Bagram, Afghanistan – Hajimumin Hamza walks by an extended, darkish hall and punctiliously inspects the world as if he has by no means seen it earlier than. At this time, the 36-year outdated bearded man in a black turban and a conventional two-piece garment is a information to fellow Taliban fighters within the place whose identify he would fairly neglect. His eyes cease at a solitary chair standing on the pathway.
“They used to tie us to this chair, our arms and ft, after which utilized electrical shocks. Typically they used it for beatings, too,” Hamza says, recounting the torture he underwent throughout his captivity in Bagram jail between 2017 and the onset of the autumn of Kabul final month, when he managed to flee.
America arrange the Parwan Detention Facility, often known as Bagram, or Afghanistan’s Guantanamo, in late 2001 to deal with armed fighters after the Taliban launched a rise up following its removing from energy in a army invasion.
The ability situated throughout the Bagram airbase within the Parwan province was meant to be momentary. However it turned out in any other case. It housed greater than 5,000 prisoners till its doorways have been pressured open, days earlier than the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan on August 15.
Sultan, who was jailed at Bagram between 2014 and August 2021, says he misplaced his tooth throughout what got here to be often known as enhanced interrogation strategies that rights teams say amounted to torture and violated worldwide legislation. The 42 12 months outdated, who doesn’t share his surname, opens his mouth to reveal the injury.
The Geneva Conference
The group of Taliban members passes a big plaque situated on the jail’s wall with the phrases of the Geneva Conference in English and Dari however no one cares to learn it.
“The next acts are and shall stay prohibited at any time and in anyplace in any way (…). Violence to life and particular person, particularly homicide of all types, mutilation, merciless remedy and torture,” it reads.
However all of them know that in Bagram, none of those guidelines utilized. As the previous prisoners say, should you entered Bagram, there was no manner out. And if you weren’t an enemy fighter earlier than touchdown there, you’d absolutely go away as one.
Not one of the hundreds of inmates who handed by the positioning over the 20 years of the American struggle, acquired the standing of prisoner of struggle.
In 2002, after the loss of life of two Afghan prisoners in detention, the centre got here beneath scrutiny and 7 American troopers confronted fees. The abuses, nevertheless, continued and shortly turned a part of the “Bagram handbook”.
Hamza remembers rather more than the electrical shocks. Hanging the wrong way up for hours. Water and tear fuel being poured on sleeping prisoners from the bars on a cell’s ceiling. Confinement in tiny, windowless, solitary cells for weeks or months with both no mild or a shiny bulb switched on 24/7.
In accordance with the previous inmates, none of those that skilled solitary confinement, the so-called “black jail”, whose existence the US has denied, left the cells psychologically wholesome.
“There have been loads of totally different types of torture, together with sexual abuse. They used gadgets to make us much less of a person,” Hamza says, with out giving particulars. “It’s psychologically onerous for me to recall all that was occurring. The torture was largely carried out by Afghans, typically the People. However the orders got here from the US.”
Hamza joined the Taliban on the age of 16 following the US invasion. In his eyes, the People have been invaders occupying his land. He noticed preventing in opposition to them as his obligation as a Muslim and Afghan. He can be given coaching in bomb and IED-making after his courses on the agriculture division on the Kabul College.
He was detained in summer season 2017 and first transferred to Safariad jail in Kabul. He then was despatched to 2 different detention amenities earlier than ending up in Bagram 4 months later. As he says, he was tortured in all of the jails he handed by. In the long run, he was sentenced to 25 years.
“Eighty-five per cent of individuals in Bagram have been Taliban, the remaining have been Daesh [ISIL, or ISIS] members. When the American and Afghan forces carried out their operations and couldn’t discover any Talibs, they’d seize harmless individuals. A few of them have been saved right here for years earlier than they have been launched as a result of lack of proof,” Hamza says.
The previous prisoners, together with a gaggle of Talibs, stroll by the cells within the jail’s barracks and take photographs of what stays. Clothes, private gadgets and tea cups lie scattered on the ground. In accordance with the prisoners, the cells had as much as 34 inmates. The partitions bear writings in Pashto and Dari.
