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


After all they had put her through, she was expected to feel as if she belonged in Austria, as if things were ‘normal’ for her as a Muslim in Austria.


When Fatima first learnt about police raids years earlier, her father had warned her that they may one day come for them, since the Islamophobic agenda the government was following was becoming very explicit.

On the day of the attack in Vienna on November 2nd, this was a thought that caught up with Fatima. Islamophobia would increase in Austria – of that much she was certain. Would the police also use it as a pretense to raid her home now?

The day before the raid her brother had had a birthday gathering at the home, with family and relatives. Fatima described that period just before the raid as very surreal – a world removed from what was to follow.


“There were 30 police officers in the house”

The first thing she remembered of the day of the raid was her mum entering saying that “the police are here”. At the other end of the hallway were officers with bulletproof vests and military-style guns pointed at Fatima .

Everything felt like it was moving in slow motion: she could tell they were shouting, but couldn’t hear what they were shouting about. In hindsight, what she found most perplexing was how focused she was in the midst of chaos.

She heard her mother begging the police to let her go back into the bedroom to “get her baby”. She didn’t realise that the gun was pointed at her mother; was just waiting at that moment for them to pull the trigger and fire a shot.

There were a total of 30 police in the house, including special forces, spread out across the living room – with a further 20 stationed outsider, barricading the street

Fatima was annoyed that people were constantly stepping on the prayer mat. It annoyed Fatima  so much that they apologised to her for it – yet the primary problem remained: that they were there in the first place. Then the policemen picked up the prayer rug because she didn’t stop talking to them about it. 

To distract her younger brother, Fatima started talking about a cartoon – but he soon saw through her effort and began crying. “Are our parents going to be arrested now?” he asked. When Fatima confessed that she didn’t know, he responded by asking “if they take our parents away, will I have to go to the children’s home?” .

It was then that Fatima realised that her brother had been contemplating this for a while, perhaps before the raid. She comforted him, saying “No, for sure not, we have many relatives who are there” and that “no matter what, we will remain a family”. It was at this point that he calmed down and stopped crying.

Stealing dignity

The raiding officers afforded the family little dignity.

When Fatima was escorted to the bathroom by a policewoman, the policewoman turned away but listened while she was in the bathroom. Fatima felt like a guard dog was accompanying her the whole time. 

During the raid officers left the front door open – in the dead of winter – to the point that  Fatima  found herself both shivering and sweating. She wondered to herself whether it was an intentional psychological tactic to leave them disoriented.

After a while Fatima’s father asked “Can my kids go put some clothes on”.
The children were only allowed to go to change one-by-one, accompanied by police officers.
When Fatima  went to her room the accompanying policewoman seemed bemused at how normal the room was. This angered Fatima, who up to that point had kept communication with the officers at a minimum – to avoid ‘giving them a reason’ to take action against her.

Fatima spoke to the officer’s confusion: “This is a totally normal room, right?”, she asked caustically. The woman nodded in surprise, at which point Fatima ’s pent-up frustration burst out:  She had come from Bosnia when she was 5 years old and since then had been wracked by an identity crisis, fuelled by Austria’s Islamophobic politics, to the point that she kept asking herself alternately “Do I belong here? Am I Austrian?”. 

Fatima was enraged. “I’m from here, my friends are here, I live here and I’m trying to live my life here like every other person here – after all that you storm into our house in the middle of the night and why? Because you think you’re going to find something, I don’t know what. And you don’t even bother enough to try to ask for the things you are apparently searching for.”

Following this, the woman went quiet, and Fatima started crying.

After all they had put her through, she was expected to feel as if she belonged in Austria, as if things were ‘normal’ for her as a Muslim in Austria.

Steeling herself for another raid

The officers left Fatima’s father’s study upturned – he was learning Arabic, and this was a matter of great interest for the officers. They bagged and photographed everything in the room, alongside all the mobile phones in the house. 

Then her father had to go to the police station for a ten-hour long interrogation, and the family were left clueless about his fate.

It was only after the officers left that all Fatima’s fatigue and sadness came crashing down on her. She felt as if a tank had run over her.

Fatima’s relatives and community were supportive of her and the family, which Fatima  describes as being crucial, especially right after the home invasion. 

Looking back, she was so grateful that she was not alone.

The silence and air inside was so suffocating and stifling, she didn’t know what to do, she could do nothing at that moment. She was grateful that relatives were there, that they talked. She slept in the living room with the voices in the background. It gave her comfort that she was not alone.

For the first night after the raid, she could not go to her room or sleep in it.
She slept in the living room and was haunted by vivid nightmares, to the point that she kept herself awake because she kept hearing voices and footsteps. 

Fatima was on edge and exhausted from lack of sleep, and had convinced herself that there would be a second raid. 

She went into the living room and waited for the second raid to happen until 3 or 4 in the morning. It was at that point that she realised they were not coming, and fell asleep – for a few hours, but no more.

It took a long time until she could sleep in her own room. She has then slept on the couch of the 12 year-old brother.

One more thing has stayed with her from the raid: a sense of panic whenever she sees police on the street. It has improved somewhat since, but was intense in the first months after the raid. 

Whenever a policeman approached her on the street or near the house, she started crying and couldn’t breathe. And it didn’t stop until the policemen left.


Image used courtesy of Flickr/puzzleyou

(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.)