'How Bagram destroyed me'


Local Club Regular
Jan 30, 2005
'How Bagram destroyed me'

Jawed Ahmad has just been released from US military detention at Bagram air base near the Afghan capital, Kabul. In a rare insider's account of the base, he alleges abuse and, most controversially, that prison guards mishandled the Koran. He spoke to the BBC's Martin Patience.

For Jawed Ahmad the last 11 months have been the worst of his life.

Jawed Ahmad
Jawed Ahmad says he will fight to his 'last breath' for justice

"They destroyed me financially, mentally and physically," says Mr Ahmad, 21, wearing a traditional shalwar kameez and sporting a thin, wispy beard.

"But most importantly, my mother is taking her last breath in hospital just because of the Americans."

Mr Ahmad was detained for almost a year in the Bagram air base where US forces imprison suspected Taleban and al-Qaeda fighters. He was freed last Saturday.

The facility has a controversial past - two Afghans were beaten to death by their American guards in 2002.

'Don't move'

Jawed Ahmad was a well-known journalist in Kandahar working for Canadian TV and on occasions the BBC. Previously, he had spent two and half years as a translator for American special forces.

For nine days they didn't allow me sleep - I didn't eat anything
Jawed Ahmad

Profile: Bagram air base
Family visits for Bagram inmates

So, when a press officer from an American military base asked him to come for a chat, he thought nothing of it - these people were supposed to be his friends after all.

"At once around 15 people surrounded me and dropped me to the floor," says Mr Ahmad, becoming increasingly animated as he spoke.

"They shouted at me saying 'don't move' and then they take me to the prison."

Mr Ahmad says that the prison guards - he assumes they were American - then hit him and threw him against truck containers.

But he says that the abuse did not end there.

"For nine days they didn't allow me sleep. I didn't eat anything - it was a very tough time for me," he says. "Finally, they told me you're going to Guantanamo Bay."

He was accused of supplying weapons to the Taleban and having contacts with the movement.

Mr Ahmad protested, saying that as a journalist it was his job. They then, he says, shaved his head and put him in an orange jump suit.

But before leaving Kandahar - his guards had one final message.

"I will never forget it," he says. "They said 'you know what?', and I said 'what' and they said there is no right of journalists in this war."


Despite the threat of being sent to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, Mr Ahmad was flown to Bagram air base about 70km (40 miles) north of the capital, Kabul.

Bagram air base
Bagram serves as a military base, airfield and detention centre

It's where the US military detains about 600 prisoners whom they define as unlawful combatants.

"When I landed first of all they stood me in snow for six hours," he says. "It was too cold - I had no socks, no shoes, nothing. I became unconscious two times."

He continued: "They learned one word in Pashto 'jigshaw, jigshaw' - it means 'stand up'. And when I became unconscious they were saying 'jigshaw'."

For the next 11 months Mr Ahmad was held at the facility - he says that he was unsure why he was there, and when, if ever, he would be released.

He says he and his fellow prisoners were taunted continuously by the guards.

"I thought they were animals," he says. "When they cursed me, I cursed them twice. I challenged them."

Mr Ahmad says he was sent into solitary confinement after an article appeared in the New York Times about his incarceration, which apparently irritated the guards.

He says he was chained in the cell in stress positions making it almost impossible to sleep.

But most inflammatory of all, Mr Ahmad says that other prisoners told him that the guards mishandled the Koran.

"They didn't do it only one time, not two times, they did it more than 100 times. They have thrown it, they have torn it, they have kicked it."

The day Mr Ahmad learned he was being set free was an emotional moment.

"Sometimes I laughed, sometimes I cried, sometimes I prayed," he says. " Finally, the next morning they just released me."


In a statement, the US military at Bagram air base said that there was no evidence to substantiate any claims of mistreatment.

They added that Mr Ahmad had been turned over to the Afghan government as part of a reconciliation programme.

But Mr Ahmad says that he will pursue justice for what has happened to him.

