This Chapter I’m warning you all, is extremely brutal. It hopefully demonstrates the cruelty and indifference the State shows to those who conduct its business.
They had already made incursions into the Palestinian occupied territories on foot, following a prominent Fatah member. This time they had gone in with two cars and a van with the reserves in case he went on foot. This time they were in Bethlehem, Afarin and Zelig in one car, Batya, and Gad in another one just down the crowded street. The other five were in the van. They could see the Fatah offices and the black limousines parked outside, but there was no sign of their target. They chatted to pass the monotony and time, cramped in the hot car.
Afarin was wearing a full Hijab, while Zelig had opted for work clothes and a keffiyeh. The clothes were supposed to keep the wearer cool, but not in a car, even with the windows open. It was just after lunchtime and the time was crawling by.
“By bum’s gone to sleep,” Zelig told her. They were speaking in Arabic.
She smiled, “Tell me about the first time you ejected, Zelig.”
“You don’t want to hear my woes.”
“Yes, I do. I’m interested. I joined the air force because I wanted to fly, but then they said I couldn’t.”
“It was in an F15 Strike Eagle and on that morning, I was leading a two-ship patrol. My wingman had gone first, and I was second. I had just reached rotate speed, you know what that is?”
“I was at the point of no return when the starboard engine exploded. It threw out debris that damaged the port engine and with all the fuel spilling out, there was a fire. I managed to get it off the runway on the one, failing engine, but I couldn’t go round again. I aimed the ship at waste ground and ejected.”
“What’s it like to eject?”
He smiled at her, “Every fast jet pilot should be aware that he is sitting on a large, explosive device. It’s like getting three huge kicks. The straps on your legs tighten and pull you in and you must force your hands to stay locked, until you’re clear of the aircraft. Sometimes the canopy doesn’t seperate and you go through it. Then the ejector seat falls away and your survival rations and dingy hang below you on a strop. Fortunately, I missed my burning wreckage and landed in some scrub trees. By then the crash and meat wagons caught up with me and carted me off to hospital. Anyway, what have you been up to?”
“I joined the RAF when I was nineteen, full of ideas and plans for a career in flying. I was a data and photographic analysist, boring, boring, boring. And then I was sent to Afghanistan as part of the team, to activate an old Russian airfield. There was a delay before the jets came in, so I went out with the RAF Regiment to do some hearts and minds with the locals. I could speak Pashtun you see.
“The Special Forces needed an interpreter and they pitched up one morning and hi-jacked me. I went out with them on their patrols and eventually they trusted me enough to interrogate Taliban captives. I was out there for well over six months, but there was no way I could go back to data analysis back in the UK.
“Back at my base, I volunteered for the Special Reconnaissance Regiment as they don’t allow lumpies in the SAS.”
“Lumpies?” asked Zelig.
“Females, lumpy jumpers.”
“Oh, I see,” he said with a laugh.
“I managed to get through all the training, a lot of sleep deprivation and constant physical exercise and mind tests for observation. I got through it, Zelig. I don’t know how.”
“Perhaps it’s because your brave and very determined.”
“I don’t think I’m particularly brave.”
“Well, you fought Dan, which was brave in my opinion. Brave but a bit stupid.”
“What would you have had me do, Zelig? He was making my life hell and it had to be sorted one way or another.”
“It’s because he was infatuated by you, like Gad but in a different way.”
“Gad?” she asked.
“Yes. He too is infatuated by you. Most of us have led pretty insular lives here in Israel and then along comes this rather exotic woman from England. She is both intelligent, rather lovely and, in the Spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”
“Oh Gad, no. Surely not.”
“Have you not felt his eyes on you? Or noticed that he makes you a cup of coffee every morning. Or that single-handed assault on the house on the ranges. A wimpy intelligence soldier, hair too long to be taken seriously, cleared that house. For you, Afarin, yes for you.”
“I never noticed, and now I feel terrible.”
“Don’t. I think that’s the way he wants it to be.”
“What about you, Zelig? Which of us do you want to be romantically involved with?”
