Outside, I saw two police officers on the street and one near the door. I woke my husband up who went to open the door. I grabbed my hijab and jilbaab and covered myself, by this time our baby daughter was also awake. My son’s startled and worried face looked at me as I proceeded to go downstairs. He raised his hand to make the adhan…
As I walked through the living room, I saw three plain clothed men come through the door with a plain clothed woman. The man said he had a warrant to search the property under the Terrorism Act, he told me to come into the room. Two uniformed policemen came in and went upstairs and said the area is secure and shouted there were three children and a baby.
The second adhan was not vocalised as two police officers ran towards him, he moved out of the way as they passed and sat on the floor with his back against the wall petrified with fear.
“Hello, what is your name and who are you?” demanded the police officer.
“My name is****” he replied in fear and confusion.
“Do you have any brothers and sisters?”
He told them where everyone was “What are you doing here?” My son asked the officer.
“We are just gonna have a chat and then we will be on our way” and then the officer proceeded to wake his brothers up.
The woman said we need to go upstairs and get some clothes for the children and get them dressed as we would have to leave the property for a couple of days.
“Where are we supposed to go?” I asked.
“Is there somewhere you can go? You must have family or friends!” The lady said.
“No, I don’t have family here.”
“Family anywhere? We will take you anywhere you want to go.”
“You need to sort the children out to get ready to leave”. The lady escorted me upstairs to where my other sons were woken up by the uniformed police.
They were asleep upstairs when the police officer put the light on. My older son thought he was dreaming and rubbed his eyes. The police officer didn’t explain anything to my son who was startled to find him in his bedroom.
I told them to get dressed.
“You have to hurry up,” the plain-clothed woman officer said. My baby needed breastfeeding and they wanted me to get her clothes packed. I began getting her baby grows and vests together to put in the holdall bag, she took them off me, searched them before putting them into the bag herself. My daughter began to get upset as she was hungry so I told the lady I needed to feed her. I told my older son to pack a couple of clothes for him and his brothers and I came into my bedroom and closed the door.
The woman came in with me and watched as I fed my daughter. I began to get redressed in my jilbaab so I could use the bathroom. Another woman had joined us by then who said she had to search me before I went to use the bathroom. I told her that she had just been watching me breastfeed my daughter. She said she had to still search me and told me to undress, so I took my hijaab and jilbaab off and she proceeded to pat me down under my bra and through my hair.
The Adhan alarm on my husband’s phone was playing, so I reached to switch it off. The lady told me not to answer it. I told her I was switching the alarm off. She nodded and told me I was not allowed to touch my phone or any other phone.
I had a sister coming around in the evening, I wanted her number so I could call her and let her know not to come but they would not allow me to get her number from my phone. She told me that I would have to sort that out later and that right now the priority was to get us out of the house.
After this, I was allowed to use my own bathroom. Once we got all our clothes and nappies which were all being checked before they went into the bag, I was escorted into the kitchen to get baby food jars, I put a half eaten porridge box and a full one into a plastic bag. The lady took the half eaten box out when she searched what we were allowed to take. I went to pick my baby and brought her downstairs. We had been booked into a hotel.
The police officer watched my older son get undressed telling him that he wasn’t looking. My son continued to look at him and didn’t undress until he nodded and looked away.
My older son began to take his phone and put it in his pocket. He then took his money and a coin fell. The police officer heard it.
“You are not allowed to take your money, put it down; you are not allowed to take anything. Do you have anything else in your pocket?” My son took his phone out. “Do you have anything else?”
My son said “No,” the police officer then patted my sons pocket without any of us being present. My eight year old son was so scared to see them as soon as he woke up and feared he was going to be arrested, the police officer said “hello,” and began questioning him, they told him to get dressed. The police officer told **** to get dressed. He was thinking how to dress if the officers kept looking at him.
“I need privacy to get dressed”.
“Oh, I’m not looking at you; it’s just that I don’t want you to take anything dangerous.” The police officer re-assured him. My son tried to use a cover to cover himself so he could get dressed, the police officer said “Drop it, don’t pick it up, just get dressed right now”. He was so scared that he wore his trousers over his pyjamas.
“Go downstairs now!” My son wondered why he was acting like this. He went down and saw five police officers with my husband.
The same man who asked him his name before asked his name again.
“Oh, what is in your pocket?” the woman said pointing at his coat pocket.
“It’s just junk!” She took his wallet and searched it. The lady took his money; there was £55 and papers.
“That’s a lot of money” She said “Where did it all come from?”
“I saved it over Eid and pocket money”
She took it off him and put it on the table. He tried to take it but she said “You are not allowed to take it; your parents have enough money.”
