“Every time, there is a bang at the door, we think it’s the police. Even if the postman bangs really loudly, all our hearts start racing wondering who it could be…”
A bittersweet reunion
When my sister was 15 months old, my father returned home. He had missed all of her milestones, the first time she crawled – all of that, but a month and eight days after his return, we had her aqiqah.
We finally had family gatherings again. We had iftar with our friends, spent Eid together, and went to so many beaches together as a family. My parents wedding anniversary passed. My baby brother was born, and we had his aqiqah too. One night I was struggling to sleep and was up several times. Eventually, when I did fall asleep, my eyes opened at 6:00am to banging at the door. I heard my mother say, “I can’t believe you’re doing this again,” and in my head I thought, “What, again??” He had only been home for 18 months, what could he have possibly done?
They didn’t tell us where they were taking my dad, and he was out the door again. Once again, my things were searched too.
Alhamdulillah, we were told that my dad wasn’t taken as far away this time as before. He was only 1.5 hours away and the house was better than before, except the bathroom. The bathtub was filthy with black stains that wouldn’t go away. How was I supposed to explain to my brother- with his learning difficulties- that daddy has been taken away again? Now we had another sibling that would grow up without my dad, having milestones that my dad would get to know through phone calls only.
This was the fifth raid and this time I was just numb. I didn’t even know what to feel anymore. I just got on with life. I studied, I did my work experience, went to my grandmother’s house, went to the park, visited my friends, and visited my dad. That was my life. At one point, my mum said that there was a chance that my dad could come home early. For some reason, I just felt panicked. I had finally gotten over him not being in the house, and suddenly he would be back again. I wasn’t ready for that. And I hated myself for feeling that way, that I didn’t want my dad to come back.
When lockdown came, we didn’t know what to expect. We went to stay with my father in his house arrest accommodation and it was really difficult in those conditions. When Covid restrictions eased, we were allowed to go home and we did so, but without my dad. We would go back and see him every week by cab because we couldn’t manage public transport, especially with my special needs brother and multiple children. We had a book the cab journeys and they came to £200 each visit.
My baby brother was not even 2 at the time but used to get really sad when we would get into the cab to go home and leave my dad behind. He would get so upset when my dad would leave to go back into his home, but eventually with time, he got used to it too. We would go home and then go to daddy’s house for a few days. Even my baby brother got used to this and didn’t cry any more.
My grandma went abroad, but as my father wasn’t allowed international calls, he wasn’t able to call her. She would call us every day, but she wasn’t able to speak to my father.
Our family came to my dad’s house on Eid day. We all went into the garden on our phones, and were calling my grandma. But my dad he wasn’t allowed to speak to her. He couldn’t listen to her, his face wasn’t allowed to be shown on a camera, and he couldn’t respond to any of her messages. He just had to stay away, otherwise, he could have been re-arrested and imprisoned, for 5 years.
When we would stay with my dad, we weren’t allowed technology, and as it was lockdown, we could not go out, and so I fell behind on my studies because I wasn’t able to upload my work. If the deadline for work was coming up, and I hadn’t finished the course I would have to pay for an extension fee, which would have been quite a lot of money. I just about managed to complete the course.
My Mother – the heart of the home
Just six months before my dad was due back, there was a bang at the door once more. By now, we knew what was going to happen. I was confused because my father wasn’t even here, so why were they even here? This time they told us that my mother was under arrest.
I stayed strong, but my sister was in her bedroom, having a panic attack because they were coming to take my mum. The first thing I did was call the solicitor, but he didn’t pick up. The solicitor didn’t even know who I was because he hadn’t dealt with me before, only my parents. I called my dad and told him my mum was being arrested but didn’t have time to talk to him because the solicitor was ringing me back.
Most of the day I spent on the phone. After the solicitor got off the phone, I called my dad back, but he didn’t answer. I called again, and again, and again but there was no answer. It was only when I called the solicitor again that I realised they’d arrested my dad as well. So, at that moment in time, we were being raided, our mother and father were arrested and I was categorised as an adult. They asked me if I would consent to being the legal guardian of my siblings when my mum was away, and I said yes. I called my uncle to help, and since it was early morning, he was just coming home from a night shift. He came over to our house and I made sure to stay strong. I became so used to it by now and watched the police search through my things.