He laughed, “I have a wife, more’s the pity.”
“Our relationship is currently not too good, ever since I was taken off flying, she feels the lack of kudos.”
What he didn’t tell her was that his wife was having an affair with another pilot on the squadron.
“So, which one of us, assuming you weren’t married?”
“Please don’t tell her, but I have rather a soft spot for Aisha. She is quiet, gentle, kind and I like her a lot. Perhaps it is because we are both flyers.”
“So many intertwined relationships in nine people. It’s no wonder that Hoffman… What’s going on here?”
A police car went past, stopped, and dropped two Palestinian police officers off. They went into a shop next to where Zelig was parked, a café.
“Doughnut patrol,” Afarin said with a snigger.
The police car drove down to a junction and did a 180, heading back up the road towards Manger Square. The police car stopped on the other side of the road from them, to pick up the two police who were coming out of the café. One of the officers carried food and the other Styrofoam cups on a tray. As they passed behind their car, the two officers dropped the food and tray in the road. Guns appeared and two more police ran from the police car towards them. A van rammed the rear of their car and two more officers piled out.
“Get out of here, Zelig!”
He locked the car and started the engine, as a hammer smashed the side window, showering both of them with toughened glass. A hand reached in, unlocked the doors, and dragged Zelig out. She pushed open the passenger door, reaching down to her calf for her knife. She felt metallic prongs on her neck and jolted as she was tasered. Two policemen dragged her out and threw her in the back of the van, where two more men cable tied her arms and legs. She felt Zelig being thrown in next to her and then the van was off.
There were no windows in the back of the vehicle, which seemed to be driving west. The journey lasted about twenty-five minutes, during which time a black hood was pulled over her head. The van stopped and she was dragged out with Zelig and taken inside a building. She had managed to lift the hood enough to see the front of a building. It liked like a factory. It smelled of bare concrete, then down two flights of stairs. It was cold and reeked of sweat, drains, urine, and fear. She felt someone cut the cable ties and push her into a concrete basement room and she fell, grazing her hands and knees on the rough floor. A steel door slammed behind her.
Warning. This chapter contains descriptions of torture.
Afarin stood up carefully and began to feel the walls to see how big the room was. She moved slowly round them, falling over a plank that was against the wall and had one end raised against the wall. There were puddles of water on the floor.
“Please stand still. You may injure yourself.”
It was a man’s voice, gentle and soft, “Take your hood off, please.”
She complied and looked round blinking. There were two men in the light blue uniform of the Palestinian police. One was leaning against the wall, the other sat in an office chair, watching her. He lit a cigarette that was very aromatic, Turkish or Russian. The sitting man wore shoulder boards to denote his rank and he was obviously in charge. She looked around the room, the angled plank with ropes and a curled-up hosepipe against one wall. That wasn’t so good. At the far end of the room was a bare, steel bedframe with straps on each end. Next to it was a wheeled trolley on which sat a piece of electrical equipment. The back was plugged into a wall socket and two wires ending in clamps came from the machine and lay over the trolley. That was very bad.
“Good afternoon my dear. The reason you are here is because we believe that you are a Jewish spy. What is your name?”
“My name is Afarin Khan and I am from Afghanistan.”
“Do you admit to being a Jew spy?”
Afarin laughed, “Jewish, oh that’s good. I have come from Afghanistan to fight the Jews.”
“Really? How did you get here?”
“By truck from Herat to the Iranian border, then bus to Tehran. Aid truck from Tehran across the border into Iraq, Basra. Then trucks up to Baghdad and on into Jordan. And now I’m here.”
“I see, and how did you pay for such a mammoth journey?”
“I had money for the bus fares, I generally stowed away with the cargo in trucks.”
“Why did you leave Herat, please spare me the fighting Jews bit?”
“I was raped by an Italian soldier when I worked for the UNHCR. I killed him and then had to get out of Afghanistan.”
The Palestinian looked at her, a slight smile playing on his face, “And how long did this epic 4,000-kilometre journey take you?”
