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In "One Day in Charkh," "Fault Lines" undertakes an exclusive investigation into a joint U.S.-Afghan military operation in Afghanistan during which 15 civilians were killed. The film airs on Sunday, Nov. 22, at 9 p.m. Eastern time/6 p.m. Pacific on Al Jazeera America. | Click here to find Al Jazeera in your area.
On August 3, 2014, a joint Afghan-U.S. military operation was carried out in the Charkh District, a Taliban stronghold, 60 miles south of Kabul. The forces set out to clear Taliban from the area. Fifteen civilians were killed and another 13 were injured that day.
In one instance, Afghan soldiers commandeered the house of a doctor who lived with his family in Dasht, a village in Charkh, using it to detain and question members of the surrounding community. One of the men brought in was named Mohammad Razeq, who had earlier stopped with his brother to help three women tending to an injured man on a roadside.
The man who was hurt turned out to be a member of the Taliban, and Mohammad Razeq and his brother were brought to the doctor’s compound and held there. Razeq would end up dead, and seven Afghan commandos and their commander would eventually be convicted for his murder. To date, he is the only civilian who died that day whose assailants have been brought to justice.
"Fault Lines" contacted the doctor whose compound was used to detain people that day in August, but he wouldn’t discuss what happened. His son Mansoor told us his father was too scared to talk. Mansoor, who was also there that day, was willing to speak. This is his story of what happened that day.
They came for security purposes. They came because of the Taliban.
Afghan soldiers came to our house at 2 a.m. at night. They didn’t leave until 10 p.m.
We were held on our property for nearly 24 hours by Afghan and American forces.
When the soldiers entered, I had a computer with me. I had fallen asleep that night while typing, and my head was down on my computer. I wasn’t afraid when the soldiers entered because I recognized them as fellow Afghans. Plus, my family isn’t affiliated with any groups. We are neutral.
They asked us to open the doors to our home and let them in. We were told not to be afraid, but to keep our hands up. They entered, and then walked around. They asked where my father and my uncle were. They took my entire family outside into our backyard.
From the moment they entered our house, we were not allowed inside anymore. We were not able to re-enter until 10 at night.
The soldiers informed us that when they caught people from the surrounding area during the morning, they would bring them here so that they could question them about possible connections to the Taliban.
About 8 or 9 in the morning, the soldiers started to bring detainees to our house. They brought many people, from seven or eight mosques, to our backyard, hundreds of people.
Some were asking to get out to get some food because there was no food for them. The military men told us to help them to get food and water for the prisoners. We had apple trees, so we were bringing apples to the people.
We were held captive along with the others. I was a student at university and told the soldiers that I had an exam that morning. Their commander told me that he would give me a letter, so that they would allow me, if God willing, to take the exam another time. I begged him to follow through on his promise. But he did not give me the letter.
In addition to imprisoning us, the soldiers also stole many of our possessions. I had $500 I wanted to use to buy a computer. They took my money. They also took gold and cash from my mother. But mostly, they took people’s mobile phones. They took about 70 to 80 phones.
An American presence
Around 10 or 10:30 that morning, the soldiers brought in three men wearing traditional clothes. They must have thought the men were Taliban because they took them into our backyard and started beating them there. They hit them with sharp, metal and wooden sticks, with brick and rock. Whatever they could find, they used to beat them.
My mom, when she saw the three people, warmed up milk to give it to them. She felt bad for them, so she wanted to give them the milk to calm down their bodies. The army person came up to my mother and kicked her hand with his leg. My mother’s hand is still swollen.
"I am Muslim, and they are Muslims! Look what they did to me," she said.
There’s a covered area in our backyard, and the army guys took these three men underneath it. The soldiers hit the men each several times in their heads.
The Americans soldiers then arrived. They saw that these men were being beaten.
The foreigners did not touch anyone. It was the Afghans who were beating the men up. The Americans were just sitting and watching. And they were laughing.
I’m 100 percent sure the Americans could see what was happening. The Americans were about 10 to 13 feet away from where the Afghan soldiers were beating the men.
They were laughing, and when the Afghan soldiers were beating them with stone and wood, the Americans would say, "Good." There were three of them on the lower roof, and there were three others on the upper roof. The Americans on the upper roof called to the ones on the lower roof to rescue the men being beaten. But it continued, and the Americans again said, "Good, good."
A fatal beating
The assault was especially focused on this one man, Mohammad Razeq. He was the oldest one, and the army members accused him of being a Taliban leader. They started beating him on the way here, so by the time he arrived, he was beaten so much that he was unable to speak. So there wasn’t any real questioning taking place.
Near our house we have many rocks, and they were lifting them and hitting him in the back of his shoulders and yelling at him, "Tell us who you are!" This poor man’s tongue was not working.
A few people that were around tried to stop the beating. They said he didn’t belong to any group. Then the army commander came up to them and told them to shut up otherwise he will beat them up, too.
They would end up beating Mohammad Razeq for around three or four hours, or maybe even longer.
After the Afghan soldiers had finished beating him, the commander called for my father because he’s a doctor. We were given custody of the tortured man.
He was beaten from his head to his toes. His face and body were swollen. He was unconscious, but he was alive. His heartbeat was around hundred beats per minute, or something like that.
My father tried to inject some serum into Mohammad Razeq’s bloodstream, in order to stabilize him. But the liquid would just return to the surface of his skin. His body was not able to take it.
When my father checked his right and left legs, he found they were not functioning. My father realized, and I myself also realized, when we checked his pulse that he did not have one.
My father then pronounced him dead.
The commander began insisting that when the army had given us the body, Mohammad Razeq was O.K. "We gave him to you alive, and he was fine, and we did not beat him," they told my father. But everyone had seen them beat him.
The soldiers weren’t with us when we were preparing the body. His brother was with us since the army had also taken him. We put him into a blanket and took him away.
After 10 pm, we came back into the house and saw that some parts of our ceiling were ripped off and the carpets were damaged.
My father doesn’t want to talk about this. I think he is afraid. He is scared of retribution from either the Taliban or the government.
But it’s important to me that this story be known. Because it is important for the Afghan army to learn a lesson: They should not kill innocent people. Don’t kill innocent people who don’t commit crimes.