SURROUNDED by loved ones, turkey and all the trimmings, this year’s Christmas will be a world apart from Grant Bailey’s horrific experiences 12 数か月前.
He survived with little natural light, nothing to occupy his mind and measly portions of food.
The former soldier had travelled to 承認 to help humanitarian efforts after the militant Islamist group took over the country in August 2021.
彼がいた captured on December 18 昨年, interrogated as a spy, denied phone calls to his family and even threatened with hanging.
Speaking out for the first time, 付与, 57, ザ・サンに語った: “After everything I’ve gone through, この クリスマス will be very special.
“Instead of being with my family, last year I was locked up in abysmal conditions with no idea how long it would be until I was freed.
“We will be making up for lost time with our Christmas celebrations. In many ways I know I’m lucky to be alive.”
Grant travelled to a “safe” green zone in November with other international aid groups after Western forces withdrew following the Taliban takeover.
The group’s leaders had convinced the outside world that they had turned over a new leaf, yet many of their promises — including girls being allowed to attend school — would later be renounced.
On the ground, Grant at first felt safe helping to distribute aid, having been granted paperwork and permission by the Taliban.
Grant says: “We had no inkling anything was wrong. 実際には, at another hotel a high-ranking Taliban official sat by our table and told us, ‘You’re safety is our priority’.
“They were opening their doors to the international community so my thought was, ‘Why would they want anything to happen to us?’”
But a week before Christmas the workers were called to their hotel dining area for questioning before being taken to a holding compound and then an underground prison.
彼は言います: “The Taliban moved us in an armoured Land Cruiser and as soon as we got to the building we were led to a grassy area and stopped.
“I actually thought I was going to be executed, but I was taken to a main building where my phone, 見る, 財布, wedding ring and passport were confiscated.”
Grant’s first week was spent in solitary confinement before being moved into a cell with others, where they were starved of light and food.
He recalls: “For the first eight weeks there was no access to books or games.
“We were just sitting on the floor all day and night except for four five-minute toilet breaks.
“We were only fed a ladle of stew, a plate of rice and half a flatbread between three or more of us.”
Grant was interrogated multiple times, threatened with court action and was accused of being a spy, 彼はそれを否定した.
彼は言った: “I can only speak for my personal experience, but mine were mental attacks from the Taliban.
“I remember being in an interrogation room. I was bought clips of me in military uniform and told, ‘Grant, you’re a dangerous man — we’re going to hang you’.
“It took so long to get us out and we were ignored a lot of the time.
“We went through a lot. I wrote a suicide letter and had to go on hunger strike before being freed.”
The charges were never publicly disclosed — but an unnamed Taliban official told the Washington Post that most arrests were on suspicion of espionage or helping Afghans to flee the troubled country.
False claims of wrongdoing against Grant may have been provoked by his 22-year career in the British Army, which included stints training snipers.
Grant claims it took nearly two months before contact was made with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
Prisoners were finally allowed to see daylight during brief outdoor exercises and allowed a few books, a chess board and the game Ludo — yet the mind games continued.
Grant had been interrogated and threatened with the death penalty multiple times, which he believed was due to his incarceration being reported in the media.
Despite the threat to his life, the ex-military man kept calm and insists: “I wasn’t nervous as there was nothing I could do about it.
“Having been threatened to be hanged numerous times I got bored with it all and taunted the guards to shoot me rather than hang me.”
‘LEFT TO HANG FOR WEEKS ON END BY FOREIGN OFFICE’
Negotiations between the Taliban and the FCDO had stalled, which Grant’s captors insisted was due to Britain “playing games”.
As his conditions worsened, he recalls cruel tactics including being led into an office with “a big spread of food” that none of the prisoners was allowed to eat.
Grant was denied phone calls with his deeply concerned family after the Taliban lied to British officials and said he “didn’t want to speak to his loved ones”.
The treatment of prisoners was “going downhill” and with little news from the FCDO, Grant decided he had no other option than to take drastic action.
彼は言います: “Food amounts were reduced and exercise had been stopped — even going in the corridor — so we were in the cell for 23-and-a-half hours a day.
“Then a guard grabbed one of the individuals, who was in cell five with me, and pushed him. I’d not seen that before.
“By this point, I decided enough was enough and on May 25 I said ‘Right, I am on hunger strike now’.”
It took two weeks for Grant’s demands to be met by the Taliban — who risked a breakdown in negotiations and wide condemnation had the former soldier died.
Grant recalls: “The lead interrogator came to my cell and gave me two hours to start eating or I would be taken to a hospital and put on IV drips.
“I discussed my demands with him and he agreed to them — pizza, chicken kebabs, soft drinks and sweets to be brought in for everyone and more exercise periods.”
News of Grant’s hunger strike made its way back to the FCDO and, four days later, 6月に 12, he was finally released after more than six months of imprisonment.
More inmates were released just over a week later and then Foreign Secretary リズ・トラス tweeted her praise of British diplomats.
No money was believed to have been exchanged for the prisoners but the Government department publicly apologised “for any breach of Afghan culture, customs or laws”.
They claimed it was a “mistake” for British nationals to have gone to the country and said at the time it “regrets this episode”.
9月中, as Liz Truss was running for Tory leader, Grant hit out at her for the delay in getting him released, blasting: “I do not want her to be the next Prime Minister.”
Grant hopes lessons can be learned from his experience and felt they were “left to hang on for weeks on end” by the FCDO.
The veteran was reunited with his family and despite suffering eyesight issues due to a lack of light and picking up a slight stutter from his imprisonment, he remains surprisingly chipper.
Grant says: “I got a medical with a GP within a couple of days because you don’t know what you’re going to pick up. I lost 2st but luckily a pint and a pie has sorted that out.”
While he is relieved to be out of Kabul he is not hopeful for the future under Taliban rule and claims civilians he has spoken to “are not happy either”.
彼は言った: "後 20 years of preparing to rule their country, the Taliban still haven’t got a clue what they are doing.”
Additional reporting: Andrew Drury and Richard Ashmore