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It was a throwaway line in a grim Human Rights Watch report that despatched me on my quest: “The Taliban run dozens of unacknowledged prisons.” Right here, for me, was a brand new and sinister facet of the type of parallel authorities that this rebel group has constructed in Afghanistan.
Bombings and shootings have been written about at size. These prisons have been an ignored aspect within the Taliban’s terror marketing campaign: a below-the-radar community of incarceration that’s ready to arbitrarily swallow up and punish residents who’re thought of enemies of the group.
Because the Kabul bureau chief for The New York Occasions, I surmised that this community will need to have affected a considerable variety of Afghans. My aim was to explain the bodily options of those prisons as intently as potential, the situations below which the Taliban’s prisoners are held and the psychological aftermath. What adopted was a visit north, to Badakhshan Province, and a collection of wrenching accounts of beatings, privation, despair and lingering trauma, culminating in a single interview I’ll keep in mind for a very long time.
A dignified man of about 60, already previous by Afghan requirements, instructed me how he had watched the Taliban slowly put to demise his 32-year-old son, Nasrullah, a military officer, in one in every of their makeshift prisons.
The daddy, Malik Mohammadi, was allowed to go to Nasrullah thrice over 9 days, throughout which his son was disadvantaged of meals and drugs for his epilepsy, and was systematically crushed. All of it befell in an deserted home.
“They chained him to a column. He was on a wood mattress body. The chain was tight on his palms and legs. He was dying,” Mr. Mohammadi stated.
Nasrullah lapsed into unconsciousness and died on his tenth day of detention.
This painful story, which I wrote about in an article in late February, was recounted with nice calm. Mr. Mohammadi was not attempting to realize my sympathy. He merely needed to bear witness to what had occurred to his son.
A resigned half smile performed on his lips as he talked, as if he acknowledged the futility of talking — his son would nonetheless be lifeless, it doesn’t matter what he stated.
On the finish, I did one thing I not often do, as a journalist who, over practically 40 years of reporting, has heard many horrible tales, and been witness to various: I put my arms round Mr. Mohammadi and gave him a hug.
The rule is all the time, don’t get entangled within the tragedies of others. It’s not a part of the job. Typically although, not typically, the rule is bent. Mr. Mohammadi appeared very alone in his grief. He accepted my gesture with out embarrassment and took his depart.
The interview with Mr. Mohammadi befell on a lodge balcony within the northern provincial capital of Faizabad. A buzkashi match — a tough recreation of mounted polo by which the headless corpse of a calf or goat is chased by riders round an immense area — was unfolding noisily beneath us.
Earlier than the interview, I had ranged far and vast within the mountains of Badakhshan searching for ex-prisoners of the Taliban, with my small and glorious workforce of colleagues: the photographer Kiana Hayeri; a reporter within the Kabul bureau, Najim Rahim; and an excellent Faizabad freelance journalist and driver (who requested to not be named).
One among our locations was a forlorn rural outpost of an ineffectual pro-government militia in Jorm District. We have been instructed as quickly as we arrived that we must make the interviews fast, because the Taliban had gotten wind of our arrival. So we hurried, and afterward the Faizabad colleague sped our small automobile by means of the hills to get us out of there.
As we have been making our manner again, we might see the white flag of the Taliban fluttering throughout the river. Once we arrived again on the town, our colleague instructed us with grim humor that the final stretch of highway was identified domestically as “the valley of demise” as a result of Taliban kidnappings weren’t rare.
Simply the week earlier than, he instructed us, a decide from Faizabad had been kidnapped on it.
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