A Yemeni Muslim family in Birmingham have told Socialist Worker they were harassed by police who then tried to recruit their son as an informant.
Police harrassment and criminalisation of young people is commonplace in working class areas. Young Muslims are particularly vulnerable.
Farouk is 18. He told Socialist Worker about his frightening experience when officers came for him. Now his local community is organising to protest at police actions.
Police burst into the Alshibani family’s home on Monday 28 September while Farouk was out. Both front and back doors show dents where police used a battering ram.
Farouk’s mum Mazda was upstairs bathing her two and three year old sons. Mazda, who doesn’t speak English, says police refused to allow her to put on a headscarf or provide an interpreter.
She said, “They were all laughing and shouting. I didn’t understand what they were saying.”
When Farouk’s dad and older sister arrived, police told them to call when Farouk came back.
When the police returned, the family were told to wait in the garden while police spoke to Farouk inside.
The police then took Farouk from the house, but did not arrest him. They said they wanted to speak to him in connection with a missing girl.
Despite saying he knew nothing, police took Farouk to several parks and the city centre to point out anyone he thought would know where she was.
Farouk was taken to a police station. He said, “I told them I wanted to write a statement. They told me, no we don’t have any paper.”
What cops were really interested in was the location of Farouk’s friend Mohammed. They drove round until they spotted him in a pizza shop.
Police left the two young men waiting in a park until 2am. Farouk was then taken away in handcuffs. Neither was arrested.
The next day, the same officers Farouk had been with told him they had found the missing girl. But that didn’t mean they were done with him. They told him to be at home the following Friday.
Farouk said, “When they came to the house they said, you look like a good guy for us. Will you work for us? We’ll give you good money. They said, we’ll train you.”
Farouk, whose first language is not English, says “I thought he was telling me I was going to be a police officer”—and he initially agreed.
But after a friend told him what an informant is, he changed his mind.
The family then contacted community activists for help. When police arrived at the house again to pick Farouk up on Monday 5 October, two activists were there to confront them.
The police left empty-handed. But Farouk and Mohammed say the next day police raided a hostel where Farouk had recently lived, demanding to know where he was.
West Midlands Police had not responded to a request for comment as Socialist Worker went to press.
The family feel persecuted. They invited activists and members of the Yemeni community to a meeting at their house last Sunday.
Farouk says he doesn’t know why the police want him as an informant.
Farouk’s father says he knows of another Yemeni man who sent his sons back to Yemen after a similar experience with police.
Another person at the meeting said, “This is quite worrying for the community. If this was a gang we would be looking to the police. But this is happening from the police. Who’s going to protect us?”