Faiz asks for help to get out of Afghanistan. One more among the tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of Afghans who see no future in their country. Except that Faiz is not a human rights activist, not a member of a persecuted minority, not even an unemployed person desperately looking for a job. Faiz belongs to the winners of the last civil war that has lasted for two decades. Until a few weeks ago, the proud Taliban militiaman has discovered that the Islamic Emirate is not what he expected.
Without the Kalashnikov on his shoulder and the scarf that covered his head, Faiz (a nickname to protect his identity) is less fierce than when I first met him among the Praetorian Guard of the Governor of Parwan. The young man, who after whispering his discomfort has agreed to come to Kabul to be interviewed, looks like a good boy, almost frail, due to his stubborn constitution. Dress the traditional peraan-e tumban (camisole and baggy pants, which in other countries of the subcontinent call shalwar-e kamiz) and a vest, all brown. In his hand, a plastic bag that he does not open. He is shy. His look is sad, but sometimes a smile escapes him.
The story of how this 27-year-old joined the Taliban is not unusual among Afghans. Born to a Pashtun father and a Tajik mother, his family fled to Pakistan in 2001 in the wake of US bombings and ended up in the Akora Khattak refugee camp. There he attended a school funded by an Arab charitable organization and made friends with the children of a commander Taliban. Through them he began to frequent the neighboring Haqqania madrasa, known as the jihad university for the many jihadists it has produced. “Sometimes we went to talks or activities. Sometimes we stayed to sleep there ”, he says.
This is how he began his contacts with the Taliban. Until, when he finished high school, they asked him to return to Afghanistan, enroll in the state education system, and start doing intelligence work for them. He had no doubts. After validating his diploma, he entered the university. “He collected information about the employees of the Ministry of Education, especially the provincial delegation, and passed it on to a commander Taliban in Peshawar ”, he explains about his task.
They never allowed him to travel to that Pakistani city to meet his contact, despite the fact that Faiz wanted to go to renew his refugee card. Communication was established by internet or telephone. But he knew perfectly well who he was talking to because he was the father of his friends from Akora Khattak, a former mujahideen. He was not the only one of that gang formed in the refugee camp who joined the Taliban. “Those who did not finish high school joined the guerrilla; of those who finished, some went to continue studying to France and other European countries ”, he recalls.
From then on, Faiz went on to lead the double life of secret agents. In the daylight he was a simple student, but he was always on the lookout for data that might be useful to his bosses. At the end of the degree, he obtained a teaching position in a government school, which allowed him to continue with his task as an informant. During the holidays, he went to the mountains to train. It was during those escapades that he met who today is the new provincial governor of Parwan, Mohammad Farid Kian Umari, a man of imposing presence and fierce bearing who already stood out as a military leader.
Things got serious. “What they wanted from me was information about those who worked for the government, especially in the army and the police. He provided them with lists and also data on checkpoints and troop movements ”. He immediately underlines, however, that he “only passed information” and was not involved in the attacks. Asked if any of his information led to a specific operation, he smiles before answering “sometimes”, but avoids going into details and assures that above all they served so that the Taliban could avoid the government troops that were patrolling the area.
Faiz never spoke to his family about his membership. He suspects that some relatives sensed it. But as in many other Afghan houses, sympathies were divided. He has cousins and uncles who are supportive of the Taliban, but two of his brothers were with the government and enlisted in the army. One is now hidden. The other has managed to flee to Iran. “He called me to say goodbye and said: Brother, now it’s your government,” he remembers with a watery veil over his eyes.
Everything changed at the end of July, when the men of the commander Kian prepared to advance. “I was aware of the Doha agreements and I knew that in the next few months we would reach Kabul, although I did not expect it to be so soon. It was a surprise for everyone. We had prepared to take the regions, but the order was not to enter the provincial capitals. So [los de inteligencia] We went through the villages to inform people that it was better for them not to resist because we did not want to start a war, ”says the militiaman.
His argument was that “the Islamic Emirate was going to be better than the corrupt Government of the Republic.” He was convinced of it. “In the previous government, if you wanted a job, you had to pay to get it. We are poor people, we could not afford it ”, he elaborates. He considered that in the Emirate that would not be allowed.
Share the fundamentalists’ view on the role of women. “They should have a place in our society, they are part of it, but within the framework of Islamic law,” he defends, echoing the official line. When asked what limits this law implies, he talks about the need for them to be covered in public (the hiyab) and that their work is limited (suggests 8 to 12) so that they can “take care of the house and the children”. He also opposes coeducation and claims that when he was teaching he felt uncomfortable having female students in class.
Faiz entered Kabul with his companions and on the first day he was assigned to one of the entrances to the airport. “No, I did not see the American soldiers. In front of us, we had the Afghan special forces ”, he recalls. The following day, his group was replaced by members of the Badri unit (the Taliban special forces). “Maybe I should have gone on one of their planes,” he now regrets.
His ideal of the Islamic Emirate began to crumble when Kian was appointed Governor of Parwan and his entire family from Wardak (his place of origin) was brought in to fill positions of trust. He is also uncomfortable with the relative luxury in which the provost has settled. “He used to lead a very simple life and now he has the best food brought. In ten years of struggle, we had not seen anything like this, ”he says, pointing to the pretentious office through which the governor only passes by glancing at. “There were days when we didn’t have food, we ate bread and blackberries,” he recalls. In addition, hundreds of new faces have suddenly been added to the small group of men who lived badly in the mountains during the guerrilla years in search of a hole in the new system. Faiz feels displaced.
Then came the battle of the Panshir. The young agent was sent to the front with a mission to infiltrate and convince the locals to surrender. But the panshiris they did not accept the terms of the Taliban. And the war began. Did he fight? Smile again. “I had a weapon for self-defense, but I didn’t kill anyone,” he replies. Five days after deployment, the Taliban had planted their flag in Bazarak, the provincial capital, although skirmishes persisted in the mountains. Faiz was already retiring when he came across several bodies with signs of having been summarily executed.
“It was on the outskirts of Bazarak. There were two bodies by the side of the road, four or five behind a house and one closer to the river. I learned that they had been killed after the fighting and that is not allowed. We did not go there to kill, ”he declares. He assures that he made a report and that the person in charge replaced the unit involved, but he has no news that they received another punishment.
Disappointed, the young Taliban insists that he wants to leave the group and return to his studies. That is why he seeks to leave Afghanistan. Where? “Anywhere,” he responds. Then add that some country where people have freedom. He sees no contradiction in his defense of an Islamic Emirate for Afghanistan and the search for a free country to emigrate to. “This is an Islamic country, and I like the sharia [ley islámica], but in another country, I would adapt to their standards, “he says.
Nor does he believe that his past is an impediment to achieving it. “I am not a well-known person, I have not done anything very bad like killing people. I just want to continue my education and live as a civilian. I like Europe because they have good laws and freedom ”, he sums up. “If I can, I want to do something better. Now I know what is correct and what is not, previously I had no knowledge or experience ”. Even so, before saying goodbye, he thinks better of it and asks that his name not be published or recognized in the photos.
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