Eight members. Three women.
Three generations under one roof.
The youngest 5 years of age.
Both the breadwinners, father and son, arrested.
It was a cold winter’s night, the Siddiqui family were sleeping, blissfully unaware that their lives were about to change forever. At around 4:00am, they were abruptly awoken by loud pounding followed by screaming and shouting as more than 40 officers made their way through various rooms in the family home. The atmosphere of peace was instantly shattered and quickly replaced by panic and terror. The unannounced police raid reaped havoc, shattering the calm of this happy home. Already distraught by the clamour, the women of the household felt all the more distressed given the violation of their privacy, as intruding officers observed them in their nightwear, giving them little time to cover their heads and their modesty.
“The nightmare, the trauma, it’s never ending. I could be here for days explaining how difficult it was, especially what the women went through.”
The distress escalated further as Mrs Siddiqui, amidst the panic, struggled to breathe.
“I thought I lost my mother because of the way she couldn’t breathe properlyâ€¦”
Mrs Siddiqui was in bed when she heard the loud banging and screaming, she could hear the screech of her children, then of her husband yelling her children’s names and then suddenlyâ€¦ deafening silence. Her heart began to thump loudly against her chest as she concluded that hooligans had come to murder her family.
“I got off the duvet and went into prostration/prayer. Then, I started to wait, (thinking) perhaps someone will come to kill me now. After a small time I could hear a loud banging and I thought, ‘why haven’t they killed me yet?'”
Amongst the family afflicted, the ordeal traumatised the children most, as they witnessed the arrest of two family members. Mrs Siddiqui told us:
“All I could hear was screamingâ€¦ my kids screaming. They handcuffed my husband, and he was going from here. My daughter, she was so small, she saw and went into shock, she began to cry, asking where are they taking my Abu (father)”.
Shaken, the Siddiqui family were consequently displaced from their home; both Mr Siddiqui and his son, Tariq had been arrested. Having lost all sense of security the family were now suffering in silence.
“It was a huge turning point in our livesâ€¦I was really weak, if someone was even pushing a wheelie bin outside, my heart would really tremble, I’d think is that another raidâ€¦It was as though we were living in a bubble within the world, we had no communication because we weren’t allowed mobile phones, we weren’t allowed any cash, we weren’t allowed any of our possessionsâ€¦ we were cut off from the world and left extremely vulnerable”.
When the family finally returned home after a painstaking week of waiting, they could barely recognise their home.
“When we returned after a week, the house wasn’t as we had left it. Food had rotted. Holes had been drilled through the walls. It was coming home to a shattered home. The house was left upside down. Your whole life is turned upside down in every way.”
Every single family member had been stripped of their possessions, their electronics, their paperwork and their phones had all been taken.
“I didn’t have my A-level certificates so I could not apply to University because it takes time to re-issue those again.”
To describe the women of the Siddiqui family as proactive members of the community would be an understatement. Rather, they were the heart of their community, they would host five or six visitors each day; some would turn to them for support and others were always coming round for tea and a chat. Now there was no one except the hollow echoes of the walls for them to welcome. The neglect that then faced left them reeling.
“People who knew us for 20-30 years had stepped back and didn’t want to be seen or associated with us; men from our family were banned from particular mosques. Muslims would shun us and not respond to our salaamâ€¦”
To fuel their isolation, everywhere they turned they were met with headlines which defamed them, brandishing them as a ‘terrorist family’ and publishing their names for the world to see.
“We were being called names from cars driving past, they recognised me from the media and would shout “you terrorist, you scum”, people spitting at me at times, I guess it’s just part of the package.”
The Siddiqui’s no longer knew whom they could trust, who was genuine. Were these people really their friends? Or perhaps they were working undercover for the authorities?
“The hardest part is to trust people again, that’s the biggest challenge. The family unit was ripped apart.”
The women of the household immediately applied for bail for their loved ones, the result was bittersweet: Tariq had been granted bail whereas his father would remain in prison. The next few months for Tariq would be the most difficult of his life. He was unable to return home or leave the city. He couldn’t visit his father and police would constantly turn up at the house at random times of the day.
