In the second installment of our series “Human Voices in the War on Terror”, Jamie, a Christian grandmother recalls her ordeal after being held in inhumane conditions at a Jordanian military base, along with her grandchildren and their mother. This story uncovers the effects of the War on Terror on the families of suspected “terrorists” and how authorities would violate their rights with impunity.


“In the end the focus wasn’t the church visit but my son. They’d say we know where your son is, he’s in Syria! He’s in Iraq! We said he’s in Turkey, which is where he is.”


“On the night of December 24th, in Amman Jordan, members of the GID (General Intelligence Directorate) took me, my daughter-in-law, and her young children from home, leaving behind two others, and detained us without charge and without legal representation for 23 hours. We are all American citizens. I was on vacation visiting the family. I am a Christian and my daughter-in-law and her children are Muslim. My son is a Muslim.”

“We were questioned in three separate locations, moved from place to place, at one point strip-searched, then we were going to be left to take a taxi home. We pursued the GID officer and told him that we couldn’t get a taxi. He called the regular police and then they stopped a taxi who took us home. Our cell phones and laptops were taken, and have not been replaced.”

“It all started when we went down into the city to visit someone and run a few errands. It was Christmas Eve so I wanted to look in at a church. We went in, and my daughter-in-law was wearing niqab, but she had been to this church before and spoke to the preacher in the past. The church has no problem with her being Muslim. It was no big deal. We had my grandchildren with us. When we left the church, someone was following us. When we got home, there was banging on the door. There were six or seven men there, in plain clothes, and two unmarked cars.”

“I kept asking them for ID but they didn’t identify themselves, and their English was terrible. They just kept shouting ‘Come with us!’ ‘Come with us!’ So I called the US embassy. Surprisingly, the US embassy told us to comply, but I didn’t want to go in an unmarked car. Everybody, the whole family, was in terror. Everybody was very, very fearful.”

“In the beginning they weren’t giving any reasons for what they were doing. Then they said it was because of the church visit. I said that if they’d been there, they should have stopped us from going into the church if it was such a problem.”

“There was one official who had a paper with him, and they proceeded to search the house. They took my phone and my computer, and my daugher-in-law’s phone and her computer. We went to a police station, and from there we got taken to different places.”

“They kept going in and out and none of them knew what the other was doing. Initially they kept us together but then they questioned us separately. The big problem was that none of them spoke English. And even though my daughter-in-law knows Koranic Arabic, her conversational Arabic is poor. We couldn’t understand each other. This made us look like we were not co-operating.”

“The kids were there. They didn’t have jackets or anything, and it was cold. They were shivering. I said, aren’t you going to bring them a blanket, something to drink? In the end they did. But everything is set up to make you feel less than humane. The bathrooms we used were filthy. They were men’s bathrooms. I had to take one of the kids to the bathroom. It was a military base and it was filthy and it was kept that way on purpose.”

“It was surreal. And even now it doesn’t feel real. It might have been the language problem that separated us that made it that way – but it was Kafkaesque.”


Read out first story in this series: Locked in


“In the end the focus wasn’t the church visit but my son. They’d say we know where your son is, he’s in Syria! He’s in Iraq! We said he’s in Turkey, which is where he is. My son was involved in some anti-government protests, which are quite common there, and was detained with a group of people. Because he overstayed his resident’s card, he was deported, which is why he is in Turkey.”

“Later we encountered an official whose English was impeccable. He was very well trained, a Jordanian, but he spoke with an American accent. Nobody had mentioned terrorism to me, but this man alluded to the fact that that’s why he was looking for my son. He didn’t say the word. He only said that he had pictures of my son with a gun, but we never saw, nor have we seen any of these pictures.”

“They didn’t use the word terrorism with me. But with my daughter-in-law they may have. I am more concerned about her and my lovely, blameless grandchildren now. She is separated from her husband. She’s living in fear. They all have valid US passports, but their resident’s cards are expired and they can’t leave until the fines are paid. Just the other day, the GID came to her house to arrest her. She’s afraid they are going to take her, and then what is going to happen to the children?”

“For her, the American Embassy was part of the problem, because they would always find something wrong with the paperwork in applying for the passports and there would be more delays. If we’d got the passports really quickly we could have paid the fine. Now the fine is astronomical.”

“We’re talking about real fear here. And my daughter-in-law’s fear is felt by everyone in her neighbourhood.”


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(CC image couresy of Ankur Panchbudhe on flickr)

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)