Encounter with the Taliban: punched, detained — then provided an vitality drink

2021-08-20 05:30:53

After I headed out to work, it had been 5 days for the reason that Taliban took over Kabul. And it was Independence Day, a nationwide vacation, when Afghans rejoice their nation’s independence from Britain in 1919. I needed to seize the temper of the town.

I went first to an occasion for Ashura, a spiritual ritual at which religious Shiite Muslims beat themselves with chains to show penance and mourning. I didn’t spend extra time there than vital, as a result of Shiite Muslim occasions have all the time been a goal of lethal assaults in Afghanistan. By the point I left, I had drops of blood spattered on my shalwar kameez, the standard dishevelled tunic and trousers, in addition to my digicam, palms, glasses and face.

Afghans carry the national flag on Independence Day in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Afghans carry the nationwide flag Thursday for Afghan Independence Day at Pashtunistan Sq. in Kabul, Afghanistan.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Instances)

As I stepped outdoors, I noticed a procession of about 200 males, some on bikes or bicycles, some strolling, carrying Afghan flags. They chanted, “God bless Afghanistan!” I noticed these had been supporters of the previous authorities, desirous to wave their flag as an emblem of resistance. (The Taliban has raised its personal white banner throughout the town and nation.)

So I adopted them. I knew they’d in some unspecified time in the future converge with Taliban fighters.

The protesters climbed on prime of a rock basis in the course of a visitors circle the place there was a flagpole, making an attempt to boost the red-green-and-black Afghan flag. I climbed up too, hoping to get a view of the group and noticed Taliban fighters begin to transfer towards us from their guard positions in entrance of surrounding authorities buildings. Sport-utility autos pulled up and fighters jumped off. I noticed this was the sort of confrontation that would get ugly quick.

Taliban fighters mobilize to control a crowd.

Taliban fighters mobilize to regulate a crowd marking Afghan Independence Day on Thursday at Pashtunistan Sq. in Kabul, the nation’s capital.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Instances)

Weapons in hand, the Taliban circled the protesters. A fellow journalist and I obtained ourselves out of the scrum, out of the road of fireside. Issues escalated. Individuals began pushing and arguing. We crossed the road, weaving between autos, to a degree the place we might make a fast exit or discover cowl behind automobiles.

Sooner or later I moved to take an image of a scuffle. Somebody tugged on my digicam strap, and I felt the kinetic-energy connection of a fist to the aspect of my head. A Taliban fighter had emerged out of nowhere and sucker-punched me. He was a tall burly man, with a well-groomed thick beard. He began screaming in Dari, the native language, pointing at our cameras.

He was joined by one other Taliban fighter, shorter and holding a radio in his hand. That fighter attacked my journalist companion, hitting him squarely within the ear. The larger man continued to hit me within the head. We tried to talk, to elucidate that we had been international journalists, however they pummeled us to the bottom.

Taliban confront and push people as they try to control the crowd.

Taliban confront and push members of a crowd at an Independence Day protest at Pashtunistan Sq. in Kabul.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Instances)

Then gunfire rang out and the group began to scatter. The burly fighter turned to see the commotion. I attempted to slowly transfer away, and that’s when he turned and took an enormous swing at me that knocked me down. My spectacles flew off my face.

I might see him gripping his Kalashnikov tighter, and I felt intense worry. The large man saved yelling. The very best factor I might do was attempt to de-escalate. I raised my hand and informed him, “Please don’t damage us. We’re journalists, we’re foreigners.” We saved saying: “We’re media. We’re allowed to work.”

At that second, members of the Taliban particular forces — a unit referred to as 313 Badri — confirmed as much as clear the sq. of any remaining protesters. They marched proper previous us. With the Taliban fighter nonetheless standing over us, I needed to battle each intuition in my physique to not elevate the digicam and take an image of the scene.

My ideas had been in a swirl. I felt disoriented; my head was throbbing. However my thoughts raced by means of choices to get out of this case with none extra violence.

Then, a shock: The radio-wielding Taliban revealed that he was capable of converse and perceive English. He insisted we delete the pictures of what had simply occurred. We repeated that we had been journalists, that we had been documenting the information.

The radio Taliban, as I’d began to think about him, had by now determined to deal with us rather a lot higher. He began asking how we had been feeling, if we wanted to go to a hospital. He instructed bringing us to a safer location, which sounded to me like a code phrase for detention. So we declined and requested politely to be allowed to return to our workplaces. Persevering with to talk, he moved us out of the recent solar to a shady nook, asking us who we labored for.

After we named our publications, his expression modified.

 Armed Afghans in a truck in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Armed Afghans sit within the mattress of a truck within the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Instances)

He apologized profusely for our troubles, however not, we seen, for beating us. They grew to become solicitous: We had been every introduced a bottle of chilly water and a can of Monster Vitality drink, a favourite of the U.S. troopers who managed the town till just a few days in the past.

Radio Taliban requested us: “Please, might you inform me who hit you? We’ll seize him, and punish him.” I checked out my colleague in disbelief.

It was a surreal scene. The day earlier than I’d been at a information convention wherein the Taliban made guarantees a few brighter future, a free press. We saved repeating that we wanted to return to the protection of our workplaces.

Our captor requested for a cellphone quantity for our driver, and as a substitute of giving it to him, I pulled out a burner cellphone and referred to as my driver on it, then handed the cellphone to the Taliban fighter. They coordinated, like folks arranging a espresso date, and after a couple of minutes, we had been escorted to our automobile.

One other Taliban fighter joined us. He stated his title was Hamid Nazri and that he had labored in a financial institution. Our assailant wouldn’t give us his title, however all of them began joking with us about how we may very well be mistaken for locals due to our conventional costume.

We stated our goodbyes. Nazri requested for a selfie. We obliged, however I didn’t smile.

We jumped within the automobile and raced away. It wasn’t even midday but, and the temperature was scorching.

I went dwelling and iced my accidents. I hoped they wouldn’t get too black and blue.

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