“Would you be able to cope?”: Letters by the children of control order detainee Mahmoud Abu Rideh


Mahmoud Abu RidehIn an article earlier today, “Seven years of madness: the harrowing tale of Mahmoud Abu Rideh and Britain’s anti-terror laws,” I told the story of Mahmoud Abu Rideh, a Palestinian-born British resident with a British wife and six British children, who had a hearing at the High Court in London today to consider his request for internationally valid travel documents which would allow him to leave the country. As I explained in the article, “On the basis of secret evidence, which has not been disclosed to him, Mr. Abu Rideh has been imprisoned without charge or trial, or held under a control order (a form of house arrest) as a ‘terror suspect’ for seven and a half years, and, as a result, suffers from severe mental health problems that have led to repeated attempts to commit suicide.”

In May, as I also explained, his wife, Dina al-Jnidi — unable to cope any longer with the living hell of the family’s existence in the UK — left the UK to live with relatives in Jordan, taking the children with her. Dina al-Jnidi’s account of the effects of imprisonment without charge or trial and control orders on the mental health of those subjected to the government’s uniquely cruel post-9/11 detention policies was reproduced in the previous article, and below I reproduce four letters written by five of Mahmoud Abu Rideh’s six children, which should convince all but those with hearts made of stone that the government’s anti-terror policies have been nothing but a grave and profoundly disturbing travesty of justice.

Five of Mahmoud Abu Rideh's children

Five of Mahmoud Abu Rideh’s children.

Ala’a’s story

My name is Ala’a Mahmoud Abu Rideh and I am 15 years old.

Before you read my story I would like to tell you that people think the UK is one of the most countries that has human freedom but after my story and what has happened to my Dad I know that the UK is not a freedom country. I want whoever reads my story to promise me that he will help me by freeing my Dad.

Our life was one of the worst lives in the world because we really had to live in a life without freedom when you have certain times to get out of your house and certain times to come back to your house and the police telling us what to do and what not to do. What kind of life is that? And who would want to live this type of life? Who would like to live in a life where my Dad has 250 conditions that he is not allowed to do. I wouldn’t think anyone would say yes.

Our story started off like this. It was the second day of Eid when they came and arrested my Dad. We were all sleeping. It was a bout 5 am, then we heard a big crash, then all we see is lots of police coming inside our bedroom, then all I see is my mother crying and telling us to get up and wear some clothes because we are going to leave the house. We all got ready than after we got ready we went downstairs and we saw policemen in our house sitting and smoking. They took us to a hotel to search the house.

We didn’t even know where our Dad was, all we could do is just wait and wait and wait till one of the police came and took us back home at the night time.

When we got to the house it was very messy and very untidy. We kept waiting for our Dad. After nearly a month we had a phone call saying that we could go and see our Dad. When we went there we had to wait for a long time then when we got there we couldn’t even realize that he was my Dad. He was sitting on a wheelchair and was very skinny. He looked very ill. I felt very sorry for him but we were only allowed to talk to him with a glass between us and talking using a phone between us and there was an interpreter in the visit but after a few visits we were allowed to visit our Dad but in a place where it had lots of people but it was very uncomfortable.

The story stayed the same for three years until then one day all we see is police officers coming to our house putting lots of electronic equipment that we didn’t know what they were for, and then at midnight the police officers and my Dad came. We didn’t even know that he was going to come so we were not ready but we tried our best to rush every thing and get ready quickly. Then when my Dad came it was to me like a wish that came true. I felt really happy and felt that one of my wishes have come true. He told us really sad story about what has happened with him in prison, how they tortured him very badly, then after a few days I realized that my Dad was on something called control order.

At the beginning I didn’t understand what was control order then I knew that he has voice variation [recognition?] three times a day and he had to put a tag around his leg. Then after a few months my Dad got arrested again for delaying to say his phone call so they arrested him for two to three months. Then after he came back out he had more strict rules and as the days moved by police came to search our house many times. Then my dad got very ill and very tired of his life. Imagine if you had to live with a life where no one is allowed to visit you or no electronic things, for example iPod, internet, memory stick, MP3 and many other things. So after all of that he got really tired and had to go to the hospital for a few months and when we went to visit him he was very pale and very tired. My young brother was not allowed to visit him because he is very small so we have to find someone to sit with him during the visit.

One time the police came to search our house they were impolite with us, they were swearing at us and say bad things. After a few weeks they came again to arrest my Dad for the things that they found in our house like memory stick. We need it for our school work because we are not allowed to have internet. Then at 11 pm he phoned us to get his clothes for him to the police station so me and my Mum went and left my other brothers and sisters alone at home.

One time when they searched the house for all the day one girl in my school saw them and tell all the girls in my school that my Dad has been arrested and they caused many trouble to us.

