Prisoners, tortured in US-controlled Bagram Prison, recount nightmarish days

Former prisoners of Bagram tell Anadolu Agency their time in prison known as 'Afghanistan's Guantanamo Prison'.

Prisoners, tortured in US-controlled Bagram Prison, recount nightmarish days

Three Taliban members imprisoned for years in Bagram Prison established after the US invasion of Afghanistan, recalled how US soldiers treated the prisoners inhumanely.

The US blamed terrorist al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden for the attack on the Twin Towers in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, and requested Laden from the leaders of the Taliban organization resisting the invading forces in Afghanistan.

When the Taliban leader of the time, Mullah Omar, announced that he would not hand over Laden to the US, the Washington administration launched an attack on Afghanistan.

During this time, the US placed rewards of up to million dollars on the heads of the terror group's top executives to break the Taliban resistance, and 50 million flyers with photographs and cash prizes were thrown on the 30 million people of Afghanistan by airplanes and helicopters. Unable to get what it wanted, the US administration set up prisons to intimidate and push back Taliban members and supporters.

One of the most important of these prisons was Bagram Prison, 50 kilometers north of the capital, Kabul. Bagram Prison, which has 5,000 to 6,000 detainees in 120 wards, was established by the US in 2002 at the Bagram Air Base campus.

Known as “Afghanistan's Guantanamo Prison,” managed by the CIA, thousands of Afghans were interrogated and tortured by US forces on various pretexts.

Three Taliban members, imprisoned for years in Bagram Prison, which is known as the "Black Dungeon," told Anadolu Agency about their years in prison.

Mevlevi Abdulhalim Shadim, who was 33 years old when he was arrested, said he spent seven years and three months in Bagram Prison and witnessed many tortures.

“They brought me here by making many unfounded allegations about me,” Shadim said.

“They were claiming that I was one of the leading commanders of the Haqqani group,” he added. “They announced in the newspaper published in the province where I live, that 'Mevlevi Shadim is a terrorist from the commanders of the Haqqani organization.' Then they arrested and imprisoned me.”

‘We didn't eat for 3 days’

Denying the claim that he was affiliated with the Haqqani group, Shadim said: “I stayed in this ward for seven years and three months. At that time I was 33 years old. I was married and had four children. I was tortured a lot. There were days when we did not eat for three days.” “They were using a spray that burned our eyes from above through the wires. They took us out during winter and kept us in cold for three days. As a meal, they gave half a handful of bread,” he added.

About the ward they lived in, Shadim said: “We were around 30-40 people here. There was no area wider than half a meter to lie down.”

“They gave us bread through an iron gap. We were being handcuffed through this gap when they were taking us to the court,” he said.

‘No curtains in toilet and bathroom’

Showing the toilet and shower at the edge of the ward, Shadim said: “This was the toilet. 30-40 people were using this place.”

“At first, this half wall did not exist either. They did not allow curtains either. We used to perform ablution and take a bath here. There was no curtain in the bathroom and they were taking pictures while we were taking a bath.”

Asked about his feelings, Shadim said: “We have become so strong through what we went through in this prison that we will not stop defending our faith, homeland, and religion even if we are imprisoned 100 more times.”

“We came out of these experiences stronger, we did not become weak, alhamdulillah (thanks to God),” he added.

‘Is this human rights?’

According to another Taliban member, Ahmed Davud Mansuri, who stayed at the prison, the US’ "mask of human rights advocacy" has fallen in the Bagram Prison.

Mansuri, arrested at the age of 32 on charges of making propaganda against the US, spent seven years in prison in Bagram.

“Human rights defenders imprisoned us here. We stayed for years. Is this how human rights work? Look at the situation here,” he said.

Noting that the wards were very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter, he said: “Actually there were air conditioners. But they set it for cold in winter and heat in summer to torture us. They were adjusting the temperature of the ward for torturing us.”

On withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, he said: “We thank God. The US was a big occupying power that put the Afghans in a very difficult situation. The oppressed Afghan people defeated them with the help of God. We should be very grateful for that.”

Shukrullah Bey, one of the madrasah teachers in Afghanistan, said the US designed and realized the Bagram Prison as a place where it would not be possible for people to live.

Noting that there were many Quran memorizers and scholars in his ward, Shukrullah said: “There were very valuable people here. Not knowing what was going on outside, they were just waiting, away from their homes and children. We were staying here. We were teaching, reading the Quran, and praying. Mawlawi Sabir was giving us lessons for translation of the Quran.”

‘Either die, go insane, or be crippled’

Shukrullah said: “They just coin the phrase 'human rights' that they don't apply. Is this human rights? Can a person live here?”

“They had built a prison where it was impossible for a human to live. One would either die, go insane, or be crippled here. That was their purpose. Not even an animal can live here. How can a person live?” he added.

There were also elderly staying in the ward for 14-15 years, he noted, saying: “They did not have the strength to walk because of (some) diseases. They could not even meet their toilet and ablution needs on their own. The prisoners were helping these people go to the toilet or perform ablution.”

The prison administration did not take care of the sick people in the ward, he said and added: “When we were seriously ill, we would make noise by knocking anything hard on the ground to draw their attention.”

“When we got sick, we would call the doctor. The doctor would ask 'Who is sick?' from above through the wires. When we told him, "This person is sick, he can't breathe," he would say that there is nothing wrong with his condition and then leave,” he explained.

“In order for them to take care of the patient, we would cause a kind of uprising by hitting the ground and irons in this way, saying Takbir (Arabic phrase 'Allahu Akbar,' meaning God is great),” he said. “Only then, they would come and ask. They would ask what was going on, and we would ask them to take our patient to the infirmary.”

“To get the patient out, they would open the iron door, take the patient out, and handcuff the person in this way from behind. They were taken to the infirmary, being pressed on their neck,” he said.

“I remember them laying us all down on the concrete for 13 days in the cold. We slept on concrete for days. We've seen all kinds of torture,” he recalled.