This Human Voice story forms part of CAGE’s report Schedule 7: Harassment at Borders
See the rest of the report here
“I told them about what Allah says in the Quran, that we are not allowed to spy on one another. They said they had a different interpretation of that verse. I said: “Well, you keep to your interpretation and I will keep to mine.”
My family is from near the Afghan-Pakistan border. I don’t travel much, maybe every three or four years I go overseas, back to visit family.
I’ve been stopped under Schedule 7 four times. The first time, I was travelling with my mother and we were going to visit family. I got to the airport with my wife, and she told me that she had seen the police officer at the border security nod at somebody. I didn’t really think anything of it.
I am Pashtun. I have long hair and a beard, and I wear traditional Afghani-Pakistani clothing. I always dress like this because I feel more comfortable in these clothes. Maybe this was why I got stopped the first time.
When I got to the desk, there were two officers, one a counter-terrorism officer and the other a police officer. They asked me to fill in a form, which I did, and then they asked me to go back to another room for an interview.
I was with my mother, who is in her late fifties and doesn’t speak English. They took us both upstairs, and as we walked in, I saw there were four other officers, and my luggage was there, so I knew something was happening.
My mom was very anxious. I told her not to say anything and then I had to leave her alone. They took me into a separate room, away from her. As you can imagine, an elderly woman … she was quite stressed.
They interrogated me for 11 hours because of a lecture, a flag and binoculars
The officers asked me questions about my whole history, my schooling, my family, everything. They asked me for my phone. I gave it to them. They took it.
I had one audio clip on my phone, a talk by Anwar al Awlaki called ‘The Hereafter’. I also had a picture of a black flag with the shahada on it. They said this proved that I was linked to a bomb plot, and that I supported terrorism.
They said I wasn’t flying that day. I got really worried then. After that, they said I had to wait for MI5. This was after three hours of questioning.
After this, I spent eight hours with MI5. There were so many questions, then they took so many photos, about 30 from every angle, and they took fingerprints from every finger.
I had binoculars in my luggage and they took these and said this was proof that I was going to the Afghan-Pakistan border and I was going to look for British soldiers with these binoculars.
It was ridiculous. I had the binoculars because I come from an area full of mountains and they were just for sightseeing.
They questioned why I had every single item in my luggage, then after nine hours they released me.
They said that if I enter into Pakistan, the ISI would follow me and I would be under their surveillance and they could do whatever they wanted.
I said fine, but I asked them to repay me for my lost flight. They didn’t.
They held my elderly mother for nine hours
My mom didn’t know what to do, she was so worried and distressed. But Alhumdullillah, they released her after nine hours.
The next day, I got another ticket for myself and my mom, and I told her that if anyone took me aside, she should just go on ahead. But that time I got through no problem.
It was on the way back into the UK that they stopped me the second time. An officer grabbed me by the arm and told me to come to another room at the back.
They took chemical swabs from my hands and put a map in front of me and asked me where I had gone to. I told them the truth: that I had just gone about visiting family.
After six hours of this, they let me go, but they said they would be in contact with me.
A couple of days later, they phoned me, and asked me to go to the airport and meet them. I said no. Then they phoned me again, and I said I would meet them but that it had to be somewhere public like Asda. They said no.
The meeting with MI5 was like a bad Hollywood film
The next time they called, I agreed to meet them in the city centre. They were watching me as soon as they phoned me that day.
They gave me instructions, talking to me on the phone, saying turn right, down that street, into that sideroad and so on, as I walked.
Then I got to the hotel, and the MI5 guy was there in a suit and sunglasses and he signalled to me to follow him.
At the table, the MI5 offered money for transport, but I pushed it back on the table – I knew that once I accepted money from them, then I was under their control.
Then they started asking me questions. Again, it was all about who I knew in the UK, about my kids and family. I cooperated as I had nothing to hide.
Then they asked if I wanted to work with them, and I said no. Eventually, they let me go.
At the second meeting with MI5, they threatened to take my children
A little while later, they asked me to meet again. This time, they took a book out, and opened it. Inside there were a lot of pictures of people, and they asked me who I knew. I said, “I didn’t come to do this”.
They were more threatening. They said if I don’t agree to work for them, then they would kick my door down and take my kids from me.
