“That was the first time I saw my father in that state where he was in tears. Just because he mentioned my brother being in prison to a district nurse, he wasn’t one of those people that would actually become weak or show his emotions.”

Farah was exhausted. She had returned home from taking her dad to hospital by bus for his regular chemo, to find her one year old son, bouncing with energy, refusing to be put to bed by his father.  With a deep sigh, she ushered him into bed, as she nursed her three month old to sleep. Though her children were soon sound asleep, that night she lay awake with thoughts of her dad’s suffering.  It wounded her deeply, but she could not help but smile when recalling his positive, reassuring attitude: ‘Don’t worry beta, I know Reza is there to take care of you all’. Yes, she had thought, her husband may not have been bringing in any income, but her brother Reza was there, financially supporting them, and taking care of their needs. She was feeling his absence at this time as he was visiting relatives abroad, but he would be back soon to help her once again. She wouldn’t be so tired then, she comforted herself, as drifted to sleep.

Fajr entered, and brought with it a loud, heavy banging on the door. Before she could collect her thoughts, twenty officers had sprinted through her home. Immediately Farah’s thoughts turned to her father. Rushing to his room, her face dropped when she saw him, pale and afraid.

“He started shaking. He stood up and fell back down on the bed, and he said to them, “Why are you here? What have we done?

Farah was ushered out of the room and confined to the living room with the rest of her family, left in utter confusion at what was happening. She looked at her young children; only hours before, so lively, they were now deadly silent…

Stripped of their valuables by police who took even the prescription for her mum’s glasses, the devastation the family felt soon gave way to distress, as they learnt that Reza had been taken into in custody in India. They tried desperately to contact him, just to know his welfare, but to no avail.  Each call was met with the dreaded sound of a disconnected line…Farah feared the worst.

“There is no Love of Life, Without Despair of Life”

Months passed by with little news of Reza, and Farah was sinking desperately into a landmine of misery, silently observing the knock-on effect of the raid and her brother’s prolonged absence. Farah tried to turn to her husband in her time of need, but he hadn’t been there in the way she expected. His rejection caused her to retreat further.

“My marriage went under strain. Things went down from there onwards and I didn’t want a person like that in my life anymore. So we ended up, getting a divorce.”

Almost a year had passed before Farah received a call from her solicitor to inform her that her brother had finally been brought back to the UK, and she could visit him. Without a moment’s hesitation, she made her way to see him at the police station.

Farah was filled with a mixture of excitement and trepidation; she was finally going to be able to speak to her best friend, to share her troubles and worries. But she was unprepared for the sight before her.

When I saw my brother there, he looked like my brother but there was nothing in his eyes. He had been tortured so much that from his eyes I did not recognise him.   He definitely wasn’t my brother that I knew all my life when I saw him at the police station. It was very emotional. I couldn’t stop my tears and he kept on telling me not to cry. I couldn’t say to him that I was crying because what I saw in him. I kept on telling him that I was crying because I was happy to see him because I didn’t want him to suffer any more than he had.”

Reza was soon moved miles from the family to a high security prison. The cracks began to show even for her father, once their pillar of strength, as he broke down in hospital.

“That was the first time I saw my father in that state where he was in tears. Just because he mentioned my brother being in prison to a district nurse, he wasn’t one of those people that would actually become weak or show his emotions.”


“The Circle of Life”

One day Farah was at her father’s fort-monthly appointment to see whether the chemo had made any more progress. As the doctor began to speak, noticing his watch, she was struck by the thought that time is constantly moving forward in circular motions, yet for her, time was fixed. She was stuck, unmoving.

“I’m deeply sorry, but there is nothing else that we can do.”

For the first time since her brother’s arrest, Farah burst into tears. While she had been preoccupied by the arguments with her husband, her father, with his heightened stress about their financial situation and her brother’s detention had been becoming more and more unwell. Farah began working to provide for her family.

“When I got a job, things got a bit better, but then my father got even worse so I had to give up the job.”

Now out of work, she watched the bills streaming through the letterbox, ignoring calls from her phone and gas suppliers and making excuses when her children complained that the cupboards were bare. The situation began to spiral out of control.

“My bills hadn’t been paid. I didn’t have money to pay for anything. Even the situation with food was quite bad for some time. I wasn’t coping well enough with my brother being in prison.”

Even the journey to see him in prison brought its own challenges.

“When my brother went into prison, I wasn’t driving, so we would take buses and trains to go and see him. That’s an hour and half drive but with a train it took a lot longer, and we had to change trains, and having two little children, having to wrap them up in the winter, dragging them along, getting up early in the morning, getting them dressed and taking them with us – it was very difficult.

“I remember walking into the prison and seeing all the tall walls and barbed wires. That was very, very strange. I had never imagined that I would go into prison to see someone. It took some time to get used to all those walls and all those surroundings.”

Like Farah, her son, Ilyas, too eagerly awaited the visits. Her brother had been a father figure to him, someone he could confide in. He struggled to contain his excitement, fiddling with everything around him, but when Reza walked through the doors, Ilyas’ face dropped immediately, struggling to take in what was left of his beloved uncle.

“For him, he was the only father figure around… but he wouldn’t even face him. He just ducked down on the floor and wouldn’t even speak to my brother.”

Farah left the prison that day distraught, but time was ticking, she had to arrange a visit for her father to see him before it was too late.

“We were planning to take a duvet on the backseat and take my father lying down on there a couple of days later. But he didn’t make it through to even to see him…he hadn’t seen him for a whole year and then he passed away.

