Taliban fighters lead the way to Pul-e Charkhi prison, a high-security facility on the outskirts of Kabul.
The United States used it during their presence in Afghanistan. The complex was nicknamed “Guantanamo” and housed around 2,500 combatants.
Now it’s the guards. And they invited us for a tour.
Most of the cells are empty: for these men reminders of the humiliation and – they say injustice – that the Taliban have suffered in the past.
They say the cells were overcrowded and used the word disgusting to describe how the prisoners were held.
Now that the Taliban have taken control of Afghanistan, they say there are around 60 prisoners in this compound and that they are being treated fairly.
“We are trying to keep crime rates low. And measures will be announced in about a week, ”said prison director Sharafatullah Hozaifa, who says he has been in the Taliban since the beginning of the movement.
As he learns the ropes of the new job, Hozaifa reiterated the message the Taliban conveyed: all is forgiven and it is time to start a new chapter.
“We don’t want revenge,” he said. “The amnesty has been announced. All Afghans who were soldiers or police officers were forgiven.
But as we continued the tour, the prisoners told us a different story. We were allowed to speak to this 22 year old Kabul resident through a metal door.
“There were four of us,” says Mohammed. “And we went to a hotel. We wanted to buy food. Each chicken costs 200 Afghani. And we bought two. And bread. The total was 500 Afghans. But the hotel said 750. And I said no, why 250 more? I said I had no more money and asked them to take my phone so I could go and get more money. And then Badri’s soldier came to beat us and took us here.
“No one wants to be in jail. We don’t want to be here anymore. We want to be with our families. We are not criminals. They have no proof of our crimes. Every day here is like a year. If a Muslim here hears my voice. I am innocent and I am here. We accept the Islamic Emirate. We accept Islam and the Quran. And no one came here to ask questions about us.