‘It’s still a deep scar that’s left on my mum’s soul.’ Houda’s family were torn apart. Their lives shattered, they were left to deal alone, with the aftermath of her arrest.

A Deep Scar on Her Soul

My mother was so brave through it all. I’m thankful to her, even ‘til this day as I know it’s not an easy experience to go through. She had to take extra care to look after my daughter and her emotional needs at that time. She was trying her hardest to make sure that she didn’t miss her mother – which was impossible.

Even with everything she was going through, my mother managed to put a smile on her face and carry on. Her health was affected, and she was left to deal with the sudden events in her life that unfolded. It’s still a deep scar that’s left on my mum’s soul. When we spoke, she was always worried about whether I was eating or if I was cold. I would reassure her that I was strong enough to handle it.

The first time I saw her after I was arrested I could see how much pain she was in, both physically and emotionally. She had a lot of concerns, from financial woes, to looking after the children. She had to do their schooling, and it was difficult because she had her own life and she had her own children to take care of. Because of my case, she also had to get involved with lawyers, solicitors, and social workers. It was all too much.

She was also under pressure as she had to pay for my children’s education and all the things they needed such as clothing. They were homeschooled by me, but once I was arrested they had to attend school as it was requested by the social services.

When I was inside prison, I thought people would reach out but they didn’t. A lot of the community turned their back on me and my family. At that moment, we knew who were our friends and who weren’t.

The media also approached my family many times. That wasn’t what my family needed at the time as there was a lot of pressure on them. They even tried reaching out to my neighbours, but my neighbour said that she had known me for many years and that I was a lovely person.

My sister told me that my mum would crumble and go into a paralysed state, both emotionally and physically. She wasn’t even able to speak. In those moments, she still had to be strong and brave for my children.

Life Without Mother

It was crippling for my children too, not knowing what was going on with their mother. They had seen me being taken away from them and were asking my mother and sister lots of questions such as, ‘Who is she with? What is she eating? Who is she talking to? Why isn’t she calling us? When are we going to see her?’ It was very mentally challenging for my children. Because they couldn’t see me they were imagining what was happening to me. My youngest daughter would hold her older sister every night and cry endlessly. Because she was the eldest, she was brave and reassured her that Mum would be back.

They now had to attend school, which was another load for them, but it was a distraction from the situation. They had to learn ways to cope, but I can see the impact it has had on them.

They speak about it now, and I can see how scared they were and worried. They shouldn’t have to question things. It’s traumatising mentally for them, and my youngest daughter developed anxiety because of it.  She doesn’t eat in the morning, even until today, because of it. She says, ‘Mum, when you’re outside I worry about you. I ask myself whether you’re going to come back or not.’ Even now she’s a grown-up girl, but she still has flashbacks of how painful the situation was. I encourage them to speak about what happened, because no child should have to go through it.

Even today, the flashbacks are there. We’re still dealing with the impact of what we all went through. If there’s a knock on the door, my children run towards me and I reassure them that it’s just a knock and that nothing is going to happen. When trying to settle them, my panic sets in, and I deal with my heavy flashbacks.

It’s the same when they see the police. If they see the car outside, my youngest will grab me and say, ‘Mum you’re not going anywhere.’ They live with an uncertainty in life, that no child should have to, with worry and concern that unexpectedly something can happen and change their lives. By living like this, they are missing out on their childhood.

Navigating the Pain, through Patience and Prayer

When I was away from them, it felt like something was ripped away from me. I had to be brave and strong, to focus on my case and to get them back, so I buried the emotions. Going through the pain would force me to disconnect at times. I connected only to Allah (swt) to ease my pain, just like the pain was eased for the mother of Musa (as). There’s no one you can talk to. You find yourself in a cell with a lot of emotions, and you’re locked in, trying to get the pain out.

I was crying and crying, thinking about my family about how far they were from me, and how they were dealing with the pain. It was causing me a lot of distress as I was picturing them and trying to visualise them. But as a believer, there’s always something for us to ponder and we need to be patient. I called out to Allah to help me as what I was going through, only Allah could help me with.

It was all the harder as it was the most precious thing they could break. A relationship between a mother and her child. It’s a union that’s priceless. Ramadhan was an especially difficult time and we were distraught. I wished I could do something to help them but I couldn’t. When they cried, we all cried. They missed the presence of their loved ones in all ways.  There were times when only my mother and sister could come and visit but not my children because of a court order by social services. I just froze when this happened, but m family had to tell me that they would come, but just not now.

But all I wanted was my children. I wanted to hug them, see them, and reassure them. Even though I was far away from them, I was still there, but that didn’t happen.  I saw them a few weeks after my arrest and I still don’t know how I coped with that.

Even if they could visit, it wasn’t the best environment for a child. They had to go through security checks and see the other prisoners around them. It was a new world for them. They had a lot of anxiety going through the checks and wondering when was the next time they could see their mum. As a child, they need to see their mum. It had been two weeks and they hadn’t seen me.

They kept asking why I hadn’t come back like I promised. I was sure that I was going to, because I hadn’t done anything, but I couldn’t go. My family explained in a gentle way that I was going to return but we weren’t sure when that exactly was. My youngest daughter was very troubled because she couldn’t comprehend the time. She would just count every day. When I would speak to her she would say, ‘Mum it’s been 42 days now, tell them to let you go.’ I would crumble when hearing this because I was trying to tell her that it was going to be fine.

Dealing with the separation from the children, while being in prison was too much for my health. I was told by the prison officers that I may be at risk of being beaten up. I couldn’t understand why. My body failed me and I was put in the health centre. I couldn’t exactly remember what was going on. I would get up and pray, almost unconscious wondering where I was and what was going on. I would pray and go back to sleep, unable to connect to anything around me.

I was vomiting heavily, and I didn’t have any control over my body. I slept for 48 hours and disconnected from the world around me. I wasn’t aware of time, couldn’t reach the water to do my wudhu, so I’d ask for forgiveness and strength. Although I did pray, I lost the sense of time, place, and sense, and wasn’t fully aware if it was Dhuhr, Asr, or Maghrib.

I felt like I was in a coma, but I could see light. I kept trying to wake up to find something that would ground me. I couldn’t cope with the reality I was seeing. I called out Allah and said, ‘If you put me here knowing I am innocent and that I haven’t done anything, then there must be a reason. Please Show me the reason.’ I could feel some air, and I moved my face towards it and said, ‘Ya Allah, please. I know these days are not going to be easy but Help me understand why I’m here.’ I wasn’t eating and barely drinking. At night, I would feel a little more secure as I knew the door was closed and that no one was coming to harm me. I began to pray and that helped me on my journey.

Read more of Houda’s story…

Houda’s Story

Meet Houda. A dawn raid changed her and her family’s lives forever. Their traumatic experience has scarred three generations. She made a promise to her four-year-old daughter that she was forced to break. The pain and guilt lives on within her, to this day. Quick Donate Single Donation Monthly regular Donation £ Zakat Interest Sadaqa [...]

Houda’s Story Part Three

When freedom finally came, it wasn’t an easy welcome. But a friendly face came to make the transition a little easier.