"I will fight to my last breath to get my rights," he says. " I will knock on the door of Congress, I will ask Obama, I will ask Hilary Clinton, even Bush - I will not leave any person."

i just read this and they call muslims terrorist. its such a sad situation.
If it would have been related to illetrate,stuborn and extremist activities of taliban so many people would have participated in this thread to bash them.
Wow thats the spirit guys.Keep it up
Disgusting behavior. Basic human rights are sacred and one of the basic tenets of civilised society is the presumption of innocence unless proven otherwise. These military courts are simply wrong and there should be international legislation against them. Bagram, Pul i Charakhi, Abu Gharib, Guantanamo and the various secret imprisonment and investigation cells in almost all countries across the globe are stains on humanity's character and must be obliterated.
Ex-Bagram inmates recount stories of abuse, torture

Afghanistan: Ex-Bagram inmates recount stories of abuse, torture

Former prisoners return to the now abandoned US-run Bagram jail, which was notorious for enhanced interrogations.

By Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska
22 Sep 2021

Bagram, Afghanistan – Hajimumin Hamza walks through a long, dark corridor and carefully inspects the area as if he has never seen it before. Today, the 36-year old bearded man in a black turban and a traditional two-piece garment is a guide to fellow Taliban fighters in the place whose name he would rather forget. His eyes stop at a solitary chair standing on the pathway.

“They used to tie us to this chair, our hands and feet, and then applied electric shocks. Sometimes they used it for beatings, too,” Hamza says, recounting the torture he underwent during his captivity in Bagram prison between 2017 and the onset of the fall of Kabul last month, when he managed to escape.

The United States set up the Parwan Detention Facility, known as Bagram, or Afghanistan’s Guantanamo, in late 2001 to house armed fighters after the Taliban launched a rebellion following its removal from power in a military invasion.

The facility located within the Bagram airbase in the Parwan province was meant to be temporary. But it turned out otherwise. It housed more than 5,000 prisoners until its doors were forced open, days before the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan on August 15.

Sultan, who was jailed at Bagram between 2014 and August 2021, says he lost his teeth during what came to be known as enhanced interrogation techniques that rights groups say amounted to torture and violated international law. The 42 year old, who does not share his surname, opens his mouth to demonstrate the damage.
The Geneva Convention

The group of Taliban members passes a large plaque located at the prison’s wall with the words of the Geneva Convention in English and Dari but nobody cares to read it.

“The following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever (…). Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture,” it reads.

But they all know that in Bagram, none of these rules applied. As the former prisoners say, if you entered Bagram, there was no way out. And if you were not an enemy fighter before landing there, you would surely leave as one.

None of the thousands of inmates who passed through the site over the 20 years of the American war, received the status of prisoner of war.

In 2002, after the death of two Afghan prisoners in detention, the centre came under scrutiny and seven American soldiers faced charges. The abuses, however, continued and soon became part of the “Bagram handbook”.

Hamza remembers much more than the electric shocks. Hanging upside down for hours. Water and tear gas being poured on sleeping prisoners from the bars on a cell’s ceiling. Confinement in tiny, windowless, solitary cells for weeks or months with either no light or a bright bulb switched on 24/7.
‘Black jail’

According to the former inmates, none of those who experienced solitary confinement, the so-called “black jail”, whose existence the US has denied, left the cells psychologically healthy.

“There were a lot of different forms of torture, including sexual abuse. They used devices to make us less of a man,” Hamza says, without giving details. “It is psychologically hard for me to recall all that was happening. The torture was mostly done by Afghans, sometimes the Americans. But the orders came from the US.”

Hamza joined the Taliban at the age of 16 following the US invasion. In his eyes, the Americans were invaders occupying his land. He saw fighting against them as his duty as a Muslim and Afghan. He would be given training in bomb and IED-making after his classes at the agriculture department at the Kabul University.

He was detained in summer 2017 and first transferred to Safariad prison in Kabul. He then was sent to two other detention facilities before ending up in Bagram four months later. As he says, he was tortured in all the jails he passed through. In the end, he was sentenced to 25 years.

“Eighty-five per cent of people in Bagram were Taliban, the rest were Daesh [ISIL, or ISIS] members. When the American and Afghan forces conducted their operations and couldn’t find any Talibs, they would capture innocent people. Some of them were kept here for years before they were released due to lack of evidence,” Hamza says.

