“You can be thrown into another area where you suddenly have assets frozen and don’t have access to anything. nothing. My bank accounts got closed, my children’s bank accounts got closed, my husband’s bank account got closed. It’s a scary place especially if you have children and you are thrust into a world with so many unknowns. This is where HHUGS can come in”
Cut off from community
My husband’s side of the family is huge, he had a difficult time in the sense that some of them didn’t want to know him or were blaming him. I have a very small family. I only have one sister that is a Muslim, the rest of my family are not Muslim. They have shunned me more since I became Muslim. It was difficult, and they did keep their distance.
The community didn’t know anything about me, but they knew about my husband. Some people ignore him, others have kept their distance. My husband hadn’t seen a lot of people for 4 years. He needed some sense of normality, companionship, and friends, but it was difficult. Firstly, anyone who that wanted to visit couldn’t just turn up. They would need Home Office approval, which is quite invasive. A lot of family members and friends understandably were apprehensive about doing that, and some of the family members were elderly. The journey would have been difficult and therefore they never visited during the two years we were there. That impacted my husband heavily, he couldn’t experience even the sense of community or belonging. If he wanted to go to the masjid, he wasn’t allowed to say hello to anyone; if someone stopped him, he wouldn’t be able to answer and would have to walk away. It was to the extent if he was praying in the masjid and someone would stand next to him or join the salah, he would have to leave the prayer.
It affected the children socially too, because they couldn’t bring other families to their house or visit other families’. It has also 100 % affected them academically. I couldn’t do as much as I wanted to, as I had to think about the restrictions and curfew. To this day, when someone knocks on the door, their heart races. If the knock is quite rough, a postman, or persistent, they still jump out of their seats asking, “Who’s that, why are they knocking like that?”, looking through the curtains trying to work it out. My home still gets searched due to the notifications, they are still very much part of my life. They still visit unannounced sometimes. Even though the police shouldn’t be turning up at my door unannounced, they do every time. I will get a knock on my door to see what I am doing, and they ask me random questions like did I have intention of going to the Queen’s funeral.
They children spent one Ramadhan without either of us, and we spent about four Ramadhans under the regime. Ramadhan under TPims was difficult as we couldn’t do all the usual things, that we would normally be able to do. We didn’t feel comfort, ease, or the enjoyment that you usually get around those times. When he was on TPIMS, we couldn’t see the family or visit anybody. We couldn’t go to the theme parks, the funfairs, and the masjids were difficult because of the crowds and the amounts of people there. We were not able to greet anyone. It was isolating and lonely. It didn’t have the same vibe and happiness that it has done in previous years, and that we have now alhamdulillah.
Struggling to rebuild our lives
When the TPIMS finished, you feel like you get your life back, but it leaves you in the lurch, in the sense that, you’ve got no money in your pocket. You are literally left to go to whichever town you want. You are expected to suddenly have a roof over your head, for you and your children. I know for some people, all their assets would have been frozen during TPIMS, so you have nothing to suddenly fall back on and you are not given that opportunity.
My husband came out of restrictions, and then the whole country was going into new restrictions due to COVID. So, it was very difficult to find work during that period, because everything was shut down. Whenever we were allowed to reintegrate into society, nothing was straight forward or simple.
Psychologically for my husband, he used to go about his daily life thinking he was on certain restrictions and wouldn’t walk into phone shops because he wasn’t allowed to that under TPIMS. He used to see local community people on the street, and he would forget sometimes that he is allowed to greet them, to talk to them. He used to have a tag that he would need to charge twice a day so he was physically restricted twice a day for two years on TPIMS, because you would have to plug a machine to his leg which he wouldn’t be able to take off. He used to wake up, panic almost, that he had breached, because if it wasn’t charged, it would have been a breach. I know he had a lot of anxiety about that time, so it was difficult trying to have some sort of normality for quite a while.
You are always second guessing what you can do, what you cannot do, how you are interpreted, what you are saying, how things will be looked at. You get paranoid if you are being watched for any reason, and how they are going to interpret certain things or write something up. It plays on your mind all the time; when the children go out, they’ll be paranoid if somebody asks them a question -you know something that is innocent, something about their private life or their parents. It was just that everything is just heightened.
