Last week COL Karim opened up to Merrill and me and talked about what it was like living under the Taliban. He shared several experiences with us that while I’ve heard similar stories before, to hear them from someone who experienced them, gave them a different feel.
When the Taliban was in power, they enforced the religious principle that if a family member was murdered and caught, the victim’s family could kill the murderer. Karim was in the Helman province when he heard there was going to be an execution in the central soccer stadium. He went because he was curious as he’d never seen one before. The murderer’s hands and feet were bound and I’m assuming he was lying in the middle of the full soccer stadium. Karim says that if the family had forgiven him, he would have been spared but the family was not in a forgiving mood. A family member had a knife in his hand, walked up to the murderer and decapitated him with a knife.
Karim says that it still raises the hair on the back his neck just thinking about it. I can’t even imagine what that must have been like.
He said it was not uncommon for thieves to have their hands cut off if they were caught stealing. He said that the soccer stadium in Kabul saw many hands separated from their owners.
If any of you read The Kite Runner, you read about the adulteress that was stoned. He said that was not an uncommon occurrence either. If you were caught in the act, you were taken to the soccer stadium, buried up to your chest and then stoned to death.
What a bloody way to enforce the law.
He was awakened in the middle of the night by banging on the security gate to the apartment building he lived. He looked out his third floor bedroom window and saw 4-5 men in black turban’s at the gate. Since no one was going down to answer the gate he did. He was joined by the man who lived on the second floor a few minutes later. The Taliban guys said that they had heard music coming from the second floor of the apartment building. The Taliban had outlawed all music. I guess they were in a forgiving mood as they didn’t take the other man away. All they told him was to bring the cassette player and the tape to the police office the next day.
When the man showed up at the police station and presented the tape, they said that was not the music they heard and to go back home and get the tape they had heard. This time they were not so forgiving. Before they let him go they beat him. They didn’t imprison him however, because he was so old. At least that’s what Karim said.
One day the Taliban were going from house to house searching for VCR’s and tapes. Those were also outlawed. Well Karim and his wife hid theirs in a secret drawer they had in their china hutch. Fortunately for them, they weren’t discovered.
When the Taliban took over they captured one of the ex-presidents and hung him and his brother outside the US embassy. Karim was walking by, not knowing what he was going to see, and saw the bodies hanging there. He could tell that the bodies had been beaten from the condition they were in. The Taliban were going to leave them hanging for three days but people from the men’s village persuaded them to let them take the bodies and bury them.
He lived through many rocket and mortar attacks. He said that he saw many people killed though. He said he saw boys and men lying in street dead and dying on many occasions. He said that his brother-in-law was sitting with his back to the window of his apartment when a bomb exploded. He had shrapnel all over his body, still has shards of it in his head and had to have a rod put in his leg to help it heal.
On another day, he heard the sound of a rocket approaching his building. It went over the top of his building and hit the building next to his. He went out to check and see if he could help and saw bodies and body parts everywhere.
We ran out of time before he could tell us any more stories but I think you get an idea of what it must have been like to live there during the Taliban. I know conditions are not great here but they are so much better than what they were. It makes me grateful to know that in some small way I’m helping to bring a better way of life to these people. The suffering, carnage, death and destruction they have seen is unimaginable.