Once, Kabul’s main prison was crowded with thousands of Taliban captured and arrested by the govt. On Monday, a Taliban commander strolled through its empty halls and cell blocks, showing his friends where he had once been imprisoned.
It was a symbol of the sudden and startling new order in Afghanistan after the militant group swept into the capital nearly a month ago and threw out the crumbling, U.S.-backed government it had fought for 20 years.
The Taliban now run Pul-e-Charkhi Prison, a sprawling complex on Kabul’s eastern outskirts. After capturing the town, the fighters freed all the inmates there, the govt. guards fled, and now dozens of Taliban fighters are running the power.
The commander, who refused to provide his name, was on a private visit to the complex with a gaggle of his friends. He told The Associated Press he had been arrested around a decade ago in eastern Kunar province and was dropped at Pul-e-Charkhi, bound and blindfolded.
“I feel so terrible once I remember those days,” he said. He said prisoners suffered abuses and torture. He was imprisoned for around 14 months before he was released. “Those days are the darkest days of my life, and now this the happiest moment on behalf of me that i’m free and are available here without worrying .”
Many Afghans also as governments round the world are alarmed by the swift Taliban seizure of power, fearing the movement will impose an identical, harsh rule as they did during their first time ruling within the 1990s. except for the Taliban fighters, it’s a flash to savor a victory after years of grueling fighting — and to ascertain a city few of them have entered since the war began.
For some of the Taliban guards accompanying the AP, it had been the primary time they’d entered the abandoned cell blocks. They looked with curiosity through the cells, still suffering from things the last inmates left behind — fabrics hanging from the walls and windows, small rugs, water bottles.
One fighter exchanged his sandals for a far better pair he found during a cell. Then he found yet a far better pair and exchanged again. Others played with the previous prisoners’ makeshift weight bars.
Pul-e-Charkhi had an extended , disturbing history of violence, mass executions and torture. Mass graves and torture cells were uncovered dating from the Soviet-backed governments of the late 1970s and 1980s. Under the U.S.-backed government, it had been more known for poor conditions and overcrowding — its 11 cell blocks were built to deal with 5,000 inmates, but were often full of quite 10,000, including Taliban prisoners and criminals.
Taliban prisoners often complained of abuses and beatings, and there have been regular riots. Still, they maintained their organization behind bars, winning concessions like access to cell phones and longer time outside their cells.
Some of the Taliban now guarding the location were former inmates. the govt guards have fled and don’t dare return, fearing reprisals. Though the power remains largely empty, one section holds around 60 people imprisoned within the past few weeks, who the guards said were mostly accused criminals and drug addicts.