“My father was a very strong person. And one of the things you need for cancer is your strength. But my brother’s situation made it so bad for my father that he wasn’t as strong anymore… that’s how I believe he left this world. If he had been stronger; if all those situations hadn’t arisen, he would have been in this world for longer.”

The day after Farah buried her father, she woke exhausted.

Exhausted from the tears, tired of the pain and broken down by her experience. She had been fatigued for months, even feeling an aching pain without any explanation. She looked at the mirror, she had lost weight over the past few months, her cheeks had sunken in, her face drained and wearied.

“My health kept on deteriorating. I was always running around trying to sort different things out, but it came to the stage where I started getting pains but I didn’t know what the pains were, I was in pain for two months before I found a lump myself.”

There she was again, back in the family doctor’s office. He had called her in for the results of the scan she had been referred to. As she patiently waited, she noticed his watch, and was again reminded of the circle of life. We are born and we die, giving way for something else to be born to take our place. Just like the hands of the clock, ticking from hour to hour, with the same circular rhythm.

The doctor gave Farah the same intense look he had given her when he told her about her father. Indeed, the doctor diagnosed Farah in the final stage of cancer….

“By that time the cancer had already spread to my bones and liver, but when I was diagnosed, I was told I had six months to live.”


“Nothing can hurt me without my permission”

Years passed since that day, and despite the fixed term given by her doctor, Farah kept fighting her fate. She had her mum and two children who were teenagers now to look after alone and she couldn’t give up on them. With no option left for treatment in the UK, Farah had borrowed money desperately from friends who fundraised so that she could get the treatment she needed from Germany.

“I know that my mum and my kids needs me. So I keep praying to Allah to give me strength to keep on fighting this cancer and stay around as long as they need me to stay around.”

She tried her best to do the best by them, but despite her best efforts, she could not contain her son, Ilyas. The smallest of things would set him off. With no other way to express himself and no one he felt he could talk to, Ilyas became consumed with anger; anger at the world, anger at those around him, and anger at his mum. The more ill his mum became, the more he felt threatened, the more aggressively he behaved.

“All those things have affected him so badly. I don’t think my son has ever been out of it because his personality started gradually changing with all the things happening around him…My son being the only male in the family, I guess he misses not having a male figure around. Every situation in our life has made it worse for him. My brother being is prison, his father not being a father and leaving, then my father dying. He’s become very, very sensitive and very temperamental and very angry.”


“HHUGS are Wonder and Beautiful” – Farah

HHUGS got in touch with Farah when Reza was first in prison, but after their initial help, she managed to get back on her own two feet. Tragically, as her cancer progressed, she became too weak to support her family alone.

Her keyworker Salma was soon in touch, visiting and calling and trying to support her as best she could. She knew how much Farah needed some independence so she spent hours of her time teaching her how to drive. HHUGS followed this with some professional driving lessons and soon, Farah was able to visit her brother by car every fortnight, saving her funds that she could put to other use. In the beginning even her health would not stop her:

“I could have a very high temperature and I had a visit booked…I’ve even driven to Frankland in that state. I would go and see him. But now that I get in pain and I can’t drive myself…”

But as Farah’s health deteriorated, so did her ability to be independent. That’s when HHUGS stepped up again, arranging for volunteers to collect her from her home and bring her back.

“It’s always lovely to see him. And I’m always very, very grateful to HHUGS for making it possible for us to see him… I couldn’t go by other means either because of my physical health. I can’t cope with things as well as I could. I need to see him. And they made that possible.”

Ramadan and Eid had been a miserable experience for Farah, but with her new friends at HHUGS she finally had the ability to celebrate with her children.

“With HHUGS, they always send me little gifts for the kids and they send me a gift voucher…gift card and that sort of stuff so it makes the kids happy. When kids are happy, mothers are always happier.”

The more volunteers like Salma visited Farah, the greater their distress at the dilapidated condition of her home. Over the years and with no one to maintain it, it was deteriorating and soon, it seemed like it was falling apart. The house was vulnerable to robbery, with a faulty front door and front gate, with no garden fence separating her from her neighbour. The inside of the home was sparse and bleak, without any paint or plastering and just minimal furniture. With her ill health, Farah struggled with cleaning, so the clutter accumulated, rubbish lay everywhere as she simply could not muster the strength to take it out.

The tipping point was when they noticed a dangerous leak in the roof, which seemed to be getting worse. Farah could no longer continue living in such a state; so HHUGS volunteers, enlisting the support of builders and decorators, attended to Farah’s home and restored it to life. As well as securing the property, they made life-changing adjustments to the inside of the home. They laid her floor with laminate, fixed the damp in her walls and cleared the rubbish. The bathroom was in a state and so HHUGS replaced the floor tiles. They replaced the broken door, purchased furniture and installed an extractor fan. The children were overjoyed when HHUGS announced plans to install windows into their bedrooms to finally allow light in. The work done on the property even meant that Farah could increase her source of income by putting one of the rooms on rent.

I haven’t been able to put anything towards the house… There are things that I can’t do myself and HHUGS have always helped me with that.”

Knowing the difference they made to her life, Farah has always been full of praise for HHUGS.

“They are the only people that I see that would actually make a difference in people’s lives. I don’t see any other charity or any other people who are doing it….there is no support out there except HHUGS.

“To HHUGS I would say keep it up. You can’t do it better than what you’re doing now. And to the public I would say support HHUGS as much as you can because they are the best people in the world and they need your support to be able to support all these people in need.

“Jazak Allah khair to all of you; all my brothers and sisters who having been supporting me and all the people in my situation. May Allah reward you immensely in this world and the next world, and may you never have any form of downfall or problems in your lives. May you be the happiest people in the world, here and in the after- life. Ameen.