This forms part of CAGE’s report Operation Luxor: Unravelling the myths behind Austria’s largest ever peacetime police raids

Download the report here

View the rest of the project at our report hub here

Having been born and raised in Iraq, Omar knew better than to give in to authorities easily:
“The only way for you to get my fingerprint is for you to cut off my finger and put them there”, he told them.

Aisha, a project manager at a university, and her husband Omar live in Austria

On the night of the raid, Omar’s cousin, who was sleeping downstairs in the bedroom, awoke just in time to see police trying to break through the glass patio door with a battering ram.

The cousin as well as Omar’s 15-year-old son were pulled out of the house and had to hold out in the cold on the terrace/patio with their hands up, threatened with weapons by Cobra units, until the first floor was fully searched.

Between 30 and 40 officers of the Cobra unit stormed in, with red laser sights darting across the house.

One officer charged up the stairs and yelled at Aisha to put her hands up. She did not respond, because she could not understand what was happening, or that she was the target.

As she was looking for clothes to wear, she was constantly surrounded by two officers.

At the same time as Aisha’s home was being raided, her husband Omar, who was staying in another apartment in a different city, was woken to the sound of fake explosions and also raided.

Aisha’s daughters were terrified by the raid: her 17-year-old daughter started screaming hysterically. Her eight-year-old was crying too. Her four-year-old retreated into near silence.

All doors were thrown open by officers. Despite the biting cold in November, it took them more than an hour to close the doors.

The police officers were very aggressive, searching everything.
As is documented in the police files, a search warrant was not provided until two-and-a-half hours into the raid, and on top of that Aisha was not informed of her rights.

During the search, an officer asked her: “Why do you actually speak German so well?”


“That’s the breed of them”

Alongside the Cobra unit, the police brought women officers to handle the children in the home – something they were later criticised for in public. But this didn’t stop the officers’ treatment of the children being just as heavy-handed.

Officers spoke derisively about Aisha’s children, saying: “That’s the breed of them”.

Photos of everything were taken, and the children’s savings books were snatched. Their electronic devices were all confiscated, depriving them of the ability to engage in online schooling during the pandemic.

Aisha’s 13-year-old son was grabbed by the neck and dragged down by a Cobra officer. Her eight-year-old nephew and 12-year-old niece, who had been visiting, were threatened and questioned about their family living in London. Aisha is furious that her niece was questioned without her consent or presence.

When her eight-year-old daughter wanted to go to the bathroom, one of the women officers walked in as she was getting undressed. To avoid a similar encounter, the four-year-old didn’t use the bathroom for hours until the officers had left.

Officers spared no sympathy for the family.

When Aisha went to make a sandwich for her children, an officer demanded that she “put the knife down”.

The whole family was threatened with weapons for five hours as they huddled together.

At the same time, one of the women accompanying the unit was joking and laughing with an officer.


Fear, confusion and small acts of resistance

Following the raid, Aisha’s home was declared by the media as the “old terror villa”, and people have photographed the family in the street and in the supermarket.

The family were left deeply confused by the raids. Like many others impacted by Operation Luxor, the children are undergoing therapy.

The children are very sensitive when strangers park in front of their house now. Their devices were finally returned ten months later – despite having been laying around untouched by police since the beginning of the year.

Aisha states that the community is very much led by fear, very strongly.

Despite this, their story includes small acts of resistance.

When police demanded to take the fingerprint of Omar after his raid, he was defiant.
Having been born and raised in Iraq, he knew better than to give in to authorities easily:
“The only way for you to get my fingerprint is for you to cut off my finger and put them there”, he told them.


Image used courtesy of Unsplash/ev

(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.)