Mohammed Emwazi is a British citizen who was subjected to security agency harassment for at least four years.
He was repeatedly detained at airports, deported, barred from entering countries and even allegedly assaulted by officers. This treatment prevented him from leading a normal life while having no means to obtain redress, even though no evidence was ever presented to suggest he committed any wrongdoing.
Mohammed Emwazi is a 26 year old British citizen. He was born in Kuwait in 1988, but he moved to the UK at the age of 6.
Raised and educated in London, he completed his university studies in 2009. He hoped that with this degree, he could build a successful career in Arab countries, as he was fluent in Arabic, English and a British citizen.
As many students, upon completing his studies Mohammed wanted a break and planned a summer holiday go to Tanzania with one of the key attractions there being safari.
Detention in Tanzania at the British request
In August 2009, he landed in Tanzania but was soon stopped at the airport.
Without being given an official reason, he was denied entry. A number of armed officers were shouting and threatening; when a man called “Emmanuel” introduced himself.
He eventually physically dragged him to a car waiting outside and taken to a police station. He was thrown into a cell while officers tried to strip him to his underwear.
He remained there for about 24 hours without food or drink, being threatened by officers armed with guns and sticks.
At night, Mohammed did not trust the police and stayed up to guard the other sleeping detainees. At that time, he had a gun pointed at him through the cell and was again threatened.
The following day, he managed to secure a consular visit but was simply informed that the Tanzanians could remove him if they wanted.
Just before being deported, he pressed “Emmanuel” for an explanation.
“This is not the Tanzanian government.” said “Emmanuel”.
He then showed a paper with his name, flight details and at the bottom, a piece of writing which said “refuse entry and send back to the UK with the same flight.”
“You know it could be the British, your government, who were the reason for your rejection.” He added.
He suggested he finds out in the UK the reason for his rejection and comes back.
In the afternoon, he was taken to the airport and put on a plane to Amsterdam in Holland.
MI5 interrogation in Amsterdam
As soon as he landed, armed men were waiting. They stopped him and took him in a room for interrogation.
An immigration officer took him to a cell where to agents were waiting. They introduced themselves as “Fernando, from Dutch intelligence and “Nick, from MI5”.
“When he said that I thought wow! I can’t believe it. Am I so special?”
Mohammed was asked to introduce himself and was asked for the reason of his trip to Tanzania. He gave detailed answers, however “Nick” said he thought he was lying and that his real intent was to travel to Somalia.
In response, he pointed out that he had a return ticket and that Tanzania was far from Somalia. Most importantly, he said there was a civil war there and he had no intention to be part of it.
“He said that at the end of the day they had been following us and watching us closely. I told him that it was news to me and I had no idea about it. He knew everything about me; where I lived, what I did, the people I hanged around with”, Mohammed recalled.
At some point, “Nick” became more threatening, pointed his finger at him and said:
“Don’t try to play smart and lie on my face. Don’t try to fool me. You wanted to go to Somalia.”
He added that he would visit him and call him regularly and keep a close track of all his activities.
“It was like a threat”, he explained.
Attempt to recruit him as an informant
However, the agent soon drifted away from accusing him of terrorism and moved to courting him to work for the MI5 in front of the Dutch intelligence officer.
“Listen Mohammed: You’ve got the whole world in front of you; you’re 21 years old; you just finished Uni – why don’t you work for us?”
He declined the offer and explained that being a normal person, there was nothing he could even help them with.
Upon this refusal, the MI5 agent issued a threat:
“You’re going to have a lot of trouble … You’re going to be known … you’re going to be followed … life will be harder for you.”
“Nick” left his number on a piece of paper and the words and added:
“We’ll see you in London, mate”.
He was made to book his own ticket back to the UK and was taken to the ferry.
Questioned at Dover
Upon reaching Dover, he was stopped again – just as he was warned. Suited men claiming to be from the Anti-Terror Unit were waiting at the doors, though they didn’t show any identification. He was escorted by two officers and taken to a room in the port. His bags were searched again, and then the main interrogation began which lasted a couple of hours.
Mohammed was questioned by two anti-terror officers about his thoughts regarding 7/7 and 9/11, where he prayed, who his friends were, and the same questions asked by the MI5 agent in Holland claiming that they had information Mohammed wanted to go to Somalia having nothing to hide, Mohammed answered them all.
