This is the heart wrenching story of Vivian; a single mum of four children, leading a humble existence in her small town, keeping up good relations with the local residents, her children all doing well for themselves. Her eldest son, 16 at the time, gave her the news that he had reverted to Islam and would now be known as Mustafa. Vivian was wary initially, but supported her son’s decision. Any doubt she had turned to dust when she saw positive changes in him - he had become passionate about learning and attended the local mosque where he enthusiastically volunteered his services. As a member of the community and as a son, he had become a beacon of light, setting an example for his peers.
“He’s a good boy, he really is and really mature. I’m proud of the way he stuck to it and I said to him as long as you do it properly, I will support you. I brought him halal meat and cooked separately for him and respected it. He would always talk about Islamic history and he was very passionate. He was teaching Arabic at the local mosque and teaching another boy English. He ends up teaching the slow kids so they can all move on. He used to clean toilets in the mosque – not many boys his age would do that.”
Vivian then, was the last person to expect to find police knocking at her door, eager to arrest her son…
“As I looked up, I saw a lot of men coming through the gateway; they had the stab vest on so I knew who they were – I opened the door, someone pushed past me… they took all of our things, our books, our laptops. My son had just ordered a new one off my catalogue which he was going to pay back after he started earning, but he can’t do that now.”
Vivian, overwhelmed by shock and despair, turned to her community for support but almost immediately, Vivian found herself cut off, both Muslims and those in the wider community immediately turned their backs on her. Her neighbours began to threaten her. Her work colleagues ignored her completely.
“One of our neighbours said he would slash our throats and bounce the kids off the bedroom walls. People I work with don’t acknowledge me anymore. I saw one of my friends from work on Friday, she actually drove past me twice and twice I looked up, she looked me in the eye and she never even acknowledged me.”
In her time of need, Vivian turned to her family, whom she longed to hear comforting words from. She needed to hear that everything was going to be okay and reassurance that her son was innocent. But Vivian was met by ice cold responses which wrung of doubt and suspicion.
“My brother wouldn’t speak to me. My other brother recently passed away - he was in the army so when it came to his funeral, my family didn’t want my son there. My family have been no support, the only person who I can speak to is my mother but only because she has dementia; every time I tell her, it’s like the first time she’s heard it!”
Before Mustafa was arrested, he would eagerly take care of his mother; her backbone, providing her with the financial support she needed to run their home. But deprived of his support, Vivian quickly spiralled into debt.
“Because he wasn’t able to bring any money in, I got into difficulties with my bank loan and I am looking at bankruptcy now. I haven’t been able to keep up with my debts as a result. He lost his job of course…”
Mustafa’s arrest was the tipping point for Vivian, as she fell deeply into depression and her health deteriorated.
“I was crying all the time and I wasn’t eating much, not much of an appetite – I was in the dumps, I was afraid there was going to be a knock at the door– it’s been so bad –My appendix burst last week and the doctors said my children could have found me dead. He knows his mum is ill and who is to say I will be around when he comes out?”
Whilst Vivian faced depression, her children, including Mustafa began battling with their own demons.
“He says he’s alright in prison but I can tell he’s not… Oh, I do miss him terribly. Someone in there called him ‘Jihadi John’, others warned, ‘don’t talk to him, he a terrorist’. He thinks his life is ruined because he thinks no one will ever employ him or marry him. He’s experienced things in there that he should never have… My eldest daughter was told she couldn’t get a job because of her brother. People and kids from school have made comments at them - some of the teachers actually started blanking my younger son. My youngest daughter began to self-harm. She changed from being a nice bubbly child to something else, it affected her confidence; she always seems to think I am holding something back from her....”
When HHUGS heard about Vivian’s situation, they referred her to her local Keyworker, so that she would receive the emotional support she was in dire need of. Following a financial assessment, HHUGS approved vouchers to prevent Vivian from falling further into debt. To protect her from the attention of bailiffs, HHUGS cleared Vivian’s council tax debt. Before Vivian was in touch with HHUGS, she would take a coach and three buses in order to see her son. Now, a volunteer driver from HHUGS collects Vivian from the station and takes her to see Mustafa, easing the journey.
Although Vivian and her children continue to face a daily test of patience and perseverance, HHUGS’s intervention in their lives has brought about some ease for this family, tested beyond their wildest imaginations.