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A dissident’s account of a Taliban torture facility (Part II)

At some point in the night, I heard a noise. I went and listened to the door to find out what was going on. I realized that someone was opening the doors of the rooms in the hallway. He shouted in Pashto, “Hurry up.” When he opened my door, said, that it was time for morning prayers and that I should go to the washroom. In the hallway, I saw two other people, one who was missing a leg and had a cane. A Talib sat on a stool in front of the toilets, holding a cable in his hand as a threat that no one should talk. After my ablution, he told me to go back to my room.  

After morning prayer, I could not fall asleep again, so I sat behind the door waiting to see what they would do with me. Someone passed a cup of tea in a green plastic cup and a loaf of bread from the hole at the bottom of the door, and said, “It is breakfast.” I had no appetite and neither ate the bread nor drank the tea.  

Eventually, I heard people calling out names. Finally, my name was called. As I stepped out of my room, they tied my eyes. 

I was so scared and thought that they were going to kill me. A guard took my shoulder and we moved into another room. When the interrogator asked my name, I answered. He demanded that I recite the names of all my close male relatives, even sons of aunts and uncles, as well as their jobs.   

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After that, he accused me of spreading “negative propaganda against the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.” I remember him saying, “You have a group in the university whose purpose is to publish negative propaganda about the Islamic Emirate in order to make this system look bad to the people and the world.” I denied, explaining that I am a student who has, on occasion, expressed personal opinions on my X account.  

He responded, “Don’t hide anything, and don’t create trouble for yourself. Tell me, who is the head of that group? And who are the members? Introduce them to us and I will release you right now.” I answered, “Maulawi Sahib, there is no such group at all. What can I tell you? And who should I introduce to you?” He did not accept my explanation. Then he punched and kicked me several times. He left the room, and I was sitting there with my eyes still blindfolded. I knew that someone else had entered with him. The first person spoke to the second person in Pashto. I understood enough to decipher that he said I was hiding something. 

The second person started hitting my back with a cable. Every time the cable landed on my back, I screamed in pain, but he had no mercy. No matter how much I begged and swore that there is no such group and that he would stop, he would not accept my pleas. “You wicked, you apostate, you disbeliever,” he said until the interrogator finally stopped the torture, saying, “Enough! Now he is going to tell everything.” But I had nothing to say. “Put this renegade back in solitary so that he can think carefully and then he will confess everything himself,” the interrogator told the guard who had taken me from my cell. When back in my cell, he removed my blindfold. I saw that they had brought a bowl of rice for lunch. I had no appetite. I could not sit because of the pain of the beating; my back and legs were black. I was thinking about what I should do to get rid of them. 

These words of the Talib interrogator kept ringing in my ears: “You introduce other people, I will release you.” I could give the names of one or two of my classmates but my conscience did not accept that I would subject another innocent person to torture. 

I convinced myself that my writings did not have any criminal aspect and I am not guilty. I said to myself that maybe tomorrow he wouldn’t ask more questions and maybe I would be released. On the second night in the room, I couldn’t sleep on my back because the wounds from the cable were too itchy. As I walked into the room, I thought about my family, especially my mother, whom I used to call every night. They must have been worried when I didn’t call, and they might have heard that I was arrested by the Taliban.  

The next day began like the previous day. They blindfolded me and took me to the interrogation room, which I now knew was a torture room. When I entered the torture room, I realized the interrogator’s voice as belonging to yesterday’s interrogator. “Did you have a good time in solitary?” he asked.  

“Today you have to say everything,” he told me. I responded: “Maulawi Sahib, I swear to God that there is no such group.”  

Then he asked, “Which institution or country supports you to make negative propaganda against the Islamic Emirate, the system for which the nation sacrificed 95,000 people.” I answered that I am not supported by any country or institution. He asked, “Then why did you write?” I said that according to the constitution of Afghanistan, every Afghan has the right to express his thoughts through speech and writing. When I said this, he loudly shouted, “You have spread propaganda against the country’s system and lied and slandered it.” He hit me in the face with his fists, adding, “With your writings, you wanted to spoil the name of the Islamic Emirate and make it look bad to the world. Tell me that you are supported by which country?” 

He continued, “We have your phone. I checked all your communications and I know who you are in contact with, and where you get support from.” I answered, “I am not supported by anyone.” He said that a person from Germany was in contact with me, asking, “Tell me how much money that person sends you monthly, and who is he?” I responded, “I have nothing to do with such a person and I do not know such a person in Germany, at all.” He said, “Don’t lie. He always sends messages on WhatsApp, and you are in contact with each other.” I asked that he allow me to see the phone number. He said the name was Khair Mohammad, asking “Who is he?” I responded, “Yes, he is a classmate from my high school years.” He emigrated and is currently in Germany, where he sometimes texts and calls to check on me.” The interrogator then asked, “How much money does this person send you from Germany every month?” I said, “God is a witness that he does not send me any money. If you don’t believe me, call him and ask what kind of relationship I have with him.” 

The interrogation continued. “Do you get support from Iran?” he asked. “This is not true at all. I have no relationship with anyone in Iran. After all, what can I do to be supported by Iran?” I responded. He then stated, “Don’t lie. So, if this is the case, why do you get the most calls from Iran?” I explained that my two brothers as well as cousins are in Iran. They have probably discovered that I am missing so they are calling to know about my fate. He asked about the type of work my brothers do in Iran.  

He then asked, “Are you working together with Zarifa Yaqoubi?” adding that he knows we are on the same team, that we have meetings every week, and that our goal is to discredit the Taliban. I told him that I didn’t know her. “Zarifa Yaqoubi has also been arrested,” he responded.“I will bring you together and find out who supports you.” I said that I am ready to face her and I emphasized that we do not know each other. The interrogator insisted that there was no way that I don’t have any support, otherwise, why would I publish such material? He kept repeating that I should tell him who was providing support to me.  

The interrogator left the torture room and returned a few moments later with another person, who told me, “Now I will teach you a lesson, you evil apostate!” He started beating me. Every time he slapped my face, I fell to the ground. He put his knees on my chest and pressed with all his weight as he hit me in the face with his fists. He would not accept my excuses and pleas. 

After the beating, he started whipping me. Finally, the integrator ordered him to stop. I think they understood that my condition was so bad that I no longer have the stamina to answer the questions. The interrogator issued an order: “Throw this apostate into solitary again.” The Talib gunmen took my arms and returned me to my room. This was my second day in solitary confinement. 

I saw a bowl of rice with an apple left in the room. I spent my time alone in agonizing pain, while also in fear of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. I didn’t know what answer to give them so that they would let me go. 

Friday was difficult and stressful. Saturday and Sunday were also spent behind closed doors, waiting to see what they will decide about me. During my three days in solitary confinement, they only came three times a day to let me use the washroom. 

This narrative will continue. 

*Abdul Rahman Haqmal is the pseudonym for a student who was imprisoned by the Taliban and who is now living in exile. 

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