And after all this pressure and hard time we have decided to leave the UK and go to Jordan so we all went on the 25th of May 2009 and left my Dad alone in the UK because he does not have a passport and has control order.

Haneen’s story

My name is Haneen and I am 13 years old. My life started off miserably, I have never thought of living this life. I cannot cope no longer, it was so hard where everyone was against us. I could not cope so we decided to leave UK and come to stay in Jordan. I thought I might have a peaceful life but no I was wrong! It was so hard to live without my Dad, he was not allowed to come here. Would you be able to cope? Listen to my story then decide if you will be able to live my life.

My life started off like that, when I was four years old and only four it was Eid, in the early morning, at about early morning we heard a bang — a big bang! — that woke up the whole house, even my youngest brother Imad woke and started crying in tears and he was only four or five months. It was so scary, they took my Dad to some prison and took us to hotel to search our house.

I thought that I would never see him again. But after three years and a half he came back but these three years were so hard he went to prison and when we went to visit him in prison it took us about two hours to get there and dogs used to smell us and I used to hate dogs.

The day they released my Dad they stayed for many hours fixing my Dad’s electronic devices. He has something called a control order, we never heard of this and we don’t understand what it is about. This control order had over 200 rules, some of them like no one was allowed to visit us over 16, we are not allowed to have mobile phone, laptop or internet and many other things. He was allowed to leave the house at 7 am and had to come back at 7 pm. Every week the police comes at any time.

He has to do a call at midnight. We are always worried about him missing his phone call because if he missed it the police would come and in the evening when we gear or see a police car we think they are coming to our house. Now eight years passed and my Dad is still under control order. Every year they renew it and they come to search the house from time to time.

My only wish to whoever is reading this letter is to help my Dad. I wish for my Dad every good thing in this world and please help him. I really want him to come and live with us in Jordan and for the whole family to live a nice life together. Now after you have heard my story, would you be able to cope with my life, yes or no? Please be honest and I’m certain that you would not be able to cope and now this is the end of my awful life story. Think of me and my Dad and please try to help us. Thanks.

Esraa’s story

I am Esraa Abu Rideh. I am 12 years old. I have been through a distressing life. Our life has no meaning. Our life full of worries, frights and sudden. It was hard for me to live. Yes I spent eight years of my life like that.

It all started one day when I was awake by a deafening knock at about 5 am. The date was 19-12-2001. It was odd. Who would knock at the door at that time? Then I know it was the police. From that day our live turned from peace to confrontation. They took my dad to prison and took us to the hotel. When we returned the whole house was messy. At that time I was about five. I still never know where my Dad was.

From that day our life turned dull and no point of living. After he went to prison his health got worse and then they transfer him to Broad moor hospital. We had to travel for two hours each month to visit our Dad. I was always travel sick but I never cared as long as I see my Dad. They had to search us each time we go. Then we had to pass a dog each time.

Then in 2005 he was released. But the next day they came giving him a piece of paper saying all the things not allowed. They were over 200 things. He completely changed after three years in prison. He became more rough and angry. I just want to ask the Home Office a question: what did you do to make him became more angry? You changed all our life. Why is that? Just tell me his blame for arresting him. You made him not care about life or about us. He does not like noise. He can’t sleep all the night because of you. Everyone from the Home Office is responsible from boss to employees. I have to set an alarm to wake my Dad. Imagine you having to wake up about 3 am each time. Wouldn’t you get tired?

From that time the police came more often to our house. Sometimes my Dad late in his phone call and five minutes later whole bunches of the police come knocking. These days were horrible as a memory. During that period my Dad was taken to hospital about 2-3 times. He was always frightened from the police to harm us. Day after day went no joking with each other or laughter.

School was terrible. Ooh, it was a nightmare. Especially secondary school. No memory stick, mobile phones, internet, digital camera, fax, MP3, iPods, Playstation and all the electronic stuff. I had to do my homework in the library and if the library was not opened I don’t do it and then get a detention. Teachers thought I was lazy but the truth was hidden under my clothes.

Police officers were impolite, especially Victoria the boss. She kept swearing.

Although we are British and all this happened we decide to leave UK and live in Jordan leaving my Dad behind.

My wish is to give my Dad his passport so we can live as one family.

Khalid and Imad’s story: “MY terrible LIFE!!!!!”

My name is Khalid, I am 11 years old, and I am Imad, I am 9 years old. We are Mahmoud Abu Rideh’s children. I would like to start my story with me saying that these eight years were awful. My Dad had to be in jail and then forced to have a control order in our house. He had around 200 conditions that he cannot have like using internet, having mobiles, Nintendo Wii game, iPod, memory stick, MP3, digital camera, Playstation, nobody allowed to visit us and much much more. We are sad because that was all for no reason. He was allowed to go out from 7 am to 7 pm which was only 12 hours.