As soon as they said that, I stood up, grabbed my phone from them, and said to them: “This is the last you hear from me; if you want to speak to me again you can get in touch with my solicitor.”
After that I didn’t hear from them again.
But I heard from other people who have been stopped under Schedule 7, that they had been asked about me, about what I am up to and who I know.
Another stop and it felt like harassment
The third time I was stopped, it was a couple of months ago, at the airport. I knew I was going to get stopped, so I travelled without a phone. I was with my brother and he had a phone. As we went to check in, I saw them, and I knew they were waiting for me.
I walked straight up to them. They said, that’s very brave. They took me into one room and my brother into another room.
They asked me where I was going, how long I was going for, whether I had been stopped before. But they knew about all of this already.
Then they started to ask me what I thought about Syria, and about ISIS. I told them that they, the British, had created ISIS because ISIS rose out of the chaos of Britain’s actions. I said: “You are just bombing Syria. You could take Saddam out, but why can’t you take Assad out?”
I said: “You have to understand, we as Muslims are one ummah. Whenever one part of us feels pain, we all feel the pain.”
After about an hour I said: “Am I going to fly?” They said, yes.
When it was time for my flight, the one officer asked if he could walk with me. I said if that makes you feel better, you can walk with me. And he walked with me the whole way onto the plane.
I was stopped a fourth time
The fourth time I was stopped, I was coming back again. I gave my brother the phone we had been using. It was 5am and we came through immigration, and we put our passports in the scanner. When he put his down, the doors opened. When I put mine down, the doors wouldn’t open.
The immigration officer approached me, with three others. There were two Asian officers and two white officers. They took my passport and they said I had been detained under the Terrorism Act.
They told me they were going to be doing DNA tests and taking more photographs. I said fine, I have nothing to hide. I was more worried about my brother than anything.
There were the same questions, about my wife, my kids, what schools they were at. They asked me which school of thought I follow, where I pray, which mosque I attend, which charities I support.
Then I said to them that I knew about Schedule 7, because of CAGE. They said: “Do you know CAGE is a terrorist organisation?”
This was a Muslim officer who was saying this to me. I asked him for proof that CAGE was terrorist, and they said nothing. Then they asked me what I thought about Moazzam Begg.
I said: “He is a good brother and you tortured him.”
I said: “You know all about this, but when the evidence comes out, you go all quiet.”
I told them the truth. They didn’t say anything. They are really just calling any Muslim organisation they don’t like a terrorist organisation.
DNA swabs, fingerprints and lots of photographs
They took me from this room, into another room, and all my luggage was there. They said they were going to search my luggage.
I said: “I will stay and you can open it in front of me, I’m not going elsewhere.” I didn’t trust them. It was mainly gifts and things for the family in my bags, but they went through it all.
After they took my DNA, they made me sign something. I did that. I was following what CAGE said I should do, which is to just comply. The first thing they did, they took a swab from my mouth and prints from my fingers. They took 18 photos taken of me, from every angle.
Then came the question: “Why don’t you work for us?”
I said: “I have a job, and I don’t want to work for you.”
They said: “Why not?”
I said: “I’m not a snitch.”
I told them about what Allah says in the Quran, that we are not allowed to spy on one another. They said they had a different interpretation of that verse.
I said: “Well, you keep to your interpretation and I will keep to mine.”
By this stage they were literally begging me to work for them
After the session, one of the officers walked with me. He was literally begging me to work for them. I don’t know why they wanted me to work for them. It doesn’t matter. I would never.
The way the officers treated me the first and second times, it was like I was a proper criminal. They were judge and jury and they had decided I was a criminal. The times after that, I was treated well.
But these guys haven’t got a clue about Islam. They are following a textbook. Even the Muslim officers, I asked one of them: “Do you pray?” He hesitated and said: “Very rarely”.
They have a questionnaire in front of them, a checklist, and if you meet this criteria you are like this, you are moderate, Wahhabi and so on. But generally, they don’t have a clue.
After all this treatment, as a Muslim, I really don’t want to live here anymore. I can live comfortably here, but I don’t want to.
Ever since the first time I got stopped, I didn’t want to come back. After that, I even slept in my clothes because I was scared my house was going to get raided. I have children and I am scared they are going to take my kids off me. I am so scared of that.
Schedule 7 is a law that is especially made, just for the Muslims. They know this is the truth.
(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.)