Security in the Afghanistan capital is deteriorating as the Taliban grows in strength in the surrounding provinces. But alongside wartime bombings and targeted attacks, other violent crimes have also been on the increase. According to the Afghan Criminal Investigation Department, 170 kidnappings were recorded between April and October. Earlier this year Mohammed Sangar Ahmadzai, 20, was abducted for five days while his kidnappers negotiated a ransom fee from his father. He describes what happened
When I did well in school the government of Afghanistan gave me a scholarship to study in Delhi. When my dad found out that I wanted to go to India to study, he said: “No son, you can’t.” So I stayed where I was and got a job at the Massoud Foundation, a non-profit organisation in Kabul.
I had been working there for 15 months when, just after the New Year holiday, I was coming home from work and I saw a car stopping; in it were three or four guys in police uniforms. One of them stopped me and asked me my name. I said: “What do you want with my name?” But then they started pushing me. One of them took my hands, another my legs and they bundled me into their car. My eyes were covered with a scarf as we drove off.
After an hour of driving we reached the destination and went inside. They told me: “OK, what is your father’s number?” I gave them his phone number and they left me, still with a scarf over my eyes, sitting on the ground with my hands and feet tied together. There was no carpet or mattress.
No one would engage in conversation with me; they didn’t want me to recognise their accents and discover where they were from. They spoke very slowly to confuse me.
I kept asking them when they would let me go, and they would say: “Tomorrow morning you can go home.” I wouldn’t sleep at all, just waiting to leave the next morning. Then the next day they would tell me: “There is a problem; maybe you’ll go tonight.” And then that night there would again be a problem, and again I wouldn’t leave. They did this every day.
They brought me food but kept my eyes covered. How could I eat without seeing what I was eating? I thought they might poison me. After three days I hadn’t eaten anything, only drunk some water and some fruit juice. They kept bringing me food and said that unless I ate it they would shoot me. I was afraid of them so I took some of it. It was kebab and it wasn’t very good.
Finally, on the fifth morning, they said: “You can go home tonight –100%.” I didn’t believe them. At around 8:30pm I was ordered to wash my face. They gave me my shoes and my tie (I had been wearing a tie when I left the office). They weren’t sure how to tie it so they just hung it around my neck in a knot.
They put me in the back of their car and took along some medicines. They told me if anyone stopped us they would say that they were taking me to the doctor. After an hour or so they stopped the car and gave me 200 Afghanis [$4].
On the day they kidnapped me I had taken 34,000 Afghanis from the office to pay a shopkeeper. I also had about 14,000 Afghanis of my own money on me. I had one golden ring that my mother had given me, as well as a gold necklace and my mobile phone. They told me they would give me these things back to me when I left, but all they gave me was my sim card, my empty wallet and 200 Afghanis for a taxi.
When I got out of the trunk they took the scarf off my head and said: “Don’t turn around or we will shoot you.” After five days of keeping my eyes closed, suddenly they were open. I could hardly see. Eventually I found a taxi and asked the driver to take me to my neighbourhood.
Finally I was home. How can I express that feeling? As I approached my house my little brother ran up to me crying. After that I saw my mother. She opened the door and just stood there, crying. I was home.
For a month afterwards I stayed inside the house – my parents wouldn’t let me go out. My father never told me how much he paid the kidnappers. But one day, not long after my abduction, he came to me and said: “OK son, now you can go and study in India.”
• Mohammed Sangar Ahmadzai spoke to David Lepeska in Delhi.