Then, in what came as a complete shock to Mohammed and revealing the sinister intentions of the officers, he was told that, “Oh by the way Mohammed, we spoke to your fiancée” – they had paid her a visit. At this Mohammed was left speechless. However, he soon realised, and pointed out, that the intelligence officers actually knew that his plans never involved Somalia and that he always intended to return and get married. Also he realised that intelligence officers were listening to his phone calls before he even planned his holiday. When Mohammed challenged them regarding listening to his private conversations one of the officers casually shrugged his shoulders saying “well that’s part of our job mate”.
This contact with Mohammed’s fiancée had the effect of scaring her and her family from him – the marriage was off.
Later during the search, an officer pulled a safari style jacket and said:
“This jacket looks like a bit military, Mohammed.” I started laughing and asked how he could even suggest that it was military, what he was trying to prove. I had another jumper, a stylish rocker wear jumper, so I asked him what about this jumper. Was he not going to make any comment about that? He fell silent then.
At the end of the encounter, Mohammed requested the officer’s badge number.
“I told him that when I go back to London and I will speak to my solicitors, then he would want to know who on earth was he. But he said that he could not show me his badge. I felt stuck. I did not know what to do. The door was shut and I just wanted to walk out of the room. How could I be treated like that? I am a British citizen and my government was threatening me and throwing allegations at me”.
Eventually, he was given his luggage and allowed to go free, albeit without any money and any means to get home – something which the anti-terror police didn’t care much about.
After managing to collect enough change to return home, Mohammed explained to his family what had happened. At this his family informed him they had been visited while he was away in Tanzania (most probably either by anti-terror police or MI5 agents) – meaning that they knew Mohammed was in Tanzania and picked this time to make the visit.
A couple of weeks later, in September, his family had come with the idea of Mohammed going to stay in Kuwait to avoid being further harassed in the UK; so later that month he left.
Settling in Kuwait and more MI5 harassment
Mohammed Emwazi stayed in Kuwait for over 8 months, settled and had a contract working for a well-known computer programming company. As everything had been going well he decided to return to London in late May to visit his family for 8 days.
However, even while he was trying to start a life security agencies were still trying to reach out to him.
One or two months before he returned, a family member called and told him someone wanted to speak to him.
The phone was immediately taken by an English lady who did not identify herself.
He asked if she was MI5 to which she responded in the negative and that they were just concerned about him. She inquired about when he would be back asking if she could speak to him when he returned rather than over the phone, but he informed her that he had nothing to say and if she wanted to speak about something it should be made clear over the phone.
Stopped at Heathrow airport
When Mohammed returned, in late May 2010, he was stopped while going through Heathrow airport. When he gave his passport to be checked, Mohammed’s name was taken down and he was requested to stand on the side.
Everyone went through apart from him, who had to wait for some people to come – a lady and a man that came. They said that they were normal passport patrol officers and took his passport, phones and SIM cards – they were taken to a room and then given back. Mohammed was then questioned, in front of everybody, about his life in Kuwait. When asked what this was about, they answered that this was simply a routine check about passports.
After being let through, Mohammed went home to see his family who said that they had been visited a number of times.
Mohammed told his family not to let those visitors in the house again and gave them a solicitor’s telephone number just in case they returned.
Return to Kuwait
Eight days later, in early June 2010, Mohammed went back to Kuwait, working for the same company as before. His father was visited by the same people again, whether it was the anti-terror police or MI5, but after he rang the solicitor Mohammed instructed him to, he was left alone.
He was there for around two months, but after making new plans to get married, Mohammed wanted to come back and see his family again, just for a couple of days, before making the final step. It was late July 2010 when he returned.
UK – No way out
When Mohammed Emzawi returned to Heathrow airport to go back to Kuwait, he didn’t even make it past the check-in stage. He was told that a message had been flagged up and could not be checked-in; he would have to wait for someone.
Three men and a woman, all suited, came and took him and his luggage aside to an open room next to the check-in for searching. He asked whether they had the right to search his bags and was told that they had the power to under counter-terrorism law.
Interrogation and police brutality
He was questioned for six long hours about his time in Kuwait, the reason for his travel there, which mosque he went to, who his friends were, his feelings about what is happening in the world, if he was a hafiz (someone who memorized the whole Quran).
Parts of the interrogation happened in a room with no CCTV and no recording. This allowed agents to allegedly engage in violent behaviour.
“During the process of answering these questions and many more, one random officer wearing an Indian turban entered, and started also searching through my bags.
