The Torture Place

He was a godless communist journalist in Afghanistan -- so they took his eye, cut his ear and splashed acid all over his body. Now he is safe in St. Louis. But still burning.

He says the commander's men briefly translated the articles, first for two Arabs in their party and then into Urdu for a man from Pakistan. Then, he says, they started beating him, saying, "You are a very stupid man. Nobody will flee from Islam. You see that God gave you to us. We were looking for you in the higher, but we found you on the earth."

They took him outside and carried miniature paintings and other valuables out to their small Japanese trucks. Shoved into the yard, Barikzy heard the commander tell his men to pour petrol throughout the house and burn it.

They drove for about two hours, north into the mountains, and when his captors untied him from the truck, Barikzy says he heard "very faint moaning, like a sick dog," and smelled a sick-sweet rot. As he walked, his feet brushed against what he knew instinctively were bodies, and they did not move. "For half-an-hour, there was silence all around me; they went somewhere to pray and worship God," he says. "I was crying, imagining what would happen to me. It was morning now -- I could feel the sunshine -- and because they tied my eyes so tightly I was feeling very much pain in my eyes." He also felt someone watching him, and then a prickle of alarm heralded the others' return from prayer: "The commander, whom they called Mullah Anwar, said my eyes should be opened. When they took off the turban, my face was all swollen, everything was cloudy, but after a few minutes I could see everything clearly. The commander was tall, with a long black beard, and he wore a long white shalwar (dress tunic) and a white turban. He told me to look around and see all the different kinds of tortures. I saw naked bodies -- old people, young people, women, children. Some were still alive. Suddenly I started shouting and crying loudly because they had not taken me to a court for any trial; they just brought me straight to the torture place. I said, 'If I am a criminal, why don't you punish me according to the law?' and the commander said, 'This is the law of Islam.' He asked if I knew what would happen to me, and I said, of course, he would kill me. Then he told me, 'Whoever fights with pen against Islam, they should not be killed suddenly. We will kill you gradually.' He told one of his men to get a bayonet and take out my eye."

Abhaseen Barikzy wears dark glasses even indoors, shielding his 2-year-old daughter, Silsila, from his wounds
Jennifer Silverberg
Abhaseen Barikzy wears dark glasses even indoors, shielding his 2-year-old daughter, Silsila, from his wounds

Gesturing for his wife to take their 2-year-old, Silsila, into another room, Barikzy removes his glasses. His face is expressionless, the eye socket the bright red of fresh blood. "They took a syringe and shot acid into the eye that was bleeding," he continues, voice dull. "I started jumping -- it was boiling. Then they put pepper and salt in there, and I passed out. They said for three days and nights I was passed out."

When he woke up, they brought him a glass of tea and a little bread, gave him a cloth to clean his face and a tablet to relieve the pain and a fresh tunic, because his had been torn and blackened. "They were never friendly; they kept insulting me the entire time," he adds. "I did not understand why they did those kind things until later, when another prisoner told me they offer tea and bread so we survive longer and they may torture more and get more blessing. They think they are doing the jihad for God's sake, so for them, a person like me, a Communist who didn't believe in God, it was a pleasure for them to torture me.

"Later that day, the commander came with two Arab men and said they shouldn't give me a big torture today, just two simple ones. They cut my earlobe off. I said, 'Why don't you cut the whole ear off?' and they said the next time they would. They put the lobe in my hand and said, 'Look at this.' Then they put salt and pepper in the wound, and for almost half-an-hour I was crying and shouting and they were looking at me, laughing." He falls silent, and the muscles in his jaw and arms clench until they quiver. "It was better for me to die than for them to laugh like that."

Finally, he says, "Another man came who had a very terrifying face. He filled the syringe with acid and injected on the inside of the forearm." He holds out his right arm, turning it to show the welt. "I was burning and shouting, 'Please give me water!' but they wouldn't. When they injected it, I felt like they were pounding a bunch of nails into me. Minutes later I was losing the skin, and the meat, the flesh, it was bubbling and there was a big hole, very red, as if a dog had taken out the flesh.

"Then they told me that for one week I could relax."

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