Thursday, January 11, 2007

Some misunderstandings could end up in Guantanamo

Faqeer Ahmadi was held captive in Guantanamo on terror connection allegations for over a year. He is 34 years old from Kharwar district of Wardak province. I am going to go back in the chain of events to tell you his story.

*******
The mug is on the small table next to my dad’s picture, the steam of hot tea is coming out dancingly and mixing with the air as it disappears.

I just sat down to taste the spicy green tea which I bought today, I was told a whole lot about it by the salesman, I am holding the mug with a lot of expectations.
The door was knocked as I had my first sip - it was good. Two cops are standing outside the gate, I heard them whispering when I was approaching the door.
“I have fresh spicy tea which I bought today, it’s suppose to be very good, do you want a cup of it?” I asked
They frowned at me “you have a gun, you were supposed to hand it over to the disarmament team!” said one of them.

“Yes but it’s for personal protection and I have a permit” I said.
“You either have to bring it now or we’ll come inside and take it” said the police.
They shoved me aside and were trying to come in. I pushed them back and locked the door, they were punching and kicking the door trying to break in.
I said “you can’t come in, how should I know you are not thieves”
“We have uniform”
“yes, but almost in all thieveries they had police uniform”

The knocking continued for some minutes and then they sat behind the door and told me if I was not going to open they will radio the station to ask for back up and commander to come and I will be arrested. they did so and after a couple of hours there were several more police outside.
One of them with a more authoritative voice introduced himself as the commander and said
- surrender your gun; you are not suppose to have it!
- I don’t have a gun.
- You do, the district chief of intelligence reported to us.

This rang a bill; this afternoon I visited him to tell him I have a rifle with a permit from Kabul for my family protection. He registered the permit and the gun and told me there should be no more paper work and I can take the gun home.

I am now thinking what shall I do, shall I open the gate or not. My brothers and cousins are already in the yard trying to think what to do, but my thought was disturbed by policemen over the walls shouting now I should open.
Didn’t have many choices, they came inside and took me and the gun to the district centre.

I am in the police station in Kharwar district of Wardak province and I am sitting in one room with the cops. To my surprise I saw the chief of intelligence, Mohammad Usman in the room too. I told him, I came to you this afternoon and showed you my permit and you are the one who came to my house after the thieves took everything a month ago, and you helped me prove to the police office in Kabul that you can’t protect me and I need to have a permit but the police now has intruded into my house, hassling me and my family at night. He was just nodding and said:

- there has been some problem with your permit; can I see it?

I give him the permit and he said he is going to keep the permit and the gun and will contact Kabul tomorrow and resolve the misunderstanding. He said I could go now and come tomorrow.

Came back home, my tea was cold now and I couldn’t bother to make new one, went to sleep and called my office first thing in the morning to let them know I had to take care of some stuff in the village and I would come in the afternoon.

I went to the police station the day and tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and after that for several days. But Usman, the chief of intelligence had nothing to tell me yet. he was still waiting for the confirmation.

After a week he said, everything was fine with my permit and I could take the gun but I had to buy dinner for the cops and sign a letter that I received my gun back.

As I was walking out of the station I was stopped by two cops and they took my gun back.
i went back to the commander and Usman, they said, I was lying and they have a letter and they don’t have my gun anymore.
I came back home but I wasn’t feeling safe, I felt - if the cops are trying to steal there is no insurance that the thieves are not going to come back and there is for sure no faith in police that they could stop or catch them.

I decided to move in to town and found a flat in Kabul.
I have a small construction company specialising in building bridges and hand pump well.

I am not quite used to live in a flat but I had to learn and accommodate.
I woke up one morning and I couldn’t find my car in the parking place. the parking lot is protected by police who received some monthly fee for the service. But they couldn’t tell me where my car was and they were very sure it should be where I parked it.

I called the police station to tell them my car was stolen. They filed a report and referred me to their superior and the procession continued until I was in the office of Kabul chief criminal investigation office.

A man with thick moustache and a big camouflage jacket was sitting behind a big desk with Karzai and Massoud pictures hanging over his head. He is looking at a piece of paper which has my car specifications on it.
- so somebody stole your car
- seems like it, I don’t have it anymore
- can I see the key
- Why does that make a difference?
- It’s a prove of your ownership
- but you have all the documents in front of you.

Then he started to ask me if I am suspected of anyone I said No. he tried it for an hour but I really didn’t suspect anyone.

- who else was using your car
- sometimes friends and family
- what are the names and address?

I knew if I give him any name, they would be in trouble. He was starting to get edgy with me,
- if you don’t give me any suspects how the hell I am supposed to find the thieve. Have you ever repaired your car?

I told him no but of course I did, I had the car for two years and I was doing regular check ups. Then I saw a light on his eyes and he said here it says you have once made a replicant key,

- did you know the key maker could keep the sketch and can make one anytime.

We are going to bring in the key-man for investigation; he is the major lead we have at this point.
They called me after two days and I saw the keymaker behind the bars, I couldn’t recognise him first because I met him a year a go and it was for a few minutes. But he wasn’t alone. I asked the investigator, who are the other guys?
- they are all prime suspects they are all connected to the keymaker.

The key maker said, he wanted to see me in private.
“look I know it’s not your fault that we are here and you know I didn’t do it nor did these other guys. This entire case is a pretext for the police to make some money and I have talked with the investigator if you say we are not your suspects they will let us go we have paid them.”

Then the investigator came and said if he shall keep them until they talk. I said I don’t think it’s them. He said

-well if you don’t think they are your suspects then we should let them go.

I called the police a couple of weeks later and a colonel told me:

- You didn’t have any suspects and you know if you don’t have any we can’t find your car.
- You should do your job without my hint.
- You are very naïve. We all knew the car was in Pakistan before you know it was stolen.

A month was gone from my last day of visit to police. One day the police came to my office and arrested me along with NATO inspectors.
A British soldier from NATO told me there was a suicide car attacked on NATO troops in Kabul where two NATO soldier died and they found the number plate of the improvised explosive car, after they tracked it they found out I was the owner.

I said:
- But you know my car was stolen more than a month ago and I have reported it to the police.
- But you didn’t report to us. That is why we take you for questioning.
- I didn’t know you were running the country.
I think I said a few words which got me into trouble and I know I shouldn’t have said it.
I was kept in Kabul jail for a couple of days then they hand me over to Americans in Bagram airbase where I lived in a tent for a couple of days eating MREs and then according to my guardians they found enough evidence that me or my company has financed the attack and somehow they linked me to the suicider. One day they put a black sack over my head and when they took it off they told me I was in Guantanamo.

*****
My name is sanjar qiam I am a journalist. I met Faqeer Ahmadi in the ceremony held for prisoners release by Afghan Peace and Reconciliation commission. He was among eight Afghan men who were released from Guantanamo. He was sitting under the sun caressing his long beard when I came and sat next to him.
- Are you going to shave it?
- Shave what?
- Your beard
- Yeah sure, the peace commission give us 2000 Afghanis to buy razor blade

He showed me an envelope and burst laughing.
I was shaking my head and smiling, he asked me:

- why aren’t you recording the chairman
- I have it in archive; he says the same thing every time.
- I could guess but there is not much else he could say. I am just hoping it’s not going to be too long. Need to see my family - can’t wait.

Faqeer really stroke me, one would think he might be furious and pissed off with Americans. but he was very funny and took the whole thing as a misunderstanding.

1 comment:

julien said...

We would like to publish your article on Guantanamo on www.rsfblog, a news site edited by Reporters Without Borders. Do you give us the authorization?
Regards,
Julien Pain