These were the words of Mahdi Hashi when, in 2009, he narrated to CagePrisoners the threats he received from an MI5 agent at Gatwick airport. Little did we know at that time, that this young care-worker from North London would indeed become a victim of an enforced disappearance nearly three years later.
Mahdi’s name re-emerged in the media a few days ago, when it was revealed that he was believed to be held at an unknown location, probably in Djibouti.
According to CagePrisoners’ information, Mahdi went missing for several months before his family received a call informing them that he had been transferred to American forces. The witness, a man who was held with Mahdi, added that the young Londoner was initially detained at Nagaar prison where he was reportedly mistreated. It is not known by whom, when or where he was arrested nor do we know how he ended up in Djibouti.
What is known, however, is the MI5 harassment to which Mahdi was subjected to from the age of 16 onwards. For several years, he was systematically detained at airports, deported from different countries - allegedly at the request of British authorities - without tangible explanation and received constant phone calls urging him to spy on his fellow Muslims. Unable to bear the situation anymore, he decided to return temporarily to Somalia, his land of birth, where he would take care of his ill grandmother. There, he married and had a child.
Unfortunately, Mahdi leaving the country in which he grew up was not sufficient for the British authorities. In summer of this year, Mahdi’s family in the UK received a simple letter from the Home Office stating that his British citizenship had been revoked. Soon after, Mahdi was in custody. It is reported that he requested the British consular assistance which was denied to him as he was not a British citizen anymore. In a very cynical manner, British authorities found a way to wash their hands off one of their nationals at a time their help was most needed, leaving his family, all British citizens, without any assistance.
Mahdi’s sister comments:
“SubhanAllah (Glory to God), words cannot describe how it feels. It’s just shocking! How can a person be arrested and hidden without the family being given any answer? The hardest part is not knowing his condition wherever he is, haunted by thoughts of what could be happening to him.”
The way Mahdi was abandoned also echoes the words of Moazzam Begg, illegally detained at Bagram Air Base and Guantanamo Bay for several years without any charge:
“The British intelligence services said to me that they really can’t do anything for me. It actually felt that the word I used to be called when I was a child: “Paki”... I felt they must think: “Why should we care about this Paki?” I couldn’t help but to think: “Why is it that they are abandoning me?””
If Mahdi had the same feelings, his situation is in some aspects much worse: when British nationals were kidnapped almost twelve years ago on empty allegations of terrorism, the Home Office never sought to remove their citizenships. Their rights were being abused in practice but they were virtually still entitled to consular assistance.
It goes to show how the treatment of British Muslims has effectively worsened over the years. The United Kingdom is now adopting practices which countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina used in the early days of the War on Terror.
In his report ‘Citizens No More: ‘War on Terror’ Abuses in Bosnia and Herzegovina’, Asim Qureshi explained how the Bosnian government was being pressured into revoking citizenships in order to deport individuals to their countries of origin. One such man, Fadhil Al Hammadani, explains,
“When they extradite me to Iraq, they will do so as a terrorist, not like a man without papers, but as a terrorist. I will more than likely go missing as soon as I land there.”
In the case of Mahdi Hashi, British authorities were much more malicious as they waited for him to be in a vulnerable position overseas to deprive him of his citizenship.
Such treatment can find its parallels in cases such as that of Talha Ahsan. He was extradited to the US despite suffering from Asperger syndrome and having been assessed with suicide risks. Gary McKinnon, with the same profile, was spared extradition by Theresa May, in the name of human rights. It is manifestly clear that Muslim citizens were not entitled to the same level of citizenship. The treatment of Mahdi Hashi will surely reinforce the strong impression among Muslims that they are not wanted in this country.
Beyond these debates, one thing is sure: by being courageous enough to come to CagePrisoners and make public the harassment they were going through nearly three years ago, Mahdi and his friends made sure that the events which led to his disappearance are not entirely unknown.
As described by Mahdi’s sister:
“Mahdi and his friends had the courage to speak out against what they were going through. They put their names on the line without caring about what people would think about them. They did it for their sake and for the sake of all those who were going through the same thing. It was very brave of them”
“They might be watching us Muslims, but we are watching them back. We are going to make sure that every of their abuses is documented and dealt with” Moazzam Begg
Also, Read KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: What to do when MI5 comes knocking for you?
To know more about the harassment of Mahdi Hashi before his disappearance
Read How MI5 blackmails British Muslims in The Independent (2009)
Read Cageprisoners’ report regarding the targeting and profiling of people from or travelling to the Horn of Africa for a full understanding of this phenomenon (including the testimonies of Mahdi and his friends from North London)
To know more about the disappearance of Mahdi Hashi
Read Theresa May strips British passport from Muslim care worker who refused to join MI5 and may now be in African prison by Robert Vervaik
Watch UK ‘discards own citizen who refused to spy on Muslims’ on Russia Today
Watch Search for missing care worker on ITV
The Bureau of Investgative Journalism: Missing British- Somali man reappears in New York court
Mahdi Hashi Campaign Website: Harrased...Abandoned...Stateless