‘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.


I’ve struggled emotionally and physically because of my experiences. I’ve suffered a lot of stress which has impacted my health. I deteriorated so much that was hospitalised. I’ve been named and shamed in the media, unable to protect my name in the local community, and receiving attention from the authorities, which makes it all the harder with employment.

I’ve had surveillance installed at home and it’s not for burglars. It’s to be aware of who is visiting my home including as we’re all worried about who knocks on the door. It alarms us every time we get a knock. Having it there helps reduce stress for my children.

To prevent them from getting anxious, I have a Ring doorbell which helps me see who is at the door at night on my phone, and a second doorbell during the day so that everyone can hear.

When we get visits from the police and I’m not home, my children will call me and whisper, pretending they aren’t home. These are the kinds of precautions we must take as a family.

My daughters and I still keep our hijabs and abayas, by our beds, just in case. My son used to also struggle with night terrors and would sleepwalk. He would whisper and say that ‘they are coming’, pointing to the front door.

I’d then take him to the bathroom and wash his face to wake him and then put him back to bed. It went on for a couple of years. He is still very scared of the dark and doesn’t like sleeping on the floor in the house. As we’ve got a few levels in my house, there are times when he would get bad and sleep near me.

I can see the impact it’s had on him. It caused him stress but also made him angry. He’s very angry with the social services and doesn’t engage with them.


They wanted the children to be de-radicalised, so they wanted the family to work with Prevent. I initially refused and continued to, until the case ended up in court where it stayed for a few years. They kept trying to convince me to work with other risk assessors but I would refuse. Social services had been working with my children for two years prior to that and there were no signs of radicalisation yet still, they persisted in wanting to have them constantly assessed.

It’s still ongoing, as they still go to see my children at school and talk to them. It’s a horrible experience for them. My little one loves desserts and she says, ‘Oh gosh Mum I was made to miss lunch, and couldn’t eat the doughnuts.’ It messes with their education as it disturbs them during their lessons. It’s embarrassing for them to be out of their class, with their peers asking them where they went.

It’s not right for them to have such involvement with social services and it undermines me as a parent. It gives them a leverage of disrespect which I believe has happened because of a long intervention of local authorities in my life. The intrusion has left a negative impact on me and my children. My son would just call the police like it’s normal.

They don’t fear or respect authority or the police. The authorities fail to understand that it’s their actions that have led to this.

About a year and a half ago, for the first time, my son was physically bullied at school. There was no support from his father, so I decided to take him on a trip that was gifted to us. I thought it would be good for him considering everything that was going on.

But when I got to the airport I was harassed, for wanting to go away for two weeks. I wasn’t going anywhere exotic; I was going to the House of Allah.

It was the first time they were traveling, and my first time in 12 years, and we were getting harassed. It’s that level of intrusion by social services and having to go back and forth to court, proving that you’re a Muslim, and trying to be a mother, and everything’s fine.

We were restricted from flying and traveling. I remember when the case ended, my children had a Disneyland Paris trip with the school that they wanted to go on. The judge was aware of it through my legal team that the trip was coming up, and the judge had made a special order for the children to go. It was ridiculous because the children could go to their school but not with me.

I felt angry because I felt treated like a puppet during those times, and there were people pulling strings in my life.

A family torn apart

The intrusion of the arrest and raids, the things that happened to their dad, and what happened to me, have caused a dysfunctional family.

You don’t realise the long-term implications of the raid until it happens. It’s quite heartbreaking to see what it does to a family’s structure. Things changed for my daughter when her father came out of prison.

She doesn’t  get along with him and blames him for going to prison, but doesn’t realise what he has been through.

After he was arrested, she moved in with me but didn’t get along with me. She then moved in with my family but kicked off emotionally, and was unstable. In the end, the court made an order for her to go into care. When she got older,  she was given her own accommodation and has been living independently.

When he was released, he had nowhere to go, as his family didn’t want anything to do with him.

Since his release, she has been a completely different human being.I feel like I don’t recognise her anymore. As a mother, it makes me angry because they mess up the children’s lives and play mind games with them.

She’s like that because of what the authorities have done to her. They cause upheaval and disunity among us and they took away the Islam that we instilled into our children. The family structure that we tried to build was broken; they just came and spoiled everything.

I hate what they’ve done to my family as they’ve messed it up. I’ve been in counselling, but I’m still angry. No matter how many sessions I have, I still can’t shake that feeling.

A test of faith

After going through everything, you do feel isolated from your family. I had comments from people close to me, saying they didn’t think I was this way or trying to make me out to be something I’m not. Certain friends didn’t want to have my number on their mobile phones because of what was going on, but once I was exonerated, the same friends now wanted my number.

I joked with them at the time, that it took a judge to tell them that I’m not an extremist to have my number on their phone again. The last thing you want is for your families, friends, and your community to think the same as the authorities are.

It wasn’t only a testing time for myself but also for the local community to see how they react and respond, to see how the Ummah are willing to support people. Are they willing to believe the narrative that is presented to them by the authorities or are or are they going to show love, faith, trust, brotherhood, and sisterhood toward their fellow Muslim?

It’s a test of faith, and some win, and some lose. It’s a big eye-opener, but it’s important when things like this happen because then we can see if we’re there for one another. You do struggle for real when you’re left alone because you’re left alone to endure it.

The struggle is real for sure, but then it makes it harder for that person to endure it.

Allah has made this a test for me, but it’s the same Lord who has taken me out of it and given me respite. I have friends and family who’ve been there for me and helped me through it. They’ve supported me in different ways be it childcare, helping my children when I’ve been in hospital, cooking for my family, and financial support.

Read more of Afia’s story…

Afia’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.