Afghanistan: Bagram Victims Recount Stories Of Abuse & Torture


Twenty years after the United States invasion of Afghanistan, Afghans who were imprisoned, tortured and abused at Bagram airbase and prison complex are now able to revisit their jail cells after the Taliban takeover. Taliban fighters say they feel happy to be there once again as victors, not captives.

Bagram Prison

In 2005, The New York Times obtained a 2,000-page United States Army investigatory report concerning the homicides of two unarmed civilian Afghan prisoners by U.S. military personnel. The two prisoners, Habibullah and Dilawar, were repeatedly chained to the ceiling and beaten. Both died from treatment.

Military coroners ruled that both the prisoners’ deaths were homicides. Autopsies revealed severe trauma to both prisoners’ legs, describing the trauma as comparable to being run over by a bus.

Bagram Prison had been built by the Soviets as an aircraft machine shop during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The center is part of Bagram Air Base in the ancient city of Bagram.

The Victims

Habibullah died on December 4, 2002. Several U.S. soldiers hit the chained man with so-called “peroneal strikes,” or severe blows to the side of the leg above the knee. This incapacitates the leg by hitting the common peroneal nerve.

Dilawar, who died on December 10, 2002, was a 22-year-old Afghan taxi driver and farmer who weighed 122 pounds and was described by his interpreters as neither violent nor aggressive. When beaten, he repeatedly cried “Allah!” The outcry appears to have amused U.S. military personnel. The act of striking him in order to provoke a scream of “Allah!” eventually “became a kind of running joke,” according to one of the MPs.

There were a significant number of other cases of similar torture.

The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command concluded that there was probable cause to charge 27 officers and enlisted personnel with criminal offenses in the Dilawar case, ranging from dereliction of duty to maiming and involuntary manslaughter.

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