HHUGS actually understood
My husband used to donate to HHUGS for many years. He knew some of the families that were really struggling when the legislation came out and he saw the good work that was being done. I don’t think he ever thought that he would be in a position where he needed it. He is quite shy to accept help from other people, we both are. A friend encouraged him to contact HHUGS but I still don’t think he did, so they actually contacted HHUGS themselves on our behalf.
If it wasn’t for the support that we got at that time, we wouldn’t have been able to put food on the table for the children. We finally had money to spend on their education, clothes, fuel, their wellbeing, and their different activities. Every month we used to get supermarket vouchers and on Eid-Al Adha, they would send us meat. We hardly ever used to eat meat as it was very expensive and we were on a very limited income with a huge family, so that was always really nice and appreciated by the kids.
On Eid, we were always sent a cake, which was really nice and unexpected. It might seem like something small, but to know that there is an organisation that hasn’t ostracised and made you feel different, or left out, that they are remembering these families is amazing. They were given gifts with vouchers that they could use in a variety of different shops for Eid. It was amazing, and more than we ever expected.
It’s not just financial, there’s emotional support. They have counsellors and online courses that are always running for management of emotions. It was just really nice and refreshing having somebody that wasn’t passing judgement on what you are going through. They were not invasive in their questioning, and they understood. They helped – and from places where you didn’t expect the help. When you didn’t really know you were going to get, it would bring a smile on our faces and we would all really appreciate it and be grateful for it.
Without HHUGS, who would we turn to?
It wouldn’t be possible for it to happen without people supporting HHUGS. We know that there are donors there supporting them. We know from other families, they are never forgotten, 100% never forgotten. The work that HHUGS do, is hugely important because you are suddenly shafted into this world that can be quite complex to manoeuvre. You can be thrown into another area where you suddenly have assets frozen and don’t have access to anything. nothing. My bank accounts got closed, my children’s bank accounts got closed, my husband’s bank account got closed. It’s a scary place especially if you have children and you are thrust into a world with so many unknowns. This is where HHUGS can come in, to alleviate a huge amount of stress, just from the knowledge that they have. Without their work, we wouldn’t have that knowledge, that ear, that financial support that is needed, especially at the initial stages and throughout the journey. If they weren’t there, your problems would feel almost double. The amount that they alleviate has such a huge impact in the sense of ease that they bring, emotionally, psychologically, and financially. I can honestly say, they have not let me down at all. Honestly without them, I do not know what people would be able to do and who they would turn to.
Whatever happens, you have to continue to function for your children. Those wounds and trauma, that anxiety is there, but you don’t acknowledge them. And today talking about it, I know I have still got a lot of healing to do because just by talking about, it very much still affects me. It’s hard just to be able to function day to day, obviously because of the 10-year notifications, I am still reminded of some of the trauma, I don’t feel free of it. Through the support of HHUGS, we are very much here today. We would all be in a much darker place if we didn’t have that one organisation, that one voice that was there.
I was probably guilty of this once upon a time, when we look at families that have been affected by the legislation, assuming they must have done something, they deserve the shunning of the community, and whatever is coming to them. It’s such a wrong way to think. It can be a simple thing like you have a video on your device you didn’t even know about, or you didn’t even open, that link that someone sent you. You could be potentially detained and the whole family suffers for that. It’s their husbands, their wives, their children, their parents, their aunts or their uncles, or their siblings can be potentially affected, their assets can be frozen, and money can be taken off them and their accounts can be closed. They have lost their jobs and it affects their families. It’s not necessarily that these people have done something wrong, or that they are bad people. It’s a shock to them and a shock in how it affects their life. For many, English is not their first language and they wouldn’t be able to navigate the system and it’s a scary period for them. And what HHUGS does is that it takes away a lot that and gives them the clarity and acceptance. They don’t feel ashamed and judged and they are finally given a voice alhamdulillah.