He reached out for the Holy Quran and put it on the floor & I asked him to put it onto the chair rather than on the floor. He started to get aggressive, changing his tone of voice.
He said “I’ve put it onto the chair now, so just shut up!”. I replied: “You shut up!”
He stood up aggressively and came into my face, pushing me back onto the chair. At that point I told the other officers that I was not going to answer any more questions until this aggressive and angry person, that had hate for me for no reason, got out of the room.”
At some point, he was taken in a room which CCTV by an officer had named “Jo”, likely from MI5. He asked him why he went to Umrah (Muslim pilgrimage) and then started to ask questions about the incident in Tanzania, the “ordeal that completely changed my life”, as put by Muhammad.
Once again, he explained the whole trip and incident in detail.
After the questioning, he was informed that he would be released shortly. It is then that he was subjected to a violent assault by an officer.
“Whilst waiting, an Asian officer appeared into the room, an officer that I had never seen before. He sat right next to me, & asked the officers why I was here? I had been allowed to use my phone to contact my father and friend so that they can come and pick me up as it was past midnight. So when my phone rang I picked-it up like usual, but this new Asian officer (…) told (me) to give him my phone I said to him “No!! I’m allowed to answer the phone” as the police officers have been letting me. “He said I don’t care, I’m not them”
So he just stood up reached to snatch the phone of me, but was unsuccessful. So he then grabbed onto my t-shirt and throw [sic] me onto the wall, grabbing onto my beard and lasting strangling me by my neck. All this was happening to me while the officers sat down casually not stopping or doing anything. When the Asian officer realised I was having difficulty breathing, he finally let go of my neck. At this point I was absolutely shocked and completely baffled. I took a minute to myself because I didn’t know why he had done such a thing, so I asked him “Why!!” he said “You had your phone out and it’s a threat towards me”
He later requested for the details of the officers but they refused to provide any information.
He was eventually released at 1 am and returned to his family, planning to come back the following day to take the next flight to return to his life in Kuwait.
Banned from Kuwait
He returned to Heathrow the following day hoping to be able to board for Kuwait.
However, just like the previous day, he was not allowed through the check-in. An airline official came and informed Mohammed that he could board the plane and go to Dubai (where the plane was due to stop-over), but that he wouldn’t be able to go to Kuwait as his visa had been refused. The official had learned this information from a phone-call and knew nothing more.
Of course there was no point boarding the flight only to be stranded in Dubai, so Mohammed declined the offer.
He went to the Kuwaiti embassy to find out why his visa had been rejected, but was met with more ignorant faces. Nobody seemed to know why he had been allowed to enter Kuwait, and it didn’t make sense as he never had any such problems with the nation before.
After making some phone calls back to Kuwait, speaking with friends and relatives and receiving news from officials, it became apparent that the reason for Mohammed’s rejection came as a result of the UK Intelligence informing the Kuwaiti Intelligence not to let him enter the land. That is why Mohammed lost his job and another marriage.
Mohammed Emwazi sought the assistance of both lawyers and human rights groups in order to have his situation changed.
He filed a complaint to the IPCC with regard to the physical assault he was subjected to.
However, the IPCC explained it could only go as far as informing the officers that a complaint had been made against them with the addition of a mention “complaint file” under their name in the “police force database”.
In 2012, Mohammed chose to completely change direction in pursuing a future life outside of the UK. His frustration with his predicament resulted in him choosing to undertake a SELTA course with two other friends, which he passed well.
Following this success, Mohammed Emwazi undertook interviews with a number of English language centres in Saudi Arabia, only to find out the while his two friends had been accepted, he had been rejected and would not be able to make the new life he desired.
In early 2013, Mohammed’s father suggested that he should think about changing his name by deed poll, so that perhaps the name that he had been known under thus far, might not cause him further problems as he sought to travel. He complied with his father’s suggestion, and before long officially became known as Mohammed al-Ayan.
With one final roll of the dice, Mohammed bought a ticket for Kuwait, and attempted to travel there. Once again, he was frustrated as he was barred from travel, and once again questioned by the security agencies.
One week after Mohammed was barred from Kuwait again for the third time; Mohammed Emwazi left his parents home to travel abroad. Worried about him after three days of waiting for his return, the parents reported him as a missing person.
It was four months before the police visited the family home. They explained that they had information that he had entered into Syria. The father said that this could not be true, as far as they were concerned; their son was in Turkey assisting refugees with the limited contact they had managed with him during that period.
(CC image courtesy of BBC)
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)