Wednesday 22nd June 2022, I haven’t slept most of the night yet again. I spent last night watching movies on my laptop to distract myself from my feelings. I scrolled through my Twitter feed; I saw article after article on violence against women. One article read, “89-year-old woman stabbed to death in South London” I feel sick as all of these women have died at the hands of male perpetrators. Reading the headlines reminds me of my personal experience of “violence against women”.
Scrolling on social media, I saw a post about the Rape Crisis Line. I visited their website as I needed to speak to someone about how I felt. Despite my nervousness, I called the helpline. The woman I spoke with was patient and understanding. I shared my personal experience of sexual harassment. As soon as I said, “It’s not rape; it’s sexual assault”, she sensed that I was downplaying my experience. Early in the telephone conversation, I began to cry as I described the number of men who had groped me countless times during the last twelve months. Although it was difficult, talking about it helped.
Since moving home last year, fleeing Islamophobic harassment, which was covered by the mainstream media, I have been subjected to sexual assaults, harassment, intimidation and stalking by mostly men. A man who was asked to spy on me behaved inappropriately with a young child outside my flat. My camera picked up what happened, so I reported the incident to the police. Since he was a police informer reporting him made my harassment worse.
When I moved to my new home, rumours spread that I was a man under my hijab and niqab and that I was dangerous and needed to be watched. That was the narrative the police were pushing to encourage locals to spy and harass me. As a result, I was harassed by both men and women. My looks, gender and sexuality were all questioned.
Men of different age groups harassed me, many of whom were agents working for the authorities. Some of these men sexually assaulted me by grabbing my bum, brushing their hands against my body and even pushing their pelvis on me. I felt helpless, shocked and violated. I kept asking myself: I wear a niqab (a veil), I’m a mature woman, I’m celibate, why am I being sexually harassed?
The most disturbing part of my sexualised harassment is that it was instigated. I was wrongfully put under surveillance and terrorism watch by the British intelligence services and the police. Which meant I was under 24 hours of surveillance. Cameras were installed in my flat. Access to the cameras was given to random men who would park outside my flat and watch me. My laptop and phone had spyware installed on it. Agents followed me anytime I left my flat, museums, galleries even university. When shopping in supermarkets I was harassed by security and followed around by them. My flat was constantly being broken into. Nothing was stolen. My privacy as a woman and human rights were violated continuously.
The surveillance led to men behaving inappropriately towards me, behaving as if they owned me like they had the right to treat me any way they chose because the authorities gave them the power to do so. The grin on their face felt like they were enjoying harassing me. The reality is women being harassed is about degradation, power and control.
As a born woman who has been celibate for many years for religious reasons, the sexual harassment was unsettling and disturbing. I searched for a potential husband mostly on Muslim marriage apps, it proved rather difficult. Why? Some of the men contacting me on the apps either worked for the authorities or were police officers. The men on these dating apps spoke to me like they were gathering intelligence. Many were mentally abusive and others just kept tearing away at my personality. My profile was viewed by serving police officers in uniform every day. It felt like an intimidation tactic. A police officer told me that if I was to have a relationship with him, he could make the harassment stop. As a result, the search for marriage became increasingly challenging.
The police harassed me at university. All I was trying to do was finish my degree. For my final major project for university, I had to film a short documentary. I had spoken to the police film unit regarding my filming. The film unit were ok with my proposition. However, on the day of filming the police arrested me under section 43 of the terrorism act and held me for three hours. Those watching filmed the incident and circulated the video like I was a threat, leading to further harassment. I was also threatened with bogus charges if I did not keep quiet about my ongoing harassment.
`Link to my documentary for my university project where I was wrongfully detained under section 43 of the terrorism act.
Another aspect of the harassment was when I was being set up. Situations were created for me to react. I would react by trying to defend myself, and these interactions were filmed, and videos of me were circulated. It was not only the police harassing me anytime I left my home; A community of vigilantes took it upon themselves to police me. They were following me in their cars and on foot. It was truly awful.
I’ve been vilified, character assassinated, sexually assaulted, verbally abused and put under illegal surveillance thanks to Mi5 and the police. I’d read about British Muslims being targeted, but when you experience it yourself, it is suffocating. I never imagined that being under surveillance would lead to this level of harassment.
My ongoing islamophobic harassment