Home for the hungry: Dubai family ask police for jail time to avoid starvation
A family of four, including an eight-month pregnant woman and two children ages four and two is begging authorities to put them in jail so they won’t starve.
Rendered homeless and penniless after a series of catastrophic events, Pakistani Ishtiaq Hussain 34, approached Bur Dubai police station with the bizarre request on October 21 – the day his landlord threw them out over unpaid rent.
“I had no money and the kids were hungry. So we went to the police and pleaded with them to put us behind bars. I thought we’ll at least get a roof over our heads and some food. But they turned us away. We spent two nights in a park on near-empty stomachs before an acquaintance took pity on us and gave my wife and kids temporary shelter and food in his house. While they stayed with him, I roughed it out in a nearby park,” said Ishtiaq.
Getting his story across
On their fifth wedding anniversary last Wednesday, Hussain and his wife Zainab borrowed Dh30 from the acquaintance and took a cab to the office of XPRESS in the fervent hope of getting their story across.
The same day a Good Samaritan gave Husain Dh500 which he used to pay as deposit for a small room in a rundown villa in Al Jafliya. But a bigger concern faced him now — how to feed the family? When XPRESS visited them on the afternoon of November 1, the couple said they hadn’t eaten anything for 16 hours. Two tetra packs of milk given by a friend had been saved for their children.
“We are surviving on handouts. The other day some people gave us some food and money. I don’t know how long it will last us. I have exhausted all my resources and have no one to turn to now. I could have sold my belongings, but they have been confiscated by our former landlord to settle my unpaid rent. The clothes we are wearing is just about all that we have,” said Husain.
Husain says his trouble began when he married a woman outside his religion and country. “I am paying a price for falling in love.”
Before she converted from Sikhism to Islam, Zainab was known as Gurinder Kaur and used to live in Amritsar, India. She came to Dubai in April 2007 to visit her uncle who owned a company where Husain was employed at a Dh1,800 salary.
It was there that the couple met. Zainab recalled: “I often visited my uncle at his office. During one such visit I met Ishtiaq. It was love at first sight. We started dating and decided to get married.
“I left my uncle’s house and started living with a Muslim family where I learnt the tenets of Islam. On October 31, 2007 I officially embraced Islam and married Ishtiaq in a court wedding.”
Husain said when Zainab’s uncle learned the truth he sacked him and put up an absconding notice against him.
“I begged him to lift the absconding notice and release my passport so I could work elsewhere, but he refused to listen or reason. Left with no choice, I started doing freelance contracting jobs to survive. It was tough, of course, yet we managed somehow. But of late all jobs have dried up. I am completely broke now,” he said, holding back tears.
Between 2008 and 2010, the couple had two children — son Haider Ali and daughter Rida Zahra Without passports, their status is illegal. And now the couple has another child due next month. “Under my circumstances we shouldn’t have [had] another child,” he said.
Zainab’s three-month visit visa has also long expired and she has raked up thousands of dirhams in fines for overstaying. Zainab said she also can’t go back to India as her parents have disowned her.
“Could anybody be in a worse situation than us? I have no job, no home, but two kids and a heavily pregnant wife to worry about. I don’t know where our next meal is coming from,” said Husain. “I dread to think what will happen to my family if I am deported for staying illegally,” he added.
Husain claimed the authorities have told him they will consider waiving off their fines if he gets a job offer letter from a company. “It’s my only recourse; I’ve done nothing wrong. I am law-abiding citizen who wants to take care of his family.”
By Mazhar Farooqui
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