“Individuals have been writing reminiscences, like a diary. We did that as a result of we wished to go away a sworn statement in case the People kill us. So that folks know that we have been right here,” Hamza says.
“To start with, we solely had orange garments however we protested in opposition to the color after which got white and black, extra conventional clothes. One piece of clothes per particular person. We had just one blanket every, regardless that it was chilly within the winter months. Typically we needed to share them with new prisoners. Some individuals waited months to get theirs.”
In entrance of a cell, a big plaque in Dari and English explains the jail guidelines.
Rule 1: NO THROWING. No throwing or assaulting guards with any object or liquids. You’ll not throw something at my guards.
Rule 3: NO SPITTING. You’ll not spit on my guards or different detainees.
Rule 7: NO DISOBEDIENCE. You’ll comply with all orders of the guard pressure. There are not any exceptions.
However the guidelines weren’t all the time adopted.
“I purchased a cellphone from a guard for 1,000 Afghanis ($11.50), we discovered a gap within the wall and once we had a connection, we made cellphone calls,” Hamza says. “I had it for 2 years. It was discovered a couple of occasions, however I all the time managed to get one other one.”
It was the cellphone that ultimately helped the prisoners escape. Because the US forces left the bottom on June 2 with out informing the Afghan authorities and the Taliban intensified its army offensive, Bagram was left with little supervision.
“One in every of us felt sick and we have been calling for assist. However nobody got here. There was solely silence,” Hamza says. “This was once we determined to run away. We broke the bars with the metallic plates our meals was served on.”
After getting out of their cells, the inmates took the weapons left behind by the US Military and captured the few Afghan guards who have been nonetheless left. They ultimately freed them, in addition to different inmates.
“Greater than 5,000 prisoners escaped however I’m unsure what number of. The corridors have been full of individuals. I took my cellphone, discovered a spot to cost it and made a cellphone name,” says Hamza.
Shortly afterwards, his brother got here to choose him up. However the actuality exterior was unfamiliar.
“After we went out we couldn’t recognise something, particularly the youngsters. We spent loads of time with adults solely, we hadn’t seen our households. Individuals, automobiles, the whole lot appeared international,” Hamza says.
‘We’re not just like the People’
It’s the first time that Hamza has returned to the jail after fleeing. A jail that he by no means thought he would depart. He walks by the grounds of the previous US airbase, the place private gadgets of troopers and prisoners, meals and components of armour, lie in a disordered mess and he says he’s pleased that he’s now free.
He doesn’t specify what occurred to the Daesh fighters who served time together with the Taliban.
About 65 kilometres south at Pul-e-Charkhi jail in Kabul, Mullah Nooruddin Turabi sits on a chair in a jail workplace. The Taliban chief has been just lately appointed as the top of Afghanistan’s jail system, the identical perform he had beneath the earlier Taliban authorities within the Nineties. He returned to Afghanistan after 20 years of exile in Pakistan, the place many Taliban officers took refugee standing following the US invasion.
“Our deeds will present that we’re not just like the People who say that they stand for human rights however dedicated horrible crimes. There can be no extra torture and no extra starvation,” Turabi says, as he explains that the brand new jail workers will embody members of the outdated system and the Taliban mujahideen.
“We have now a structure however we are going to introduce adjustments to it and, based mostly on these adjustments, we are going to revise the civil and felony codes and the principles for civilians. There can be a lot much less prisoners as a result of we are going to comply with the principles of Islam, humane guidelines.”
Turabi doesn’t touch upon the killing of 4 individuals in the course of the protest in Kabul on September 10, or mounting proof of the torture in opposition to journalists and civilians nonetheless being carried out in prisons.
When requested whether or not the brand new justice system will mirror the earlier Taliban order, he solutions with little hesitation.
“Individuals fear about a few of our guidelines, for instance slicing arms. However that is public demand. For those who minimize off a hand of an individual, he is not going to commit the identical crime once more. Individuals are actually corrupt, extorting cash from others, taking bribes,” he says.
“We’ll convey peace and stability. As soon as we introduce our guidelines, nobody will dare to interrupt them.”