A DESTITUTE family claiming political asylum in Scotland told yesterday of their fears of being sent home to Saudi Arabia in a row over a mosque.

Haifa Alshamrani came to the UK to study medicine but her visa was revoked when Saudi officials cut the funding for her Glasgow University tuition. The 29-year-old travelled to Scotland with husband Abdullah Amri and children Mohammad, ten, and Gadah, seven, and wept yesterday as she recalled selling her jewellery and wedding ring to pay bills.

Alshamrani, who aims to specialise in regenerative medicine, claims the decision is linked to Amri’s refusal to participate in efforts to create a Wahhabi mosque in Preston, Lancashire, on behalf of Saudi authorities.

Amri is an agnostic and Alshamrani renounced her faith several years ago and the couple say they could not be involved in activities related to the form of Islam most commonly practised in their home country.

However, they claim to have suffered threats and intimidation and been asked to return to Saudi Arabia, but fear persecution if they do so.

Unable to work or study as they wait for their asylum claim to be processed, their Saudi bank accounts have been frozen and they have sold their possessions to pay rent. Now they are waiting to put their case to immigration officials and yesterday Alshamrani told The National: “I never dreamed I would be in this situation in my life.”

Amri lost his maths teaching job in Saudi Arabia in 2012 for failing to practice Islam in public and the pair arrived in London the following year as Alshamrani tried to pursue her medical ambition.

She subsequently gained a Saudi-sponsored place at Glasgow University but received an email from the institution in November 2015 informing her that her funding had been cut off. Appeals to the Saudi embassy failed and, when she called home to query why she could not access funds in her bank account, was told to fly back to discuss the matter.

Alshamrani fears this is an effort to lure the couple back to answer for Amri’s refusal to cooperate on the mosque. She cites recent high-profile cases in the Gulf kingdom including that of the blogger Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to ten years imprisonment and 1,000 lashes for writings critical of Islam, and Ali al Nimr, who was just 17 on his arrest after anti-government protests in 2012 and is currently awaiting execution.

Alshamrani said: “Because my husband would not help, he is an infidel. He was working with the Saudi Students Association and the Saudi Embassy put money into his bank account in instalments to buy a church and convert it into a mosque.

“He said he would not do this and tried to give the money back. People came to our door shouting threats. We don’t speak to our families at home for their own safety. I don’t want them at risk. It is not safe for us to go back.”

She went on: “I want to be a student. When I say I am an asylum seeker the attitude of people changes automatically. I didn’t come here to take your benefits, I came here to get qualifications.”

Saudi authorities fund around 125,000 international students, also supplying a monthly allowance to learners. With this gone and the asylum case in motion, the family fear they will be unable to remain in their tenement flat and be placed in accommodation by the British state.

Earlier this year an exposé revealed how refugees in Glasgow are sent to damp, dirty and dangerous housing and a parliamentary enquiry into those allegations will take place.

A crowdfunder seeking £850 generated £1,255 for the family, with one donor, a 17-year-old girl from Australia named Ruby, sending her wages and toys for the children.

Alshamrani said: “When I sold my wedding ring, which has our names inside it, the man asked me why I wanted to do it when I would only get £60. But you need ID to sell jewellery and because they took our passports, the only form I had was the asylum form. All I could say was ‘you know why’.”

Amri, 36, said: “When I was a child, BBC Arabic was the only radio station talking about democracy and freedom. I lived in a very strict religious family where everything was forbidden but I bought a radio and I would hide it under my pillow and listen at night. The UK was my dream.

“Wahhabism does not want people to think for themselves. Saudi Arabia does not want people to think for themselves. It is against women, it is against gay people, it talks of killing. Saudi Arabia wants to spread this around the world. I cannot be a part of it.”

The Home Office and Saudi embassy did not respond to requests for comment.