“About six days.”
“Indeed? Would you get undressed please?”
“In which case four of my men will come in, forcibly undress, and rape you. So be a good girl and do it!”
Afarin complied, looking down in shame.
“Put your clothes in that box please.”
Humiliated and afraid she wondered if they were going to rape her anyway. Just another tactic of coercion and control.
“Stop!” He stood up and walked over to her, “What is this?”
She was silent, inwardly cursing. It was her radio equipment. She covered her breasts and crotch with her hands.
“My dear, you are in so much trouble. I think we can discount your fantasy about travelling here from Afghanistan, don’t you? And please be kind enough not to slouch. I’ve seen many women’s bodies before now.”
He put out his cigarette and immediately lit another one, “In a few moments I am going to ask our doctor to come in and search your body for little surprises.”
He stood up and went out of the door, coming back in with a swarthy man in a white coat. He searched her hair, behind the ears, mouth, armpits, with a cavity search of her anus and vagina, down between her toes. Afrin knew this was part of the humiliation process, to induce helplessness.
“Good, thank you. Now my dear, I want you to squat against the wall, thighs parallel with the floor, hands on head.”
Afarin did so and straight away she could feel the burning in her thigh muscles. She was in no doubt, they were going to torture her. She was shaking with fear.
He lit yet another cigarette, “I couldn’t help noticing that you have shaved your armpits and crotch. This proves to me you are a Jew.”
“Do you not practice Sunan al-Fitra, that requires all Muslims, whether they are male or female, to remove any body hair from the neck down, including hair around the genital region every forty days? I completed my Sunan al-Fitra last week.”
“Hmmm,” He went over to her clothes and spent a long time inspecting them as well as the radio equipment. He picked up and took it out of the cell, probably to show his superior.
Afarin could take the stress position no more and dropped onto her knees. She expected the policeman left behind would kick her back into position, instead he squatted down next to her.
“Stay like that until he comes back, then you must get back into position.”
“Why do you do this?” Afarin asked him.
“To protect the Palestinian people. I don’t like this part, believe me.”
“It’s a shit job, but someone has to do it?”
“Something like that.”
He did something that surprised her, he put his hands on her shoulders.
“Why don’t you admit that you are a Jewish spy, spend a few months in our prison, no more pain, and be released in a swap with our prisoners the Jews hold. Tell him what he wants to know… Otherwise, we are going to cause you great pain, something neither of us wish to do. It makes me feel sick!”
They heard the door and he pushed her back into the stress position. The chief interrogator came in.
“Help me get her on the board. I’ve had enough of her lies,” his voice was still gentle, but with a sense of frustration. They picked her up and lashed her down with her head on the lower end of the board.
Afarin Khan was dying. Lights flashed behind her blind eyes, she had tried to hold her breath, but after a minute they soaked the towel even more with water. The involuntary reflex kicked in and she gasped for air, no air, just water. It was like acid in her mucus membranes and her throat burned as the water went down to her lungs. She felt herself dying the agony of drowning, but they just applied more water, the ropes keeping her on the board as she tried to writhe in anguish.
They must have kept her with a wet cloth covering her face for two minutes and when they pulled it off, she vomited water. She was untied from the board and put her in the recovery position on the hard, concrete floor. She lay there gasping for breath, in a pool of her own vomit, bile and water she continued to cough it from her lungs
The interrogator massaged her back to help get the water out of her bronchi. She couldn’t see it, but a look passed between the interrogators, a look of pity and guilt.
“Please, my dear. We know you are a Jewish spy. Just tell us where you were trained,” he lit yet another of his strong cigarettes, “I suspect you are an undercover Zionist agent. I don’t want to hurt you, but I need to know everything about you, where you were trained and by whom. You can either tell us the truth, or you will die in this place. We can go on and on until you are driven mad with the pain, and then I will kill you. Do you think I’m enjoying this?”
She pulled herself up, sobbing with water running down her face, “I am an Afghan who came to fight the Jews. Why are you treating me like this?”
