KABUL, July 22: After almost four years in Guantanamo Bay, the Taliban’s ex-envoy to Pakistan says he has a ‘dangerous’ story to tell about mistreatment, terror and confinement in the notorious US detention facility.
And Abdul Salam Zaeef has put pen to paper to tell it.
Hundreds of copies of his book, “A Picture of Guantanamo,” have been bought in Kabul bazaars since going on sale this week.
“My book includes everything I endured during my detention, what I saw, what I heard and how I was treated during my three years and 10 months there (in Guantanamo),” Zaeef, wearing a black turban and black beard, told The Associated Press on Saturday.
“I want the world to know the truth. Hopefully it won’t be too dangerous for me.”
Zaeef, a soft-spoken former Taliban envoy fluent in Arabic and English, was the Taliban’s most visible face during the US-led campaign against the hard-line regime after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
He used the Afghan Embassy in Islamabad for daily press conferences to rail against American attacks on his country. His outbursts angered the Pakistan government.
Pakistani authorities subsequently arrested and returned Zaeef to Afghanistan, where American forces detained him in Jan 2002 before flying him to a US warship in the Gulf. He was then shuttled to the Bagram and Kandahar military bases in Afghanistan, before being sent to Guantanamo. He was released and returned to Afghanistan last year.
Mr Zaeef says he suffers from depression and anxiety as a result of his time in US custody, which according to his book was marred by physical and mental abuse, such as sleep depravation for up to a month.
“The treatment by the Americans during my detention was inhumane,” he said during a visit to his heavily guarded west Kabul home. “So many times we were naked, punished, weren’t allowed to sleep for 10 days, 20 days, one month.”
But the greatest wrong was not be put on trial and given a chance to face any accusations or charges.
“I was not a fighter, I never fought with the Americans,” he said. “I condemned what happened with Sept. 11 in America.
“The main thing I want now is justice.”
Guantanamo’s inmates, he wrote, were also incensed by the desecration by soldiers of the holy Quran.
“It was simple act for the Americans to take and mistreat the Quran, but it a was a major concern for us,” Mr Zaeef writes in his book.
US officials have acknowledged that five cases had been substantiated of military guards or interrogators mishandling the holy book.
Zaeef’s 156-page book has gone on sale in Kabul and Peshawar.
Kabul bookstall keeper Faridoon Noori said he has sold 100 copies of Zaeef’s book in the past two days, more than any other book currently on his shelves.
“One man buys it and reads it, he tells his friend,” Noori said. “The customers have been asking for it day and night.”
Zaeef said his book, written in Pushto, would soon be published in English and Arabic so it can reach a wider audience. —AP