Monday, December 20, 2010

My Life With The Taliban: An Excerpt [4 of 5]

Tortures, insults, torment
go on and on and on

When I was taken to Bagram, every day I hoped that it would be my last. I only had to look at my shackled hands and feet, my broken head and shoulders, and then I would look at the inhuman, insulting behaviour of these American soldiers; I had no hope of ever being free again. When I met the six prisoners who were being hidden from the Red Cross in Bagram, I understood that there was something going on … I did not see any representatives of the Red Cross at Bagram because the Americans had also hidden me from them, but when I was transferred from Bagram to Kandahar, I saw the Red Cross on the second day after I arrived. They did not have a Pashtu translator with them, just an Urdu speaker whom they had taken from their Islamabad office. He was not Pakistani himself, but he could speak fluent Urdu. They had Arabic speaking staff as well. For Pashtu they had three people who hardly could speak the language at all: Julian, Patrick, and a German who had spent a lot of time in the Peshawar area. It was the first time that I had been able to tell my family that I was alive. I was given a pencil and paper, and a soldier sat in front of me while I wrote. When I was finished I gave the pencil and the paper back to the soldier. I did not receive any letters from home when I was in Kandahar, and nobody gave me any information about my family, about what had happened to them after I was arrested.
There were lots of Red Cross representatives going back and forth, talking to us through barbed wire. They were asking questions about our health and other problems. They told us that whatever we said would stay safe with them, and that they would not tell the Americans. But we were suspicious. We thought they might be lying; we could not trust them and we were not open with them. We did not tell them what was in our hearts. We could not complain about the situation, because right in front of their eyes the Americans were taking us to interrogation, they were dragging us along the ground, sometimes with two or three soldiers sitting on top of us. The Red Cross delegates saw this, but they did not help.
The detainees told all of the brothers to be careful in what they said. According to them, there were many American spies masquerading as Red Cross delegates, tricking us while pretending to help. But in any case we had nothing useful for the Americans. We had nothing to do with any spying. The only sensitive issue was complaints, and the fact that many of the brothers had given false names and addresses when they were captured. So now they could not give new names and addresses to the Red Cross, so their letters were being sent to the wrong places. It was hard for them to tell the truth to the Red Cross, because they were afraid the information would get back to the Americans. I had the same suspicions when I was in Guantánamo.
We did not understand the level of assistance we were getting from the Red Cross while we were in Kandahar. But I did know three things they were doing: first, they were connecting us to our families with those letters, which was very important. Second, they gave us four Qur’ans per each set of twenty people. Third, they arranged for us to take our first shower in four months, even if it was a communal, naked, and very embarrassing shower. They also gave us clean overalls. According to the Red Cross, all of these things were done at their suggestion.
Our guards changed shifts twice a day and many of the low-ranking soldiers misbehaved, bearing ill-will towards Muslims. Every time they would appear, we had to stand in a row looking at the ground, and if the number of a prisoner was called he had to say ‘welcome’. Any prisoner who disobeyed these orders was punished. Every day all prisoners were lined up outside and made to stand in the sun. There were about twenty tents that held eight hundred prisoners. Not all soldiers were the same, but some would command us to stand there for half-an-hour before they took the attendance register and almost two hours afterwards. No one was allowed to sit down or stand in the shade, no matter what his condition. May Allah punish those soldiers!
The guards inspected the tents inside and outside along the barbed wire every day. One time a soldier found a piece of broken glass outside on the ground. He was one of the meanest soldiers, and upon discovering the piece of glass he gave it to me and asked where it had come from. I tossed it back to him and said that I did not know; we had brought nothing with us. The glass must have been here before, I told him. The soldier kept repeating his question. “Don’t talk. I will fuck you up”, he screamed at me. I was forced to kneel with my hands behind my head for several hours; from time to time he would kick or push me to the ground. There was no point in complaining about the behaviour of the soldiers; it would only make the punishment even worse. I will never forget the treatment I suffered at the hands of these slave rulers.
Kandahar prison camp had several sections. Next to the ordinary prison tents, one of the old hangars — previously a workshop for air planes — was now being used for the prisoners. Most prisoners feared it as a place of extreme punishment. Several times I saw prisoners being transported to the hangar bound with metal chains. In another separate location they deprived prisoners of sleep, holding them for months on end. The camp was guarded by six watchtowers and patrols, on foot and with vehicles, which took place all day and night. There are too many stories from the time when I was a prisoner in Kandahar. One day a new prisoner was brought to the prison tent where I was detained. He was a very old man. Two soldiers harshly dragged him into the tent and dropped him on the floor. He was ordered to stand but neither could he stand nor was he able to understand the men. He seemed to be confused; other prisoners told him to stand up but it was as if he could not distinguish the soldiers from the prisoners.
On the second day when he was called for interrogation and had to lie down to be tied up, he did not understand again. None of the other prisoners were allowed to help him; we were told to move towards the far end of the tent. Soon the soldiers let their passions loose and kicked him to the ground. One of them sat on his back while the others tied his hands together. All the while the old man was shouting. He thought he was going to be slaughtered and screamed, “Infidels! Let me pray before you slaughter me!” We were shouting from the back of the tent that he was just going to be interrogated and that he soon would be back at the tent, but it was as if he was in a trance. I cried and I laughed at the same time. There was so much anger in me as I watched the old man being dragged outside. When he came back I sat down to talk to him.
He said he was from Uruzgan province and that he lived in Char Chino district. He told me he was 105 years old, and eventually he was the first man to be released from the Hell of Guantánamo. In the camp we would pray together in congregation. One morning while I was leading the morning prayer, we had just started performing the first raqqat when a group of soldiers entered our tent and called the number of an Arab brother to take him for interrogation. The brother did not move, but continued with his prayer as is commanded by Allah. He was called a second time. By the third time, the soldiers rushed in, threw me to the ground, pressing my head into the floor, sitting on me while two others grabbed Mr Adil, the Arab brother from Tunis, and dragged him out. There was no respect for Islam.

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