“Oh, God. Get up on your feet. I want to show you something.”
The other interrogator, the kind one cable tied her arms behind her back, and she was led out of the cell and down a corridor. Somewhere in the distance a woman was screaming. The stopped outside another cell and Afarin was pushed inside. There were two men again smoking and in the middle of the room, a large, tall sawhorse. Heyfa was astride the wooden frame, her arms tied behind her back and pulled up to the ceiling. Weightlifting weights were attached to her ankles, pulling her down onto the cross frame. Heyfa opened her eyes and stared at Afarin through bloodshot eyes.
“I believe that you know this woman,” the interrogator said to Afarin, “If you tell us who she is, we will stop giving both of you pain, that will only get worse.”
“I have never seen her before.”
“What about you, Jew bitch?”
“Who is she?” Heyfa said in a croaky voice, “Please take me off the frame, and give me some water, I beg you.”
The interrogators laughed at her, “Ask your little friend. She has plenty of water, and she will soon be developing gills, won’t you?”
He led her out and back to her cell.
“Why are you Arabs so cruel?” she asked.
“Because we are attacked from all sides by you Jews. You kill our women and children with your bombs.”
Back in the cell, they told her she would to be waterboarded again, “Or perhaps you admit to being a Zionist terrorist.”
“Of course, I don’t”
“Then you admit to being a Jew?”
So, they did, and it was worse this time. In a partition of her tortured mind, Afarin could hear a woman sobbing,
“Please stop hurting her. I’ve told you everything you asked.”
Was it Freida’s voice? But she had other worries.
She was lying on the floor in her vomit, sobbing and the two men cable tied her and went outside.
“She can’t take much more.”
“I know,” the chief interrogator agreed. We can’t keep waterboarding her because she’s close to drowning. We will try shocking her if the Doc says she’s fit enough. If she still won’t talk, I will shoot her. Let’s get something to eat and relax for a couple of hours.”
“What time is it?”
“Just after five in the morning. It’s been a long day and night.”
“Longer for her.”
Afarin lay on the hard, concrete floor and a dribble of blood-flecked, watery bile trickled from her nose. She was beyond fear and tears, composing herself, knowing that she would die in this dank, stinking cellar. Nobody would ever know how brave and defiant she had been. Her battered body dumped like rotting offal, probably in Israeli territory as a warning.
Where is my Guardian Angel?
Her cheek rubbed the harsh, concrete floor and she contemplated suicide, but how? The only part of her body she could move was her head. Head, concrete. Perhaps batter herself to death? She would be unconscious first, that or brain damaged and she wanted to face death with all her faculties. Afarin Khan prepared herself for more pain and her death. She didn’t bemoan the unfairness of it all. She had known that one day she would die like this.
After a rest the interrogators went back to the cell. She hadn’t moved and appeared to be asleep.
“Help me put her on the grill then get the Doc.”
They cut the cable ties and carried her to the bare metal bed frame. She was strapped down with wrists and ankles at each corner of the frame. The doctor came in and checked her pulse and blood pressure.
“She is fit for you to carry on.”
“Thank you. Afarin, you are a Jewish spy and I want to know why you were watching the Fatah HQ, where in Israel you were trained and by whom.”
“Go and fuck yourself!”
He wheeled the trolley closer to the bed and carefully attached the wires from the electrical device to her and she whimpered with fear and pain as the wires were clipped to her body. Electric shock is the modern interrogator’s favourite tool of the trade. When the voltage and current is controlled (most typically, high voltage and low current) the victim feels the pain of electric shock but is not physically harmed. Repeated shocks to the genitals will result in the victim losing control of his or her bladder and unintentionally urinating.
“This dial goes from one to ten. It is at four. Please don’t make us do this to you. Why are you here?”
“You fucking bastard!”
“Bite on this. It will prevent you from biting your tongue or breaking teeth.”
She felt the rubber gag forced into her mouth. The machine hummed as it was switched on and she heard the switch. An atomic bomb exploded in her head, her body felt like it was on fire, her pelvis arching up off the bedframe and she shrieked despite the gag. He turned it off and she thumped down, breathing fast.
