The jail used to be packed with thousands of Taliban captured during the war. Now, free, they return to explore it without fear.
In its day, Kabul’s main prison was crammed with thousands of Taliban captured and arrested by the Afghan government. On Monday, a commander of the group walked through its corridors and empty cells, showing his friends the place where he had been imprisoned.
It is a sign of the sudden and surprising new order in afghanistan after the insurgent group’s swift offensive stormed the capital nearly a month ago and toppled a weak, US-backed government that it had fought for the past 20 years.
The Taliban now control the penal Pul-e-Charkhi, a huge complex on the eastern outskirts of Kabul. After taking the capital, the combatants released all the prisoners, the government guards fled and now dozens of insurgents guard the center.
The commander, who refused to identify himself by name, was making a personal visit to the complex with a group of friends. He told The Associated Press that he was arrested about a decade ago in the eastern Kunar province and taken to Pul-e-Charkhi. tied up and blindfolded.
“I feel very bad when I remember those days,” he said, noting that the inmates suffered abuse and torture.
He was imprisoned for about 14 months before being released. “Those are the darkest days of my life, and now this is the happiest time for me because I am free and I come here without fear“.
Many Afghans, like governments around the world, have been alarmed by the Taliban’s rapid rise to power for fear that it will impose a government as severe as its first stage in the 1990s. But for its fightersyes, it’s time to savor victory after years of bloody fighting, and to see a city where few of them had been since the start of the war.
For some of the Taliban guards accompanying the AP, it was the first time they had entered the abandoned cell blocks. They were curiously observing facilities that they still kept what the last inmates left behind: cloth hanging from walls and windows, small rugs, bottles of water.
A fighter traded her sandals for a better pair that he found in one of the cells. And he repeated the operation when he found a better one. Others played with the makeshift barbells made by the former tenants.
A history of violence
Pul-e-Charkhi has a long and disturbing history of violence, mass executions and torture.
The common pits and the torture cells discovered date from governments backed by the former Soviet Union in the late 1970s and 1980s.
Under the Washington-backed executive, he was best known for its poor conditions and overcrowdingIn its 11 cell blocks, built to house 5,000 inmates, there were typically more than 10,000, including Taliban fighters and common criminals.
The Taliban often complained of abuse and beatings, and riots were common. However, they remained organized behind bars, winning concessions such as cell phone access and more time out of cubicles.
Some of the fighters now guarding the compound were locked up there before.
Government guards they have fled and do not dare to return for fear of retaliation. Although the prison is mostly empty, in one section there are around 60 people arrested in recent weeks for common crimes and drug addiction, explained the new guards.
Felipe Dana, Associated Press