My husband was searched three times, once before he went to the toilet, second when he came down and thirdly before he left the house. All this time, he had an escort of three police officers even when he was on the toilet at which time he had to leave the bathroom door open.
My older son was sat in the living room after he got dressed “What’s your name?” The police officer asked him.
“Usamah” replied my son.
“Usamah Bin Laden?” The police officer mocked.
As we left there were at least ten officers in the house and police vans and police cars as we were taken from our home. I was allowed to take £80 of my own money, no phone and my coat had to stay in the house to be searched before they brought it to me later. We were booked into a local hotel, with allowance to eat up to £22.50 per person per night. Anything we needed from our home over the next few days had to go through a police contact who left his details with my husband. We were given a phone the next day to make calls with a £10 top up, it had the police contact on it. The next day we were moved to another hotel in Milnrow which had a bar as a restaurant so we couldn’t eat there. We had to order food from a Halal takeaway which was reimbursed, they constantly reminded us it was tax-payers money and they were accountable for it. My husband overheard the hotel receptionist calling the officer as they were leaving.
“Hey guys, the restaurant next door need you to pay for your drinks”
The police volunteered to take my older two children to their Qur’an class saying that this is what they were here for.
During our stay away from home, four plain clothed men and a plain clothed woman escorted me, my three sons aged 12, 11 and 8 and my four month daughter to Asda’s for breakfast. This was all “low key” especially when the cashier in Asda’s became startled as to why two men in suits were paying for the meals of a Muslim hijabi and her children. They also ordered their coffees and paid for everything with what I assume was “tax-payers” money.
Whilst dropping my husband off at the hospital, the driver following the sat nav got lost. The other officer led him to a dead end before finally reaching the hospital.
On our way back to the house on the fifth day, the plain-clothed officer driving us told me they kept it “low-key” so we could tell the people whatever we wanted. The “low key” entailed police tape around the front bins and back yard, police presence 24 hours a day for four days and police escorting us everywhere we wanted to go. She told me that we would be handed back to the Metropolitan police who would show my husband around the house and explain what had been taken. Me and my children would sit in the car.
My husband told them that anything they had to say would have to be said in front of me so we were taken inside. They proceeded to take us through the house vaguely explaining what had been taken from each room. In the house all things were folded neatly, the officer explained they did this so they knew where they had searched; they told us that they had even washed the dishes. They refused to give us their names and contact numbers. Through persistent pushing from my husband they gave a Scotland Yard number and a name which the solicitor said is the general number. The uninvited visitors said they would be in touch and left.
Old holes which were filled were reopened and not fixed properly. Carpet was lifted and was not put back under the grips. There are traces of where they searched and an eeriness of knowing that your privacy was invaded as we try to function as a normal Muslim family.
They left us with a fear of not knowing who will come knocking and the power these people have in entering your homes and doing what they wish. Being burgled by a stranger is illegal in this country but having the police come into your house, taking laptops and mobile phones is legal. It leaves you numb and produces a wakeup call that nothing really belongs to you as it can be taken from you at anytime. The neighbours and passer bys want to know what happened, a few ladies went passed the house and shouted at the window. Another few were looking through our letterbox. There are more police patrolling the street we live on as well as police cars driving past.
Three weeks later, on Saturday 12th February 2011, two plain clothed officers knocked on the door. My husband went to open the door and they told him they had a list of property they had seized and wanted to talk inside. They said they didn’t want the neighbours to know what is happening, my husband said just say what you want to say. He replied it was private, so he let them in. My children were in the room, they wanted them to leave the room but my husband said “Say it in front of the children.”
“Are you sure you want them to know?”
“Just say it”
“You are suspected of terrorism, you and your associates should stop what you are doing as we will be monitoring you”
“What am I doing? I’m not involved in anything. Give me your name and number.”
“I am just a messenger, I can’t give you my contact name, and I’ll give you my contact number.” He wrote it on the back of the “property seized” list.
“My colleague is just trying to help you.” stated the other officer.
“Just leave, thank you” My husband showed them the door and called his solicitor.
We looked through the list, amongst them was my sons PS2 memory card, £900 cash including my son’s pocket money and eid money they had been saving for a year, my husband had got tickets for paintball and they took them also. The items that were taken were items that can be found in any family household and have nothing to do with terrorism which extracts the question “Who could be the next target? It could even be you…
As I finish writing this article, the adhan for Maghrib is being vocalised in the background. May Allah Subhana Wa Ta’ala keep all Muslims safe and protected from harm and strengthen them for this world and grant them the best in the Akhirah… ameen.