“Afarin, why are you here? Why were you wearing Israeli short-range radio equipment?”
“Quick… Brown… Fox…Lazy Dog,” she murmured incoherently.
“She is using distraction techniques,” he slapped her face, “Concentrate on what I am asking you. This will be six.”
She screamed again, a howl of agony, sweat breaking out on her body, hidden blood vessels appearing in her neck and forehead, with the sudden increase in blood pressure. She felt her bladder let go and lay in distress and shame, her pelvis spasming in pain. Her nose was bleeding from both nostrils.
“Please, no more. Please stop hurting me.”
“Do you admit to being a Jewish spy?” She remained quiet, “Seven next.”
He looked up at the other interrogator, who was quietly retching.
There was the sound of gunfire in the distance.
“If you don’t have the stomach for this, go and find out what that racket is. Please Afarin, stop putting yourself through this and tell me where you were trained. Do you seriously think the I enjoy I’m doing to you?” He gently ran a hand down her face and moved some wet hair from her eyes, a strange gesture for a sadistic torturer, “Please, Afarin. Tell me so I can stop this. There is no twenty-four-hour rule that you must hold out for, to give the others for a chance to get clear. You will die down here or be driven mad, and I will have to kill you. Please answer the questions.”
She spat at him, “Fuck you, you bastard! You get off on doing this, you tiny-cocked sadist!”
The humming was louder. Her pudenda felt like it was being ripped apart. Her muscles and sinews stood out like ropes, the bones of the ribs showed clearly, and her screaming went on and on and…
The second interrogator dashed back into the cell, “Jewish commandos are storming the building!”
“Try and get out. Save yourself,” He looked at Afarin and gently held her hand, “I’m so sorry dear, but it’s the end of the road for both of us. Such a tragedy because you are so beautiful.”
He drew his pistol and cocked it and placed the muzzle against her temple.
“It will be quick. Pray to your God.”
“See you in hell, you bastard!”
The steel door blew open and teargas and smoke wafted in. The Interrogator pulled up the pistol as two masked men crouched either side of the door. The stun grenades blinded him, and two bursts of fire hit him in the chest, his light blue shirt discoloured with blood.
Temporarily blinded and deafened herself, Afarin felt the commandos come into the room, one of them removing the wires and undoing the straps.
“Cover my exit!”
He picked her up gently and carried her out in very strong arms. He smelled of cigars. Outside commandos were abseiling down the building and a dog was barking. Afarin showed her gratitude by being sick down his front. He carried her to an M113 Nagman armoured personnel carrier (APC) and so very gently, put her inside through the rear door. The others were already inside and Heyfa wrapped Afarin with a blanket and cuddled her.
“You see? Everybody betrays someone, given enough reasons.”
Afarin started to weep, “I’m so sorry Heyfa. Please forgive me.”
The APC sped away and most of the women were crying. Zelig and Gad looked blankly into the distance. Dan hugged Batya close to him and stared over her head into infinity. She reached up and caressed his face. Aisha moved closer to Zelig and put her head on his shoulder. He hugged her to him and spoke gently in her ear. Freida seemed the worst affected and was sobbing hysterically.
“For fucks sake, pull yourself together, Freida!” Aisha said starkly, “It’s been no picnic for the rest of us.”
Afarin thought this was unusually harsh for the normally quietly spoken Aisha. The vehicles were heading west, back towards Israel and they stopped inside a large complex of buildings. Medical personnel helped them into one of the buildings, where IDF doctors stood by to give them a medical examination. Afarin noticed that Heyfa walked carefully with a pronounced limp and Afarin helped her into the building.
In a small room with a consultation couch, the female doctor examined her closely, including pulse and blood pressure.
“How many times were you waterboarded, Shefila?”
“And you were shocked. Where?”
“On my manush .”
“Internal or external?”
“External thank, God.”
“Haven’t looked. No, I think.”
“Does it still hurt?”