They told me they were going to take my mum soon and I asked her when they were going to bring her back. They said ‘today’, but when I got my phone out and asked them the same question on camera, they refused to answer. One of the officers told me that when they got to the police station, they would allow my mum to call and say she was okay, but she didn’t call. We waited, and waited, and waited for the call but it didn’t come. My uncle kept the officer’s number and tried calling him too, but he wouldn’t answer.
The only time I broke down in tears was when I tried to book my brother’s hospital appointment on the phone. They wouldn’t let me do it because I didn’t have my mum’s passwords and I felt so terrible I couldn’t do the one thing my mum asked me to do when she left. The call centre man on the other end of the phone was trying to calm me down and console me, but I still couldn’t get the task done.
I kept phoning the police over and over again just to get any updates, but they wouldn’t respond.
My mum came back home at around 11:00pm that night, and she gave me a big hug. She was give ‘Bail Pending Investigation’. I fell asleep but jumped when I heard the phone ring in the middle of the night. It was my dad on the phone. He too had been released two hours after my mother had been, and was back at his house arrest property.
As time passed, I just had to get on with life and didn’t even think about the raid, until the news came that my parents had been released, and were free of the charges from this specific raid. My mum fell into sujood, crying. But the letter which delivered the news didn’t even look official, so at the time I didn’t believe it. I thought it was fake.
The trauma remains
My dad is back home now alhamdulillah, but the trauma isn’t over. When his tag was cut, his ankle was yellow where the blood flow had been restricted before. There was a mark where the tag had been. He had been in captivity longer than he had been in our new house.
Every time, there is a bang at the door, we think it’s the police. Even if the postman bangs really loudly, all our hearts start racing wondering who it could be. Every time my father doesn’t pick up the phone, we think he has been arrested. If he is home later than he says, we feel like we need to go out and search for him. This is the kind of life we live, where we must keep tabs on a grown man just to put our minds at rest. He can’t get a job as businesses don’t want to work with him and he cannot see his friends. The new law says the TPims regime is now indefinite.
A safe haven
When we had nowhere to go, HHUGS was there for us. They held Eid parties for us and gave us Eid presents that I still have now. I remember when we would go to the Eid parties and see other HHUGS families. When we go to a HHUGS party now, you realise that those adults are the children grown up, and their fathers are still in captivity. They’re still struggling with the same hardships, and HHUGS are there to help them. We would hear of men who go to prison when their babies are just born or a few weeks old. When they come out, their children are 16, 17 or 18. They grow up without their father. Knowing that HHUGS is there and that there are other people like us, hearing their stories makes you feel not so alone.
HHUGS sent brothers to pick us up from our home and drive us more than 200 miles to see my dad when we couldn’t find any other means of transport. With the second house arrest location, we couldn’t manage the journeys alone on public transport and we couldn’t find a driver and so HHUGS paid for the transport, so that we could see our father twice a month.
Because we were homeschooled, we didn’t get the things that schools get, we had to pay for everything from our own pocket. We had to go private to get a dyslexia test for my younger sister and HHUGS paid for that. After all this time, we didn’t know. For 15 years my mother had been trying to homeschool her and get her to listen, but she wouldn’t understand.
HHUGS offered to pay for my sister’s further education as well and have given us help with supermarket vouchers to buy food and clothing. Even my mum said the other day she doesn’t like taking money from HHUGS, she feels like it’s taking other people’s money. but I know it’s money we need – otherwise we wouldn’t have any food. Food prices have gone up and my siblings need new clothing. My brother had been without a coat for a very long time before HHUGS helped to cover the cost. They also provided us with new bedding since our blankets had turned yellow from age. They have helped my family so much, and they help other families too, whose breadwinners have been taken away from them forcefully.
When I would watch HHUGS fundraising appeals on TV, we would feel sad that they wouldn’t get as much money as other charities because people would assume they help families who are terrorists and don’t deserve help. We are normal people. Our poverty isn’t the same as those in other countries, but Allah tests us all differently.
In other countries, you may have physical torture, but in the UK, you’ve got psychological torture. You have forced separation, trauma, loss of dignity everywhere, there is oppression and there is fear. Our Prophet Muhammad (saw) told us that charity does not decrease wealth. He didn’t specify that you have to send charity abroad, to Yemen or Lebanon, he said ‘charity’ so it is simply helping people. And that’s what HHUGS do, they help people in the UK. Charity does not decrease wealth; it has never decreased your wealth and will never decrease your wealth. That a promise by Muhammad (saw) that came from Allah.