It started at early morning when we were awaken by a deafening knock. There were policemen took my Dad to prison and we went to a hotel for a day. It was the second day of Eid, it was the worst Eid I have ever had, it was miserable to have an Eid without a Dad, feeling like an orphan, especially in a time when you need someone to celebrate with. We had no family, no one to celebrate with, we were waiting for our Dad but he didn’t come back. The days moved by but we didn’t know anything about our Dad, then one day we had a phone call saying we could visit our dad but we could only speak with him with a glass window in the middle and a translator sitting with us.

After a few years, after school my Mum said that my Dad might be released but with a control order. Then the door knocked, the police came and put electronic telephone for my Dad to speak with monitoring people three times a day. They stayed for a long time then they went, the boss Victoria treats us with no respect and say shocking words and treat the house as if it was their house. Once I decided to spend my money that I have been saving for months on a phone so I bought it and after a month they took it and my Nintendo and all my games.

My Dad told me how they treated him in jail and how they tortured him. I would wish if I see my Dad and live with him and all my family to live together in any Arabic country and I hope it comes true. How would you feel if you were treated like that? I hope I see my Dad.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and see here for my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

For other articles dealing with Belmarsh, control orders, deportation bail, deportations and extraditions, see Deals with dictators undermined by British request for return of five Guantánamo detainees (August 2007), Britain’s Guantánamo: the troubling tale of Tunisian Belmarsh detainee Hedi Boudhiba, extradited, cleared and abandoned in Spain (August 2007), Guantánamo as house arrest: Britain’s law lords capitulate on control orders (November 2007), The Guantánamo Britons and Spain’s dubious extradition request (December 2007), Britain’s Guantánamo: control orders renewed, as one suspect is freed (February 2008), Spanish drop “inhuman” extradition request for Guantánamo Britons (March 2008), UK government deports 60 Iraqi Kurds; no one notices (March 2008), Repatriation as Russian Roulette: Will the Two Algerians Freed from Guantánamo Be Treated Fairly? (July 2008), Abu Qatada: Law Lords and Government Endorse Torture (February 2009), Ex-Guantánamo prisoner refused entry into UK, held in deportation centre (February 2009), Home Secretary ignores Court decision, kidnaps bailed men and imprisons them in Belmarsh (February 2009), Britain’s insane secret terror evidence (March 2009), Torture taints all our lives (published in the Guardian’s Comment is free), Britain’s Guantánamo: Calling For An End To Secret Evidence, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (1) Detainee Y, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (2) Detainee BB, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (3) Detainee U, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (4) Hussain Al-Samamara, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (5) Detainee Z, Britain’s Guantánamo: Fact or Fiction? and URGENT APPEAL on British terror laws: Get your MP to support Diane Abbott’s Early Day Motion on the use of secret evidence (all April 2009), and Taking liberties with our justice system and Death in Libya, betrayal in the West (both for the Guardian).

7 Responses

  1. Kidnapping People, Kidnapping Liberty… « Back Towards The Locus says...

    […] and six British children, was arrested, and imprisoned in Belmarsh. His eldest daughter, Ala’a, describes the arrest… It was the second day of Eid when they came and arrested my Dad. We were all sleeping. It was a […]

  2. Frances Reiss says...

    So glad whenever this kind of behavior by any nation is exposed.

  3. Todd Armstrong says...

    you have to promise yourselves that you never will give up, will never stop trying to see him, write him, call him or get him out. He has one good thing in his life, his family. Somehow just knowing your family is there or somewhere brings strength.

    This is an injustice caused by a very just people. They will come to understand this – you have to believe this.

    You are strong and loving, use this to keep your head clear as you fight for your father. You will be in my prayers.

  4. Eureka Morrison says...

    Dear children and mom, I know words do not mean much when hearts and lives are so shattered. Hold fast, hold steady. Nothing lasts forever. Pray for your dad and mam, for your husband as often as you can. The wings of prayer fly high to God Almighty. I hold you in my heart.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Frances. Although I spend most of my time writing about Guantanamo, the situation in the UK needs constant attention; in particular, I’m sad to say, because so much of the control order story never makes it into the mainstream media at all.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Todd and Eureka,
    Thank you very much for your comments. I hope they will be read by Mr. Abu Rideh’s wife and children, as this kind of empathy and support is invaluable.

  7. UK government issues travel document to control order detainee Mahmoud Abu Rideh after horrific suicide attempt by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] a visa to leave the country, and, he hopes, to be reunited with his British wife and children, who could not cope any longer with the stress, and left the country in May to live with his wife’s family in […]

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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