Following the arrest of her husband Afshan was hit by crushing financial burdens, social alienation and the mental strain of having to raise a family, shattered by a raid, all alone.
Vulnerable, Humiliated, Strip-searched
I was a stay-at-home mum with 2 children, and heavily pregnant with my third child, at the time my husband was arrested. I had just come back in from picking up my daughter from nursery when there was a knock at the door. When I looked out of the window, I noticed a whole hoard of officers approaching the house and my heart just sank. My immediate fear was they’re going to break the door. I literally had a bathrobe on and slippers. When I wanted to change, a female police officer insisted on carrying out a complete strip search. When I asked to use the toilet, they said I couldn’t go to begin with. Then when they did allow me, I had to leave the door open.
They put you in a position where, even though you haven’t done anything wrong, you’re made to feel humiliated. That’s the only word I can think of, it’s just inhumane. Everyone has the right to go to the toilet in peace, especially with the fact that they knew I was heavily pregnant and they said to me I couldn’t go to begin with. My privacy was violated, and my awrah was exposed. It’s bad enough being strip searched but then being heavily pregnant and strip searched is even worse because you feel even more vulnerable. You feel even more insecure.
We were confined to one room for hours. My daughter was only 3 at the time. The children were obviously distressed, and crying. I told the officers, my children need to eat, but they didn’t allow me to access any food or drink at all. My daughter was asking questions like, “Why are these men here?”, “What do they want?”, “What are they looking for?” I just asked her to sit down.
When I left the property, I just went to the nearest place that I knew, which was my mother’s house, a 20-minute walk away. I didn’t get access to my own house again until 3-4 days later, despite being due any day and needing essential belongs for myself and the kids. It was at that point that they had told me that we have your husband in custody. He’d been in custody for 3 days and they had not told me that.
A Home Shattered
The house was completely trashed. The sofa was ripped; I don’t know what they thought they were looking for. Everything was taken out of every cupboard, every wardrobe possible. I only realised when I tried to put the heating on that there was water coming out of the central heating pipe; they had broken the joint of the radiator and flooded the house, so I had no heating in the house and no hot water.
I couldn’t live there in the condition I was in. There is no way I’d be able to fix all this and get everything sorted so I just took whatever I needed for the arrival of the baby, and just left. I went to stay with a relative for 6 weeks, during which time my baby was born.
I was afraid to even tell my mum what happened at my house due to her health. Little did I know, a day or two later they had done an armed raid on my uncle’s house, where she was staying. It came as a huge shock to the family because my uncle had no links to my husband at all, they barely knew each other, and my mum was very unwell at the time. They had arrested my uncle somewhere outside. They have a disabled child who needed access to the disabled toilet facilities that they had in the house, who was also asked to leave the property.
My uncle was kept in custody for 7 days and was mistreated. He kept saying he needed a doctor, as he is epileptic, and a solicitor, but his requests were denied. They thought that he was faking his symptoms. It’s a very small town that they live in so everyone was just afraid to even be near them or around them. No one wanted to offer them help.
Labour pangs birth an unfamiliar pain
Labour for any woman is a difficult experience, but to have to go through that alone and then not feeling safe was different. I didn’t want to speak to the midwife or tell them what had happened because I was worried about repercussions from their side as well. It was a case of, “I just need to make sure this baby arrives safely” and that I’m safe.
Whilst I was in labour with my son, my other son, a toddler, was also ill and they wouldn’t allow my uncle to take him for medical treatment until they had confirmed his details because my uncle wasn’t aware of his date of birth. I was stressed about his health and wellbeing. I was thinking I need to make sure that I safely deliver this baby as well. It was extremely difficult because I was in that room alone with zero family support. No one was able to be there for me due to the circumstances. In a time when you’re used to having your spouse there with you, during what’s meant to be a happy occasion, now it’s a whole completely different experience, having to go through it alone. Only a woman who has been in that situation can actually comprehend what that feels like…
There’s only so much a person can take. I tried to make contact with my husband’s family to inform them about what had happened. They did not take it very well at all. They offered me zero support. They made zero effort to maintain ties with their grandchildren. Instead, they made matters worse and they started playing the blame game.
A lot of family just disassociated from me. They’d heard of what had happened, they just did not want to visit, even though I had a new-born. Nobody came, so I felt so isolated. It was Eid, guests were just afraid to be even in the same room as me or speak to me so I literally just took myself upstairs and avoided being around anyone, even though I hadn’t done anything. It wasn’t me who had been arrested but I was made to feel like I was the guilty one.
The struggles of single motherhood
My husband was the main earner of the family, even though I had been quite independent prior to marriage. I was worried where I was going to get the money to pay for everything because he dealt with all the finances. There was no access to funds. It was just extremely stressful because I’ve literally just had a baby and my focus should have been on recovering and raising my child. Instead, I had all this paperwork to deal with to make sure that I’m covered, that I can stay in the property. I was now responsible for the bills, the outgoings, and I needed to make sure everything was on my name.
It’s difficult essentially being a single parent with 3 children under 5 and trying to get around. At the time, I was not driving either so reliant on public transport, so it was extremely difficult to manage all of that and then manage home life without a husband there anymore…
Obviously I wasn’t able to go straight back into work, but it was hard trying to study and raise my children at the same time. I was trying to meet their needs and my own needs as well, and then my husband’s needs while he was in prison, and financially support him too. It was just really overwhelming because when you’re used to just being mum and just looking after the kids and the home, it’s hard to be mum and dad and be able to support your husband, all in a short period of time.
Then there was media reporting and death threats, so am I even safe in my home? I started to feel paranoid. I did try to explain that to the police at the time but they denied my address had been leaked to the press. I was very afraid during that period.