Sister ‘Khadija’ shares her story and that of her children of being on the receiving end of War on Terror policies at home, as part of our Human Voices of the War on Terror series.
Two years ago, out of the blue, our home was raided.
My husband is quite connected in the community, and MI5 had tried in the past to get him to work for them. But he had refused.
I’d been out and my kids were at home with their dad, and as I came home, the door was open. I thought it was BT as our phoneline was down at the time.
When I got in, I couldn’t believe what I saw. There were about 10 people in my house from counter-terrorism. Two of them were in uniform and the rest of them were undercover. There were two females, and the rest of them were male.
My husband was really alarmed. And I could see the shock on my children’s face, especially my eldest who was about 7 or 8 at the time. My youngest was 4 and was a bit oblivious.
My eldest was just crying, and she just kept saying: they are going to take us away.
With my youngest, they were asking questions, and I could see they were trying to get information about us – imagine that, from a 4-year-old child.
The warrant was based on something ridiculous, which was “indecent images”.
From what I gathered they couldn’t get to my husband, and so they wanted to raid my home in the hope they would find something incriminating, to put pressure on my husband through disrupting mine and my children’s lives.
They took all my devices based on this allegation of “indecent images”.
It was very vague, I was asking: what “indecent images”? Are they of children? Of adults? What? I was really worried as these sorts of allegations could have had a very big impact on my professional life, as I work with children.
My eldest was just curled up and clinging to me the whole time.
They used my weaknesses to get to my husband
The police didn’t arrest my husband they just said to him: “Come to the station and let’s have a chat.”
He said, no – “not unless I have a solicitor”.
When he refused to go with them without a solicitor one of the officers approached a vehicle outside my house with another two plain-clothed men inside and told them that my husband did not want to come without a solicitor, and if it was okay for him to come to the station afterwards.
To this day, I am unsure who they were, but I assume they were MI5. They didn’t enter the house but they were clearly instructing the officers who were inside.
The officers took all my stuff and most disturbing was that they took all the photos and CDs of my young son, who had passed away.
There was so much on those devices that was from him, and related to him and his life, his baby photos, videos and audio clips. It was of huge value to me. These memories are irreplaceable and the thought that I could lose them was devastating.
I was just crying, and I just kept saying to this guy, “That’s my son’s stuff”.
They took it all.
I kept calling and calling the police station to get my son’s stuff back. I explained that he had passed away.
I said they could take everything, but I pleaded with them to just give me the specific box of photos and CDs belonging to my son. I even offered to send a USB so they could give me a copy of it all.
They would just say: “Come down to the station and bring your husband with you.”
It was all about getting to my husband and using my love for my son to do so.
I said: “What has my husband got to do with this? It’s my stuff.”
Naturally, there were no ‘indecent images’, but I got no apology
I asked how long it would take to go through the devices and get my things back and the officer just said: “Well, you know – how long is a piece of string?”
Eventually, I got hold of a solicitor through CAGE, and they provided the information and support we needed. The lawyer said that my husband did not need to go down to the station.
The officers also said to me they wanted to talk to me in connection with what was on my phone.
I kept saying to them, you’re not going to find anything on my devices. I mean honestly, it’s just CBeebies and the like.
Eventually, after two months when I went to pick it up, they tried again to get my husband to come down, and they kept saying: “We won’t give your devices back unless he comes.”
I waited for hours for them to just fob me off and make excuses about why they couldn’t give me the devices at that particular time even though they had told me I could collect them.
Eventually the solicitor called them and said it was not necessary for my husband to come.
At last, after almost three months and many letters to the police, I got my devices back.
But to this day I have no idea how they came up with the “indecent images” claim. No charges were pressed. No further allegations were made. They found no evidence and yet they gave no apology.
This has been nothing but harassment and trauma for my husband
Since the raid, my husband has been constantly stopped and harassed in the street by MI5.
Basically, they are asking him to spy on the community. But he would never do that; he’s just not that sort of person.
They keep saying things like “we can make your life easy or we can make it difficult”.
He just says there’s nothing to talk about. He’s a gentle person, and I think they take advantage of that. We both know they are just trying to place that fear in him.
I keep telling him: “They want you to crack.”
It plays on his mind when he is out in public with us, as he doesn’t want the kids to witness anything. He doesn’t want to be left in the house with the kids in case they come again.
It’s affected us, because it’s just constant stress.
My children are terrified of police when they see them on the street
The kids are always on guard in their own home. When there is a knock on the door, my eldest will often just jump. They are very wary of anyone around them.
Even if I am there with them, they are literally stuck to me. Sometimes if I tell them to go home with another person, even if it’s a woman I know well, they don’t want to go.
They don’t want me to leave the house.
If they are walking in the street and they see a policeman, they get really scared. I don’t want that – I don’t want them to be afraid of the police.
Social services also got involved. Of course, this alarmed me as they came into my home, questioned my children and contacted their school and GP.
We were essentially being interrogated as parents. When you hear your children being questioned and you know the subtext is that they’re trying to establish if you are abusive or neglecting your children, it is painful and heart-breaking.
The social worker told me that they needed to visit my home because of the fact that the children were present during the raid. I asked who was coming – whether it was just a social worker or anyone else.
The social worker said that a colleague would be coming along and I refused. I did not want PREVENT or any kind of intelligence officer to be accompanying the social worker. I would allow the social worker to come and do their job but I felt there was no need for anyone else.
Don’t let them intimidate you – you have to just to be strong and have faith
The social worker agreed to come alone. My children drew pictures and answered his questions.
My four-year-old would not stop talking but my seven-year-old was hesitant and untrusting given what had happened. She sensed something was wrong.
I could tell she was wondering who this person was, who was in our home and asking personal questions. She knew they were not friends of ours so she just knew something wasn’t right.
The social worker said that everything was fine, that the kids were happy and lived in a loving home but that the school and GP would be contacted and asked to fill out some questions.
The school did ask me about what was going on, and I was really worried. Every time I walked into the school, because I’m veiled, I was really worried they were looking at me. It’s like a stigma when social services are involved.
I felt like this anxiety, even though I had nothing to hide.
For anyone else going through this, it’s important to know your rights and know that there is nothing to be afraid of. It’s hard, as there are some people out there who will play on our weaknesses.
For women, as mothers, the weakness is our children.
Don’t let them intimidate you. You have to just to be strong and have faith.
(CC image courtesy of westmidlandspolice on Flikr)
(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.)