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July 22, 2010 Posted by tahir in Travel

Five Years On

Five years ago at this moment I was crouched in the corner of a solitary confinement cell at a torture jail in northern Pakistan. My Swedish film crew from Caravan Film and I were arrested a week after the London bombings of July 2005, and held without charge for sixteen days, and nights. In the half-decade that has elapsed since our release, I have found myself turning the experience over and over, looking at it in varying ways, and drawing a myriad of conclusions. It was clear that the system had seized us without quite knowing why and that once they had us, they didn’t know how get rid of us. The most obvious thing –just open the cell doors and let us walk out — never appeared to have occurred to them. My conclusions these days revolve less about our actual experience, and more about what it says in terms of the situation that people like me (one foot in the East and the other in the West) now find themselves in the Post 9/11 world. We can’t help but be affected, and be regarded with suspicion — by both sides. It’s a ridiculous position, and one which I might find myself drawing amusement from were the stakes not so high. The thing which still astonishes me is the apparent lack of cultural understanding between the Occidental governments and those of countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan. Certainly, they may have a linguistic commonality, but they both appear (to me, anyway) to have almost no intellectual connection. My experience of this has been first hand, most shockingly when interrogated blindfold and manacled night after night in a Pakistani torture room… and then when received at Heathrow by the British secret services. I’m not trying to make a big point here other than to say that we would all do better to learn much more of each other’s culture. Reading each other’s literature, study each other’s histories, understanding dissimilar etiquettes and so on. Beyond that, I write this in anniversary of those terrifying nights, waiting for the jangling of the keys and for the blindfolds, the signal that I was about to be led back down the long corridor to the torture room.



TS