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.

Barizky was pretty sure which fate would be his.

The mullahs came two days later, says Barikzy, along with several Arabs claiming to be from Osama bin Laden's party. (Two years later, bin Laden would become the U.S.'s archenemy, his terrorist network blamed for bombing two embassies in Africa. In an impotent attempt to "get" him, we dropped bombs outside Khost and in Sudan -- succeeding only in fanning the anti-U.S. sentiment he'd helped ignite throughout the Islamic world.)

Barikzy says he recognized one of the mullahs as Maulana Fazal-ur Rehman, leader of the Pakistani fundamentalist party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam and an outspoken defender of bin Laden. (Rehman claims the U.S. is bent on destroying the true Islamic state of Afghanistan; in a rally last year, he vowed to wage war against us, and last month, he opposed the Pakistani government's plan to expel illegal Muslim immigrants wanted for terrorism in their home countries. "Pakistan should protect these people," he insisted, "as they came here as our guests to participate in the Afghan jihad" (Agence France Presse, July 13, 2000).

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

"They got the prisoners together in one place," continues Barikzy, "and Fazal-ur Rehman read verses from the Koran and said, 'We will forgive some of you on condition. We have some Muslim prisoners in the U.S. Who can make these prisoners get released? Or find a way that they may escape? That is one condition. Another is, who has relatives in the U.S. and will make some bomb explode there? America is the first enemy of Islam.'

"All of us were crying for them to forgive us," says Barikzy, "but nobody could say, 'Yes, we can do this.' Then Fazal-ur Rehman said to the commander, 'I want to kill a very bad pagan among the prisoners to receive more blessing from Allah,' and the commander said to another man, 'Bring six new prisoners from the Massoud party.' They put the six close to the mountain, and the two mullahs and four other men took Kalashnikovs, lined up and shot them one by one."

A month or so later, Barizky says, the prisoners were told that a representative of the Taliban was coming to talk to them. "This group and the Taliban kissed each other and compromised with each other -- both spoke Pashto -- and the commanders of this group announced that from this moment on, they were Taliban. We were also told that all the expenditures for this group were paid by 'Amir-ul-Islam,' and when we asked who is that (amir means 'leader of leaders') they said, 'Osama bin Laden.' Then we were told that Kabul had been captured by the Taliban and Dr. Najibullah had been hanged."

(On Sept. 27, 1996, Najibullah, the former Communist president -- who'd sought sanctuary four years before in the United Nations compound -- was dragged from the compound and killed. The Taliban placed an unlit cigarette between his fingers and hung his bloodied body in a public square alongside his brother's, announcing from mosque loudspeakers that they had taken control of Kabul. Press reports around the world repeated the Taliban's claim that they had assassinated Najibullah, but Barikzy believes he was already dead when they hung him, killed for strategic and not ideological reasons by Pakistan intelligence. Because Pakistan's ISI is widely credited with training and directing the Taliban, it's almost a moot point.)

"When I was told that Dr. Najibullah was hanged, I washed my hands from life," continues Barikzy. "When we lost Najibullah, we lost Afghanistan.

"From that moment on, it looked like the sky was raining stones. The commander went, and a new one came from the Taliban. This new man got together all the prisoners; he said, 'I want to see each person by name, and I want to know what are their crimes and how have they been tortured.' When it was my turn, the man asked, 'What was his torture?' and they said, 'We burned him by acid and blinded one of his eyes and cut one of his ears.' The man said, 'In all this time you only give him this much torture?' Then he asked them to bring more acid and told me to lie down." In a single fierce gesture, Barikzy mimes the ripping open of his shirt. "They opened the bottle and dumped acid as if pouring water on the ground (he inverts an imaginary bottle and swirls it) all over my chest. He said, 'People, do torture like this, learn from me.'

"The next day I woke up and saw my stomach -- it was just like red meat, and I passed out again. I lost my mind and my emotions. I couldn't stand; when I was standing I was falling down, and my body was bleeding and I was talking in a very bad way. I couldn't control my tongue. The others told me later that I was talking nonsense, but I couldn't remember."

Once again, another Pashtun from Qandahar took pity on him (Barikzy was one of the few Pashtun prisoners) and brought him some ointment, bandages and antibiotic tablets. "He told me to put it on at night and take it all off in the morning so the commander didn't see it. He also told me, 'When you passed out, I did another favor for you, I put water on you; otherwise the acid was very strong and would keep working and make a hole.'

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