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The Killid Group
Months of Torture, Freed with ApologyWritten by Enayat Alrahman Mayar
Saturday, 14 August 2010 09:29
Ustad Nur Rahman, a school teacher in Wardak district, was detained by U.S. forces in early 2009. He was repeatedly tortured, ending up in the infamous Bagram prison. Five months later he was found not guilty and released.
I met him on July 30, at the end of his school day. As he stepped out of the gate, he recognized me from a distance. His hands were white with chalk, and tears were streaming down his face.
After an exchange of greetings, we walked along a canal, and up to a rusty door that opened into his garden.
Standing under an almond tree, the 25 year old invited me to sit down. "It is shady here, let's sit." He took off his scarf, and spread it on the ground.
Then putting his book and school attendance sheet on one side, he looked around, and said: "When I was in prison, there was no one to take care of my garden. By the time I returned there was nothing (left) in my garden."
A resident of Jaghtoo district, Mr. Rahman has taught for three years in one of the district's three schools. He is married and has very young children.
Early in 2009, he was arrested by the US military on insurgency charges. (Rahman did not want to either name his village or divulge exact dates for fear of reprisal.)
"I was invited to a relative's house when suddenly the Americans came at night. They blew up the door to the house, and broke in," he recalls.
There was pandemonium inside. "I saw a black face and asked him, 'Who are you, what do you want?' He said, 'Stop, be quiet'."
A few minutes later more foreign forces arrived. "They made me get up and handcuffed me. It was a cold winter night when they forced me out, wearing only my shalwar kameez."
For the next two hours, the army searched the house. The other males present - four children and their father - were brought out of the house, blindfolded, and hands tied behind their backs. "We were put in an armoured vehicle, and taken away," he says.
The vehicle brought them to the PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Team) in Ghazni province where US military work with Polish forces. "The blindfolds were taken off in Ghazni PRT and we were separated from each other." Mr Rahman was now on his own.
He was interrogated by soldiers who accused him of being a Talib commander who had fought in many battles - charges that he kept denying. As proof that he was a civilian, he showed them his school ID card, and a copy of the question paper for the final examination that he had sent to provincial headquarters, Maidan Wardak, for verification.
"I told them 'I'm a teacher and if you don't believe me, take a look at my school ID card and the examination paper for my students'."
But the Americans refused to believe him. He was kept 12 days in a container-turned-cell in the Ghazni detention centre, along with many others.
"First the Americans interrogated me and then the Afghans. They wouldn't let us use the toilet, pray or eat. Those who used the toilet were beaten severely."
Twelve days later, Mr. Rahman was airlifted to Khost province. U.S. interrogators questioned him four times in eight days. "I told them again and again I'm a school teacher. You can get my attendance record," he says.
Electric shocks were used to torture. "They stuck stuff on my chest, and pushed a button. I felt terrible pain. This was repeated many times. They would say, 'You're not telling us the truth'."
After eight days in Khost he was moved to U.S. base and jail in Bagram, near Kabul. "They took me to a prison called Punishment Prison. Each cell was about 1.5 by 2 metres, and this included a toilet. We ate, prayed, relieved ourselves in the same cell," he testifies.
"We are sorry"
Three days later, he was escorted to a "waiting room" where he spent three more days being questioned. "They asked me where the Taliban were, and if I knew any of them. I told them there were some in my district, but they keep changing locations, and I don't know where they live, or what they do."
From the waiting room he was moved to a bigger cell, and then to a new building in Bagram - with two bathrooms - that was more hygienic.
As per U.S. military procedure, a council was set up to decide his fate. A lawyer was assigned to him.
"It took the council two weeks to come to a decision. In the third week I was taken to a doctor for a medical check-up, and thereafter to a bathroom where I took a shower. From there I was taken to a room where they told me I was being released, and that they were sorry."
Mr. Rahman was neither offered compensation nor an explanation of why he was arrested and tortured. A military helicopter took him to the Afghan National Army camp near Dar-ul-Aman in Kabul. His family, who had been informed of his release, were waiting to receive him.