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Taleban defector turns back on torture

by The Times UK Tuesday, Oct. 02, 2001 at 1:58 AM
das@wert.net

A DEFECTOR from the Taleban’s secret police has described how he was commanded to “find new ways of torture so terrible that the screams will frighten crows from their nests and if the person survives he will never again have a night’s sleep”.

A DEFECTOR from the Taleban’s secret police has described how he was commanded to “find new ways of torture so terrible that the screams will frighten crows from their nests and if the person survives he will never again have a night’s sleep”.

His account gives an insight into the ruthlessness and almost indiscriminate cruelty of the Afghan regime.

In an interview with Christina Lamb of The Sunday Telegraph, Hafiz Sadiqulla Hassani, 30, said he had been working as an accountant in Quetta, Pakistan, before he was conscripted to the Taleban. He said he joined because his grandfather, who was 85, had been arrested and was being badly beaten. “They would release him only if he provided a member of his family as a conscript, so I had to go.”

Mr Hassani was impressed by the Taleban. He was assigned to the secret police, patrolling streets at night looking for thieves and subversives. Later the patrols were instructed to watch for people playing cards, watching videos or keeping caged birds. They were also to take in men whose beards were too short, or women who ventured outside their houses.

“Basically any form of pleasure was outlawed,” Mr Hassani said, “and if we found people doing any of these things we would beat them with staves soaked in water — like a knife cutting through meat — until the room ran with their blood or their spine snapped. Then we would leave them with no food or water in rooms filled with insects until they died.”

Mr Hassani said that he and his colleagues always tried to do different things. “We would put some of them standing on their heads to sleep, hang others upside down with their legs tied together. We would stretch the arms out of others and nail them to posts like crucifixions. Sometimes we would throw bread to them to make them crawl.”

Mr Hassani said: “The worst thing I saw was in Kandahar jail. There was a man beaten so much, such a pulp of skin and blood, it was impossible to tell if he was wearing clothes or not. Every time he fell unconscious, we rubbed salt into his wounds.

“Nowhere else in the world has such barbarity and cruelty as Afghanistan. At that time I swore an oath that I will devote myself to the Afghan people and telling the world what is happening.”

Before escaping, Mr Hassani served as a bodyguard to Mullah Muhammad Omar, the leader of the Taleban. “He’s medium height, slightly fat, with an artificial green eye which does not move, and he’d sit on a bed issuing instructions and giving people dollars from a tin trunk,” Mr Hassani said.

“He does not say much, which is just as well as he’s a very stupid man. He only knows how to write his name, ‘Omar’.”

Contact with the leadership made Mr Hassani disillusioned. “It is the first time in Afghanistan’s history that the lower classes are governing, and by force. There are no educated people in this administration, they are all totally backward and illiterate. They have no idea of the history of the country and, though they call themselves mullahs, have no idea of Islam. Nowhere does it say men must have beards or women cannot be educated. In fact, the Koran says people must seek education.”

In his last days with the Taleban, Mr Hassani became convinced that the regime had lost control of the country to the Arabs.

“We laughed when we heard the Americans asking Mullah Omar to hand over Osama bin Laden,” he said. “The Americans are crazy. It is Osama bin Laden who can hand over Mullah Omar, not the other way round.”

Having twice deserted from the front line, fighting the Northern Alliance around Bagram, north of Kabul, Mr Hassani escaped back to Quetta last month with the help of relatives who are high-ranking Taleban members.

He said: “I think many in the Taleban would like to escape. The country is starving and joining is the only way to get food and keep your land. Otherwise there is a lot of hatred. I hate both what it does and what it turned me into.”

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