Monday, December 20, 2010

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


Every day prisoners were mistreated in the camp. A Pakistani brother who had a bad toothache had only been given Tylenol by the medic in the camp. Eating was painful and difficult for him, and he could not manage to finish his food in the thirty minutes allocated for each meal. When the soldier came to collect his plate, he asked to be given more time because of his teeth. The soldier took him to the entrance and hit him in the mouth while the rest of us watched helplessly. After we saw how they treated the Pakistani brother, we decided to go on hunger strike. Word spread quickly and soon the entire camp had stopped eating. When the camp authorities came to find out what the reason for the strike was, we informed them about the abuses of the soldier and that we would no longer tolerate them. We were promised that incidents like this would be prevented in the future and we stopped the hunger strike. Even though we were subject to harsh conditions, this was the first hunger strike to have taken place under the American invaders’ custody.
The next day Mohammad Nawab, who was very ill and could not stand up, was beaten and kicked. The soldiers had come to inspect the tent and ordered the prisoners to move to the back. Mohammad Nawab had not moved; he had remained in bed. When the soldiers saw him, a group of them started to beat and kick him before they dragged him to the end of the tent and dropped him at our feet. I should mention that not all American soldiers behaved in this way; some were decent and respectful and did not join their comrades in the abuses. Some abuses were worse than others and affected everyone in the camp. One afternoon I woke up to the sound of the men crying. All over the camp you could hear the men weep. I asked Mohammad Nawab what had happened. He said that a soldier had taken the holy Qur’an and had urinated on it and then dumped it into the trash.
We had been given a few copies of the Qur’an by the Red Cross, but now we asked them to take them back. We could not protect them from the soldiers who often used them to punish us. The Red Cross promised that incidents like this would not be repeated, but the abuses carried on. The search dogs would come and sniff the Qur’an and the soldier would toss copies to the ground. This continued throughout my time in Kandahar. It was always the same soldier who acted without any respect towards the Qur’an and Islam. There were many other incidences of abuse and humiliation. Soldiers were conducting training with the prisoners as guinea-pigs: they would practise arrest techniques — all of which were filmed — and prisoners were beaten, told to sit for hours in painful positions. The number of such stories is endless. All the while the interrogations continued. One night, when I had already been in Kandahar for several months, I was called for interrogation. I was asked if I wanted to go home, told that they had not benefited from my detention and had found no proof that I was involved beyond my dealings as Ambassador. They were planning to release me, they said. They would arrange for money, a phone and anything else I needed. After all this they told me the condition for my release: all I had to do was help them find Sheikh Osama and Mullah Mohammad Omar. Any time I would choose detention over this kind of release. I would not dare to put a price on the life of a fellow Muslim and brother ever!
I interrupted them and asked them what the reason for my detention was. They said that they believed I know about Al Qaeda, the Taliban, their financial branches, and about the attacks on New York and Washington. I had been arrested to investigate all these allegations. Given that they had not found any proof of what they had accused me of, they must see that I was innocent, I said. I had been arrested by the Pakistani government, and should be released without any conditions. For three days they talked about financial aid and a possible deal if I would agree to their terms, but I turned all their offers down. Once again their behaviour changed. They threatened me and my life, again.
The next day a group of soldiers came to our tent throwing a bunch of handcuffs towards a group of prisoners. After they put on the handcuffs, they were tied together and led away. We all wondered what was happening. Some believed that we were being released; others speculated that they might get transferred. But they all were brought back a few hours later. Each and every one was shaved — their beards, hair and eyebrows. Every single hair was gone. This was the worst form of punishment. In Islam it is forbidden to shave one’s beard. It is considered a sin in the Hanafi faith. It is better to be killed than to have one’s beard shaved. I was in the next group that was led away to the barber. I asked the barber not to shave my beard; he replied with a hard slap to my head. I did not open my eyes for several minutes while the pain rushed through me. Later, when a doctor asked me what had happened to my face and I complained about the barber, I received another slap from the doctor, telling me I should not complain about the American invaders.
During one interrogation session, I was asked if I knew Mr Mutawakil [the Taliban foreign minister] and there were several other questions relating to him. Finally I was asked if I wanted to meet him. I doubted that he had been arrested and asked where he was and how I could meet him. A few moments later he entered the room. He had brought me a packet of Pakistani biscuits, but my hands were tied and I was unable to eat them. Nor was I allowed to take them with me. We talked for ten or fifteen minutes and then he left again. In the short meeting I learnt that I would soon be transferred to Cuba. Mr Mutawakil did not say much more about that. He knew that Allah knew best what would happen to me. The next day I was interrogated again. I was told that I would be transferred to Cuba on 1 July.
The interrogator added that those going to Cuba would spend the rest of their lives there and that even their bodies might never find their way back to Afghanistan. This was my last chance, he said; I had to make a decision to go home or to be transferred to Cuba. Once again he stated the conditions for my release. If I were to go home, I would have to work with and help the American intelligence agencies in their search for Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, remaining their slave for the rest of my days. May Allah save us from committing such a sin! Even though I was given a day to think about it, I replied immediately: “I am not more talented or important than any of the brothers detained here. I accept the decision made for me by Almighty Allah. I have not committed any crime, and so will not admit to any crime. It is now up to you to decide what to do with me and where I shall be transferred”. After this interrogation I hoped that the transfer would come soon.


