19 AUGUST 2021
Sajda Mughal OBE, CEO of JAN Trust, was interviewed by My London about her experiences as a 7/7 survivor and what she has done since. She spoke about refocusing her life towards tackling extremism and the sense of fulfilment she gets from hearing that she has made a positive difference in the community.
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The survivor is now a director at a non-profit organisation that helps tackle extremism and support those affected by it.
A survivor of the 7/7 bombing has shared her terrifying account of what happened on that day and how the events spurred her to tackle extremism.
Sajda Mughal, 39, from North London was running late for work on July 7, 2005 so rushed to Turnpike Lane Tube station.
After graduating from university her daily ritual was to get on to the first carriage of the train but this time she had no time to think about that and squeezed on to a middle carriage, and the train pulled away.
Sajda told My London: “I remember pulling into Finsbury Park and looking at my watch worried about how late I was.”
The train made its usual stop at Kings Cross then 10 seconds from leaving the station, Sajda’s life changed forever.
“The bang was deafening, the loudest noise that I’ve ever heard. The whole Tube shook and came to a standstill. Passengers fell to the ground. The lights went out,” she said.
“I thought we had derailed, I never thought it was a bomb. My next thought process was ‘it’s rush hour, there will be a train coming from behind that won’t know what happened and will crash into us.’
“There will be a huge fireball and we’ll all be burnt to death. I genuinely thought that day was going to be the day that I die.”
Sajda’s body remained locked still in shock as she tried to comprehend everything that was going on.
She said: “People were screaming all around me. Some were banging on the doors to try and escape but we weren’t going anywhere.
“I remember a pregnant lady being looked after and people bringing her water while others cried and panicked.
“My mind then went to all the things in life I hadn’t done yet. I hadn’t said bye to my family, I hadn’t travelled, I hadn’t married. I was preparing for death.”
The train filled with thick black smoke coming through the ventilation which made Sajda think she was going to choke to death.
“It felt as if someone had put a rope around my heart and tightened it. I couldn’t breathe,” she said.
They were stuck down there for 45 minutes until the police arrived.
“The biggest sense of relief I have ever felt in my life, a feeling I have never felt since, was hearing a man’s voice shouting ‘It’s the police we’re here to get you,’” she said.
The police escorted Sajda and the passengers out of the carriage and out of an evacuated Kings Cross station.
“I came out to ground level, ran across the McDonalds, rushed through to the toilet. I saw from the mirror’s reflection my entire face was covered in soot. I locked myself in a cubicle and broke down," she said.
“I spent some time in there collecting myself. Then I just needed to get home. There was no public transport and the police said we’d have to walk home so I spent the next few hours on foot.”
“I stopped at a shop for some water and heard a customer ask the cashier if he had he heard what had happened? 'There's been a bomb' - I interrupted to say no it was not.
“At that point I couldn’t digest that such a thing had happened.”
She finally made it back to her house in Wood Green, locked the door behind her, shut the curtains and broke down on the sofa. Later that evening the news broke about the bomb.
“I couldn't process the fact that a bomb went off on the Tube I was on knowing that we could have all died," she said.
“And finding out it was carried out by four Muslim males was something that made me angry. This is not something my religion is about or what it teaches.”
The events that occurred on the July 7 London bombings have had a lasting impact on Sajda.
She said: “It still haunts me to this day. It’s something that will never leave me. I still see the faces of people in my carriage. The male voice of the police officer.
“16 years on and I can remember it as if it was yesterday. I don’t travel on the tube anymore because it gives me panic attacks.
“I still have nightmares, particularly around the anniversary. It’s something that does haunt me to this day and it forever will. I will remember it until my last day.”
Sajda is now a director at the JAN Trust - an award winning charity empowering women and preventing extremism and hate crime.
When she joined the JAN Trust in 2008 she realised there wasn’t enough being done to tackle online extremism.
After becoming director, She developed Web Guardians which works with women, mothers and carers to equip them with the skills, knowledge and education regarding extremism.
The programme was the first of its kind and has worked with thousands of women across London and across the country.
Some of the women she has helped are mothers whose children have joined ISIS and lost them.
One of the testimonies from a woman who took the course says: “If only I had been given this programme before, I might have been able to save my son.”
In 2017 Sajda set up Another Way Forward, working with young girls in London to stand up against hate.
Going to schools and colleges across the city to set up workshops and classes to safeguard from extremism.
Sajda believes: “We need to take a firm stance against the hate online. The government needs to look to fine social media companies.
“In effect social media is this open platform where people can espouse their hate. Raising awareness, understanding what it is, and bringing it to the attention of an adult or mediator is vital.”
Sajda’s work has won 12 awards for the non-profit organisation and led to her being awarded an OBE.
“I was shocked and proud. My daughter was the most proud. She often tells me ‘Mum you’re my role model’ which is so lovely to hear,” she said.
Sajda says the best outcome of everything that has happened has been to hear back from the women she has been able to help.
She said: “I feel like I’m really making a difference in the community."
19 AUGUST 2021
2 AUGUST 2021