FISK: Return to Afghanistan: Families of the disappeared demand answers
Return to Afghanistan: Families of the disappeared demand answers
By Robert Fisk
08 August 2002
They came for Hussain Abdul Qadir on 25 May. According to his wife, there
were three American agents from the FBI and 25 men from the local
Pakistani CID. The Palestinian family had lived in the Pakistani city of
Peshawar for years and had even applied for naturalisation.
But this was not a friendly visit to their home in Hayatabad Street. "They
broke our main gate and came into the house without any respect," Mrs
Abdul Qadir was to report later to the director of human rights at
Pakistan's Ministry of Law and Justice in Islamabad.
"They blindfolded my husband and tied his hands behind his back. They
searched everything in the house they took our computer, mobile phone and
even our land-line phone. They took video and audio cassettes. They took
all our important documents our passports and other certificates and
they took our money too," she said.
Where, Mrs Abdul Qadir asked Ahsan Akhtar, the director of human rights,
was her husband? The Independent has now learnt exactly where he is he is
a prisoner in a cage on the huge American air base at Bagram in
Afghanistan. He was kidnapped there appears to be no other word for it
by the Americans and simply flown over the international frontier from
Pakistan. His "crime" is unknown. He has no lawyers to defend him. In the
vacuum of the US "war on terror", Mr Abdul Qadir has become a non-person.
His wife has now received a single sheet of paper from the Red Cross which
gives no geographical location for the prisoner but lists his nationality
as "Palastainian" (sic) and the following message in poorly written
Arabic: "To the family and children in Peshawar. I am well and need, first
and foremost, God's mercy and then your prayers. Take care of your faith
and be kind to the little ones. Could you send me my reading glasses? Your
father: Hussain Abdul Qadir."
The sheet of paper is dated 29 June and the Red Cross has confirmed that
the prisoner ICRC number AB7 001486-01 was interviewed in Bagram.
Needless to say, the Americans will give no information about their
prisoners or the reasons for their detention. They will not say whether
their interrogators are Afghan or American there are increasing rumours
that Afghan interrogators are allowed to beat prisoners in the presence of
CIA men or if, or when, they intend to release their captives. Indeed,
the Americans will not even confirm that prisoners have been seized in
Pakistan and taken across the Afghan border.
Fatima Youssef has also complained to the Pakistani authorities that her
Syrian husband, Manhal al-Hariri a school director working for the Saudi
Red Crescent Society was seized on the same night as Mr Abdul Qadir from
their home in Peshawar, again by three Americans and a group of Pakistani
"I have the right to ask where my husband is and to know where they have
taken him," she has written to the Pakistani authorities. "I have the
right to ask for an appeal to release him now, after an interrogation, I
have the right to ask for the return of the things which they took from my
An Algerian doctor, Bositta Fathi, was also taken that same night by two
Americans and Pakistani forces, according to his wife. "I don't have any
support and I am not able to go anywhere without my husband," she has told
Mr Akhtar in Islamabad. Both Mr Hariri and Dr Fathi are believed to be
held at Bagram, which is now the main American interrogation centre in
Afghanistan. "From there," one humanitarian worker told The Independent,
"you either get released or packed off to Guantanamo. Who knows what the
fate of these people is or what they are supposed to have done? It seems
that it's all outside the law."
Many Arabs moved to Peshawar during the war against the Russians in
Afghanistan and remained there as doctors or aid workers. The Abdul
Qadirs, for example, asked for naturalisation in January 1993 Mr Abdul
Qadir holds a Jordanian passport long before Osama bin Laden returned to
Afghanistan and founded his al-Qa'ida movement.
"I don't know why all this happened to us because we are Muslims and
Arabs," Mrs Abdul Qadir says. "I want to know about my husband. We will
leave Pakistan if the government wants us to leave. We will do anything
the government wants but in a human and civilised manner."
* At least 15 people have been killed in a shoot-out between Afghan police
and what witnesses said was a group of Arabs and Pakistanis south of Kabul
yesterday. Omar Samad, a foreign ministry spokesman described the gang as
"determined and suicidal".
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