On 1 July 2002 I was taken to the barber and shaved once again. Afterwards a group of soldiers came and threw chains at the entrance of the tent. One after another we were chained together to be transferred to Cuba. I was the fourth person in the row. Our hands and feet were bound and our heads covered by black bags, chained together in groups of seven or eight people. We were brought to another waiting area; the black bags were replaced with black goggles and plugs were put into our ears. Before we were brought to the plane, we were photographed again, and given a set of red clothes and red shoes. Our mouths were covered with a mask and hands and feet bound with two different kinds of chains. Once in the plane, our feet were locked to a chain on the ground, and our hands were bound behind our backs and locked to the metal chairs. It was impossible to move, not even an inch. It was a painful position and soon after the plane took off some of the prisoners started to struggle with their chains, screaming and moaning in pain.

They remained chained in this position for the entire journey, and weren’t allowed to use the bathroom. We were locked into these positions four hours before the plane even took off and we still remained there three hours after it had landed. We spent close to thirty hours locked in those chairs. The chains cut off the blood supply to our hands and feet. After ten hours I lost all feeling in them. Our hands were so swollen that it was difficult for the American soldiers to open the handcuffs, which had sunk deep into the flesh. The airplane landed once during the flight before arriving in Cuba. Once off the plane we were ordered into rows while being screamed at in Arabic and English: “Don’t move. Stick to your place!” But after thirty hours in chains, with hands and feet hurting, some moved and stretched. Seeing this one of the soldiers kicked and beat them. I myself was kicked three times. We were moved to the base and I was brought for a medical check-up. Then they took me to an interrogation room and chained me to a chair. A few moments later an interrogator came in—accompanied by a Persian translator. He introduced himself as Tom.

He was assigned to probe me, he said. I was too tired from the long and painful journey to talk and told him that I just wanted to be transferred to wherever I would stay from now on and that we could talk tomorrow if he wanted, but Tom insisted that we talk straight away.

My mouth was dry, and I could hardly stay awake. Up until then everyone had been advising me to try to avoid being transferred to Cuba, but now that I had arrived I had nothing left to fear. I did not even care about the punishment anymore. Now in Guant√°namo, we preferred death over life. Even though Tom insisted, I barely responded to any of his questions and so he finally left the room. I was brought to a small cage made out of a shipping crate. My hands and feet were unfastened and I was left alone. A food ration had been left for me in the cage but it was having water that made me most happy. It was the first time in months that I had the amount of water necessary to perform my ablutions. I washed, prayed and went to sleep. I slept well, missing the night prayer, and woke up just before the morning. 

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