The former prisoners, along with a group of Talibs, walk through the cells in the prison’s barracks and take photos of what remains. Clothing, personal items and tea cups lie scattered on the floor. According to the prisoners, the cells had up to 34 inmates. The walls bear writings in Pashto and Dari.

“People were writing memories, like a diary. We did that because we wanted to leave a testimony in case the Americans kill us. So that people know that we were here,” Hamza says.

“In the beginning, we only had orange clothes but we protested against the colour and then were given white and black, more traditional garments. One piece of clothing per person. We had only one blanket each, even though it was cold in the winter months. Sometimes we had to share them with new prisoners. Some people waited months to get theirs.”
Prison rules

In front of a cell, a large plaque in Dari and English explains the prison rules.

Rule 1: NO THROWING. No throwing or assaulting guards with any object or liquids. You will not throw anything at my guards.

Rule 3: NO SPITTING. You will not spit on my guards or other detainees.

Rule 7: NO DISOBEDIENCE. You will follow all orders of the guard force. There are no exceptions.

But the rules were not always followed.

“I bought a phone from a guard for 1,000 Afghanis ($11.50), we found a hole in the wall and when we had a connection, we made phone calls,” Hamza says. “I had it for two years. It was found a few times, but I always managed to get another one.”

It was the phone that eventually helped the prisoners escape. As the US forces left the base on June 2 without informing the Afghan government and the Taliban intensified its military offensive, Bagram was left with little supervision.

“One of us felt sick and we were calling for help. But no one came. There was only silence,” Hamza says. “This was when we decided to run away. We broke the bars with the metal plates our food was served on.”

After getting out of their cells, the inmates took the weapons left behind by the US Army and captured the few Afghan guards who were still left. They eventually freed them, as well as other inmates.

“More than 5,000 prisoners escaped but I’m not sure how many. The corridors were full of people. I took my phone, found a place to charge it and made a phone call,” says Hamza.

Shortly afterwards, his brother came to pick him up. But the reality outside was unfamiliar.

“When we went out we couldn’t recognise anything, especially the kids. We spent a lot of time with adults only, we hadn’t seen our families. People, cars, everything seemed foreign,” Hamza says.
‘We are not like the Americans’

It is the first time that Hamza has returned to the prison after fleeing. A prison that he never thought he would leave. He walks through the grounds of the former US airbase, where personal items of soldiers and prisoners, food and elements of armour, lie in a disordered mess and he says he is happy that he is now free.

He does not specify what happened to the Daesh fighters who served time along with the Taliban.

About 65 kilometres south at Pul-e-Charkhi prison in Kabul, Mullah Nooruddin Turabi sits on a chair in a prison office. The Taliban leader has been recently appointed as the head of Afghanistan’s prison system, the same function he had under the previous Taliban government in the 1990s. He returned to Afghanistan after 20 years of exile in Pakistan, where many Taliban officials took refugee status following the US invasion.

“Our deeds will show that we are not like the Americans who say that they stand for human rights but committed terrible crimes. There will be no more torture and no more hunger,” Turabi says, as he explains that the new prison staff will include members of the old system and the Taliban mujahideen.

“We have a constitution but we will introduce changes to it and, based on those changes, we will revise the civil and criminal codes and the rules for civilians. There will be much less prisoners because we will follow the rules of Islam, humane rules.”

Turabi does not comment on the killing of four people during the protest in Kabul on September 10, or mounting evidence of the torture against journalists and civilians still being carried out in prisons.

When asked whether the new justice system will mirror the previous Taliban order, he answers with little hesitation.

“People worry about some of our rules, for example cutting hands. But this is public demand. If you cut off a hand of a person, he will not commit the same crime again. People are now corrupt, extorting money from others, taking bribes,” he says.

“We will bring peace and stability. Once we introduce our rules, no one will dare to break them.”

Source: Al Jazeera
No one will get punished for these crimes against humanity.

There is a generation of Afghans who have server PTSD and other mental health issues...
He says the torture was mostly done by fellow Afghans. Wonder how many Afghans think that's Pakistans fault too