“It feels like I’ve been shaved with a blow torch.”
“Do you mind if I examine you?” and Afarin shook her head. The doctor looked pressing gently and Afrin winced, “Nothing beyond superficial pressure lesions that will soon fade. Here is a set of fatigues. They may be a bit big.”
“Can I go outside for air? I’ve been in a filthy dungeon for God know how long.”
“Yes, but don’t wonder off.”
On the way out she heard Freida who was still weeping in a cubicle. Outside the commandos were stowing their kit, ladders and abseil ropes. She had been told they were YAMAM – the IDF counter-terrorism specialists. The unit is primarily responsible for civilian hostage rescue within Israel’s borders, but from around the mid-1990s it has also been used for tasks such as arresting police suspects who have barricaded themselves in structures and requiring specialized extraction methods, as well as in personal security for VIPs and in counter-terror operations within the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
She though, God bless them, went up to a group who were smoking and cadged a cigarette off one of them. She went round the corner to smoke it in peace and turned to face the building opposite.
“What the fuck?”
It was the building she had glimpsed from under her hood as she was dragged inside and down the stairs to… And she advanced on it, using a vehicle as cover. Then she smelled aromatic smoke. It was him! Talking to a still-hooded YAMAM soldier, who was still wearing his flameproof coveralls. A large dog was at his feet, sitting, wearing Kevlar K9 armour.
“You fucking bastard!” She approached them round the cover of a truck and saw the front of his shirt was stained red, but it didn’t look like blood in bright, natural light. She broke into a sprint, and she was fast. The dog growled a warning and the two men looked round, just in time for the Palestinian to be hit on the side of his head by the heel of Afarin’s hand. She hit him again in the face and felt his nose explode and her hand was slick with his blood. His head jolted backwards, and she was astride him, determined to kill him. The dog was barking, straining on its leash.
He went down, just as the YAMAM soldier put his arms round her, pulling her away and a small, black felt yarmulke fell off the policeman’s head.
“You fucking Kike bastards…”
“Go!” the soldier said to the “Palestinian” policeman, “Before she kills you!”
The soldier pushed her up against the side of the lorry and she smelled cigars again and the drying patch of vomit on the front of his body armour. He took off his helmet, pulled up his fireproof hood and Afarin wailed grief. It was Hoffman.
“Ssssh, little Tipsha.” He cuddled her and wiped her tears off her face with his glove, “I know you’ve been through hell, and I am truly so sorry. Even Kalev can sense your pain.”
She sank to her knees, and he knelt next to her.
“He is a Jew. You were all fucking Jews. That’s why he hadn’t heard of Sunan al-Fitra.”
“I’m sorry, Afarin, he hated having to do it, but it has to be real.”
“You carried me out. You saw what they were doing to me. You saw my intimate areas, oh God… How can I ever trust you again?”
“You will. Sooner or later and we were talking about you. He said you were very brave, and he admired you. You were afraid but defiant and refused to answer him, not easy when you’re alone and in a hopeless situation.”
She was weeping as though her heart were breaking, her head down, elbows on her thighs, her hands behind her head, as if she had been caught in an explosion. Hoffman rubbed her shoulders and felt the tension, knowing what it must have felt like, the ultimate betrayal.
He pulled her up and they walked back to the medical facility, with his arm round her.
“At least the blood on his shirt is the right colour now.”
“Why were you so brutal to us? “Why us?”
Hoffman looked her and saw she was still crying, “You must understand we had to make it as real as possible, so that as far as you were aware, there was no way out apart from telling them. And now you knew and yet you still refused to talk. Your bravery is admired by all of us, including the men who were interrogating you.”
“You fucking Jews are not right in the head.”
“We will do anything to protect our holy lands and the State of Israel. It was your man in London who sanctioned the brutality to you.”
“I hope you’re not right, Hoffman.”
“Azriel, and I’m seldom wrong. You can do inhumane things to people, but you can’t take their humanity.”
Manush – Slang for vagina, equivalent to pussy
© Blown Periphery 2022