk to me or give me any comfort. Again it’s all to do with money and I didn’t have any extra money to give him.”
The days flew past around Samara, while she remained still, stuck in the same place, watching the alternating night and day and sinking deeper into the abyss she had found herself in. Samara was accustomed to being surrounded by her family and people, now she was facing the most difficult time of her life and she was alone. She would think about her future and entertained the chance that it would be emptyâ€¦
“I managed throughout those days you know, without eating and sleeping much. I was just moving along like a puppet, you know how a puppet has strings attached and you just move along how they tell you to move along?
“Honestly I’m not leading a normal lifeâ€¦ I have never lived alone. I have always had a big family. I just felt that I was in a horror movie – sleeping and eating all by myself. Before (the arrest), even when I went shopping to do my own shopping I would hate it, I would wait for my sisters.”
When Samara returned home and people began to learn about what had happened, she expected some kind of support; she had naively assumed that her friends and family would be there for her, to defend her honour and innocence in her time of need. But Samara soon experienced her husband’s family’s disinterest and lack of concern; her daughters blamed her for the situation; and her family thought she was deserving of such plight, ‘you chose to marry him’ they would say. So one by one, Samara quickly learnt that she would be on this ride, alone.
“If there was someone who wanted to help me and come over, as soon they heard what the arrest was about, they worried about being questioned themselves and for that reason, they distanced from me when I needed it the most. It was a really bad patch for me when I think about it now, I even had nightmares at night.
“There were some friends who didn’t want me to contact them and they didn’t want to know me. One or two of them would say that their husbands would not allow them to come to my house, even with prison visits I couldn’t find any sisters to accompany me. A neighbour said to me, ‘I have to be honest I can’t come to your house, as your husband has been arrested and I don’t want to get in any kind of trouble’. The only support I had was from my husband over the phone”.
Meanwhile the vicious gossip being spread about Samara eventually came within earshot of her innocent daughters, who were drowning in the clamour of insults against their mother. Samaras ex-husband and in laws had seized the opportunity to defame her to her daughters, only adding to her anguish and despair. Without her husband to drive her, it became increasingly difficult for her to see her girls, who as a result, were themselves sinking into a depressive state.
“â€¦ I am so distressed over my children’s situation and the future with my husband. I’m thinking how many years will it be like this? Some days they talk to me, other days they are angry over the whole situationâ€¦ My daughter writes these diaries, they are very heart breaking, I read one page and I didn’t know how to handle myself. She was like dear mum – a child doesn’t just need a shelter or home and clothes, a child needs care, love, attention and seeing their mother. SubhanAllah, when I read that I started crying.”
The stress of the situation took its irrevocable toll on Samara’s health, becoming increasingly unwell with each passing day. She developed fibromyalgia, resulting in widespread pain and chronic fatigue. Her condition worsened due to stress. Samara would try and go about her day to day life, but whenever she brushed her hair, clumps of hair would collect on her brush and fall to the floor. When she weighed herself, she noticed the ever decreasing number staring back at herâ€¦
“My hair loss, since my husband got arrested it was continuous and my weight loss, my pain was a lot. Stress does trigger a lot and it was hard – it depends how stressed you are. I was stressed, very stressed.”
Despite the weight of the world honing down on Samara, she was determined to try and visit her husband. With her health condition, she could only pray that someone could take her because travelling alone would be impossible.
“I can’t even visit my husband and I don’t have anyone to go with. I wanted to pray for someone to help me and make my journey easy for me. When I did get to go, after coming back it took me two days to recover because I felt really sick. But, Alhamdulillah (all praise be to God) in my heart I was excited to meet him, sometimes when you have such happiness it doesn’t matter – however far you have to go, sometimes it doesn’t affect you much when you go to visit your loved ones. After a while, that pain goes.”
When HHUGS were shocked when they eventually heard about Samara’s state; how could someone live in such an extreme state of isolation, whilst being so unwell and financially in need?
HHUGS immediately assessed her financial situation, Samara spent little but due to her measly income, had found herself in rent arrears. So HHUGS intervened and cleared her arrears and approved a monthly shopping voucher so that she would not fall into debt in the future.
“My solicitor told me about HHUGS. I learnt they can even help you financially. I learnt that Allah is just making it easy for me because I’m going through such a hardship, you know being separated from my husband, Allah is paving my way. I get the vouchers every month and it’s always on time Alhamdulillah. It’s something I don’t have to think about.”
HHUGS realised that Samara needed help out of her abyss. As a result of their support, she was able to speak her husband on the phone regularly, and they arranged for Samara to visit him. A driver would collect her and transport her there in comfort and bring her home. HHUGS even tried to arrange for a female volunteer to accompany Samara, to make her feel more comfortable. Unfortunately, this often proves difficult due to the lack of female volunteers willing to make the journeyâ€¦
“I praise Allah that I have actually managed to see him at least 5 or 6 times with the help of HHUGS. It has just been amazing for me and I don’t know how I would have gotten here if it wasn’t for that. The visit is the best thing, you know when that is provided for you and you don’t have to think about trying to get from one place to another.
“If it wasn’t for HHUGS I wouldn’t have been able to speak to him or see him – it made a great difference.”
HHUGS also assessed that Samara was in urgent need of social and emotional support. They began inviting her to coffee mornings and gatherings where she could meet fellow sisters in a similar situation. They sent her gifts on Eid and Ramadan and sent her Qurbani meat, to assure her she was not forgotten in her time of needâ€¦
“When I talk about HHUGS I say Alhamdulillah, I have help here. People just think what I have done is wrong, because I married again or because I married the wrong man who ended up in prison, I tell them Alhamdulillah I am not sad because I have help from HHUGS. When I talk, people can see that I am not in that kind of despair anymore. Alhamdulillah I am really happy with it.
“Subhanallah it’s like when you think about poor countries that need your help .But there are people suffering mentally here. It is a big oppression on myself and we need to help those families. Not only do (those in) poor countries need it, I don’t think that is true, you have to be equal around everyone with your helpâ€¦.
“If I could advise someone in a similar situation, I would tell them, look that there is this organisation. Yu don’t have to suffer alone and don’t test yourself; for them not to feel shy or embarrassed about anything. Because we all need help in the dunya, we can’t suffer alone and this is what Allah does when he puts you in difficult – there is help in places where you don’t even knowâ€¦”