Yasir and his family survived the trauma of his father’s arrest and the difficulty of coping financially, emotionally and socially thereafter. Just 11 years old at the time of his arrest, his childhood was lost, and overnight his mother became a single parent, with five children in tow.
I was eleven years-old when my father was arrested. The night before the raid was like every other night. We’d done our homework and gone to bed early because we had school the next day. It must have been three or four in the morning when the police stormed the house.
There was a massive bang as they broke the front door down. And suddenly there were so many men in hazmat suits running through our house, shouting my dad’s name. They pinned my dad to the wall. My mum didn’t even have time to change. My younger brother, my sister, everyone was crying as they separated us. l I remember then is that I could hear shouting. And we didn’t know anything. No one was telling us anything.
Days of Turmoil and Trauma
After they took him away, they put us in this hotel. We didn’t go to school that day. We just stayed in the hotel room. When we were eventually allowed to return home, our whole house was upside down. They had destroyed the place; they had even torn out the tiles from the bathroom. And they didn’t bother to put anything back to how it was.
The raid, the trauma, it still hasn’t left me. I still have anxiety. It’s been over 20 years and I still wake up scared when the doorbell rings.
I know most likely it’s a delivery or something, but I still shoot up. And it’s like that for most of our family. We don’t like answering the house phone, or even when people come around. My mum has become so secluded and I have become very reserved. It was harrowing, for a child to witness all of that. And my mum’s distress at the time; that’s what really got me. She didn’t know what to say to us, because she didn’t know what was happening. And I just saw pain in her face.
Coping in Isolation
My mum was a homemaker from a very young age, and she can’t speak English very well. Suddenly, she became a single mother, with five small children, thrown into this situation. We were lost, because my father used to do everything for us. And no one stood by us at that time. Our neighbours alienated us, and people we knew from the area wouldn’t speak to us anymore if we ran into them when we went to the shops with my mum. We felt completely isolated.
When we went back to school, it was awkward. The teachers knew, obviously, because they’d been told. Then eventually everyone found out something was wrong. I was embarrassed to say that the police took my dad. People look at you very differently, and so I lost trust in friends and family. I still have problems with trust, because people would smile but not help. Everyone who was supposedly close to us, left us.
Touching Through the Distance
It was seven months after that someone finally got in touch to tell us where my father was being held. Even then, we weren’t told why. Our first visit, I remember, was behind glass. So we couldn’t actually touch him or hug him. Everyone broke down in tears; even the officer that was sitting with us, she just started crying as well. My mother and father didn’t get an opportunity to speak or bond properly as he had to speak in English to us, and not in our mother tongue. We were all just sitting behind glass and crying.
When it was time to leave, it was so hard to say goodbye and go back to our normal lives, and my dad back to prison, when all we wanted was for him to come home with us. He looked so upset, and my mother was in tears. She didn’t know what to do and what was happening when they terminated the visit. We had to help her up and walk her out.
My father was detained without trial in the UK for 14 years. Because we were so young, we couldn’t visit him very often in the beginning. Some of the prisons were too far for us to reach. One was past Birmingham, a two-and-a-half-hour drive away, so we had to go for months without visiting him. But alhamdulillah, when we were introduced to HHUGS, the brothers used to take us. Thanks to HHUGS, we started visiting him more regularly then, until he was transferred to a prison abroad.
That’s when we lost all hope. We couldn’t visit him anymore. We couldn’t communicate with him, because he was only allowed a very short phone call every few weeks. And even then, we had to speak in English so that the authorities could hear what was being said. We were constantly worried for him, because the conditions in prison there were very poor, especially for Muslims.
If it wasn’t for the support from HHUGS at the time, I don’t know how we would have survived the stress of our day-to-day lives, coupled with our anxiety for my dad.
Rekindling Hope in Humanity
We heard of HHUGS through my mum’s friend. They came to speak to us, to find out about our situation. I was young, but I still understood that they were very supportive, even if I didn’t know exactly who they were and why they were helping. We knew that they were here to help us mentally and financially, because we were really struggling.
Previously, my mum had had to borrow money to make ends meet. But the food vouchers HHUGS provided meant we were able to do our normal shopping, without worrying about what would happen at the end of the month. They supported my mum with paying the bills, especially in winter; when the cost of heating and electricity would go up. Their winter support also meant we could buy warm clothes, and duvets, and they gave us heaters. When you feel warm, you feel like a normal human, you know?
Because of HHUGS, we didn’t feel less than anybody else. They even helped us get the simple things like books and stationary and our uniforms and school equipment. We didn’t have to feel shy about asking my mum for stuff. If there was something we liked, we could just go to the shop and get it.
Having HHUGS there made such a difference to my mum: the way they used to call, the sisters and the brothers, to check up on the household; how they would provide so much support, and not just financially, but simply by always being there to listen. It meant so much.