“Invasion of privacy is one of the main things. The officers would come into the house, the security company would come at a random time, without giving any prior notice, with the excuse that the electric, the battery in the tag is going pretty low.
“They made my life hell, I felt I was better off in prison. It was surreal, I was thrown in a cage and then within a split second I was back into society. I was confusedâ€¦I feared my wife would divorce me.”
But his wife stuck by Tariq, helping him work through his struggles while trying to manage her own pain. She never let him know that she was living in fear; fear that he would be found guilty, that would be taken away from her or that their lives would never be the same again. She never told her parents either, about her suffering. ‘She didn’t want them to worry’ she thought, so she carried her burdens aloneâ€¦
The youngest in the house was only three years of age at the time of the raid and for years she would suffer the psychological impact of having lost her father. Her mother, Mrs Siddiqui told us:
“She is depressed and worried… if there are small cards or papers lying around she writes that I remember my Abu, when will my Abu come? Ya Allah, let my Abu go, I miss my Abu. Constantly, on every paper – you can look for yourself, that on every card we have, this is what she writes until now.”
Confused, lost and alone; the Siddiqui’s needed someone to turn to, they needed people who wouldn’t judge them, who would listen to their sorrow and offer them the support they needed to return to normalcy. So, devoid of all means of aid, HHUGS stepped in to fill the void left by the community.
Through consecutive meetings with a dedicated HHUGS keyworker, the mental burden the family carried was slowly shared. While the trauma suffered from the raid and the pain of their father’s ongoing detention lingers till this very day, the opportunity to confide in a keyworker was essential for them to feel a small measure of relief.
“They sent us a key worker within a few days and she’s been very supportive, from the very first day to today. We had so many meetings and successful events through HHUGS.”
For the children of the Siddiqui family it was particularly hard to overcome the loss of a loved one, more so on Eid, as the reality of an absent father sank in deeply. While the community kept their distance, HHUGS ensured that the children were not forgotten, providing various gifts on each occasion of Eid over the years.
“On Eid they sent us a box of gifts which had little presents and Surayah was so happy, I cannot express what her happiness did for me. She was asking, ‘who is HHUGS?’ and I said, ‘they are helpers in Islam.'”
Perhaps one of the greatest forms of practical support the Siddiqui family benefited from was the chance to visit an incarcerated loved one. While the distance proved too great for them to travel alone, HHUGS arranged for committed volunteers to drive more than 400 miles in order to carry out a prison visit.
‘In the winter time they would come all the way here at 6am in the morning, to take us there and would wait outside for 2-3 hours so that we get to meet our family, and then bring us back home’
HHUGS continued to nurture the confidence of the Siddiqui household by facilitating family retreats. Through participating, the family were able to engage with other women in similar circumstances. The Siddiquis were shocked and inspired by the positivity of the women they were meeting, despite them all facing similar circumstances.
“When you hear about other sisters in similar situations it makes you stronger. Hearing what they’d been throughâ€¦ it was just really nice.”
HHUGS continues to be a source of strength for the Siddiqui family and others. Through consistent outreach and support, both emotionally and financially HHUGS will continue to aid the Siddiqui family and those in similar situations.
“HHUGS makes it possible to help people in difficultyâ€¦ It is through organisations like HHUGS that we can make it possible to stand before Allah and say, at least I tried, I triedâ€¦ even if its shopping, or it’s a drive to prison, it might be a bit difficult, it might mean separation from your family, but in the hereafter, you will be able to see the fruits of this deed.”
The efficiency with which HHUGS acted is a testament to itself:
“When you receive help and it’s so unexpected, it really is appreciated and HHUGS has done that all the way. It meant the world to us that HHUGS came forward, especially during the (first) few days after the raid. They offered us money, their time and support. It’s really, really priceless, we can’t thank them enough.
“There was no one else in the world I could love more. Whilst everyone backed away that I’d known for 30 years, people who I didn’t know came forward. Ipray for them in my heart that God makes their worldly life and hereafter easy. They took my pain and made it their own.”
Yes, the pain of losing their loved one has left them with deep scars. But the women of this family home refused to let their circumstances dictate their future. Throughout time, women have been known to strive when faced with adversity and they were no different. They looked forward to their future, a place they would make beautiful; together.