Taliban fighters lead the way into Pul-e Charkhi prison, a high-security facility in the outskirts of Kabul.
The United States used it during their presence in Afghanistan. The complex was nicknamed “Guantanamo” and used to hold an estimated 2,500 fighters.
Now they are 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 — the Taliban suffered in the past.
They say the cells were overcrowded and used the word disgusting to describe how prisoners used to be kept.
Now that the Taliban has taken over Afghanistan they say there are some 60 prisoners in this complex and that they are being treated fairly.
“We are trying to keep crime rates low. And measures will be announced in a week or so,” says prison director Sharafatullah Hozaifa, who says he’s been in the Taliban since the start of the movement.
While he learns the ropes at the new job, Hozaifa repeated the message the Taliban has been conveying: all is forgiven and it’s time for a new chapter.
“We don’t want revenge,” he says. “Amnesty has been announced. All Afghans who were soldiers or police were forgiven.”
But as we continued the tour, prisoners told us a different story. We were allowed to talk 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 cost 200 Afghani. And we bought two. And bread. The total was 500 Afghani. But the hotel said 750. And I said no, why 250 more? I said I didn’t have any more money and asked them to take my phone so that I could go and look for more money. And then the Badri soldier came and beat us and carried us here.
“No one wants to be in a prison. We don’t want to be here anymore. We want to be with our families. We are not criminals. They don’t have any proof of our crimes. Each day here is like a year. If any Muslim here hears my voice. I am innocent and I am here. We accept Islamic Emirate. We accept Islam and the Koran. And nobody came here to ask about us.”