Exclusive

Mutilated – for voting in defiance of the Taliban

Lal Mohammed paid the price for wanting to have his say on the future of Afghanistan

Lal Mohammed was determined to exercise his right to have a say in his country's future and vote in the election. It was a decision for which he paid a horrific price. On his way to the polling station he was held by Taliban fighters, beaten brutally, and then had his nose and ears slashed off.

What happened to the 40-year-old farmer is the savage and hidden side of the election in a country experiencing a bloody war. This chilling account is the first from a victim of retribution

taken by insurgents on someone who had defied their order to boycott the polls. And it helps to explain why so many people throughout the country were simply too afraid to vote.

The Independent listened to Mr Mohammed's terrifying tale in a house where he has taken refuge and is being guarded by friends. To add to the misery he has suffered, he has not received any serious medical treatment for three days because one of the main hospitals in the Afghan capital – where he had arrived after an arduous three-day journey – declared it had no room to keep him due to chronic overcrowding.

Eminent Afghan and international figures had encouraged citizens to defy the Taliban and vote in the elections. Yet, as a casualty in the process, Mr Mohammed and his friends say he has received no official support.

We found Mr Mohammed, covered by a shawl, lying on a threadbare sofa in a tiny room, with shafts of dusty sunlight coming through a smashed window pane. Two friends, fellow farmers from Uruzgan , carefully bolted the metal door behind us as we crowded into the compartment, which was little more than 10ft long and 5ft wide. Nowhere, people have learnt to their cost, is beyond the reach of the insurgents.

In pain, and often in tears, the father of eight children described how his ordeal began when he left his village, Galpagel, in Uruzgan province, on the morning of election day, 20 August, at about 10am to vote.

About half an hour into the 90-minute walk, Mr Mohammed was stopped by three men with AK-47 rifles and bandoliers of ammunition, who did not hide their faces and identified themselves as Talibs.

The gunmen searched him and found the electoral registration papers he was carrying and from that point his fate was sealed.

"They shouted at me and then they began beating me with their rifle butts, they said they were going to teach me a lesson. The most painful of the blows was when they kept hitting me on the face," he recounted, while shifting the bandage covering his face to show bruising and what looked like a fractured cheekbone.

"They were beating me so hard and kicking me that I fell to the ground. Then one man sat on top of my chest and got out a knife and I began to feel terrible pain when he slit my nose. I was passing out, but another man was still using knives and there was more pain, I could feel blood all over my face. I thought it was better to die."

Mr Mohammed fell into unconsciousness after that. He woke up in agony after a man passing by found him, spreadeagled on the side of the road, possibly left by his attackers as an example to others.

No cars were available in the remote area of rough roads and the farmer, who was drifting in and out consciousness, was carried by a donkey for the best part of a day to a main road where, at last, a taxi driver was persuaded to take him to Kabul.

"The journey on the donkey was very hard, I did not think I would survive that, the road was bad and my face was really hurting," recalled Mr Mohammed among bouts of coughing. "I was very happy when I got to the hospital. But they said they had no beds and I was told to come back in a few days."

Mr Mohammed is a Hazara living in a province bordering Helmand, Kandahar and Zabul in the south of the country. Uruzgan has a mixture of Afghanistan's communities but has also been one of the hotbeds of the resurgent insurgency. The Taliban fighters who ambushed him were Pashtuns, but Mr Mohammed and his Hazara friends do not believe the prime motive for the assault was sectarian.

"We have lived there for a long time. The Talibs had been warning people not to vote, saying it was a conspiracy against Islam by foreigners," said Mr Mohammed. "But I had voted in the last election and I do not think I was doing anything wrong. I am not involved in the war and I do not have anything to do with foreigners. Look at my hands, I am only a farmer, I only work on the land."

Mr Mohammed has now been promised surgery by the hospital. His main concern, he says, is his family. "There are 11 people and I am the only breadwinner. My youngest child is two years old, I do not know what is going to happen to them, who will look after them..." his voice broke into sobs.

The Taliban had vowed to disrupt the election and had repeatedly warned people against participating. On polling day they carried out a series of attacks across the country killing 26 people and injuring about 80. There were subsequent reports, uncorroborated, that they cut off the ink-stained fingertips, which showed they had voted, of a number of people.

However, Afghan and Western officials accept, and The Independent can confirm, that election monitors failed to turn up in vast swaths of the south because it was deemed too dangerous and little or no record was kept of the intimidation which took place there.

One of Mr Mohammed's friends who is now looking after him said with a bitter laugh: "All the foreigners, people like Mr Karzai, said we should go out and vote. But look what happened to Lal Mohammed. Will they look after him now? They have not given him medicine, we are having to gather food for him."

Mr Mohammed said his family had borrowed 20,000 Afghanis (around £250) from a local money lender to tide them over and buy medicine for him in the capital, Kabul.

"We have to pay back 40,000 Afghanis in three months," he said. "I do not know how we are going to do that, I think we will have to sell things. I do not know when I'll work again.

"Poor people suffer in this country, I do not know whether the elections will change that. I do not think I will try to vote again, I am now very frightened."

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Full Stack Developer (.NET 4.0, ASP.NET, MVC, Ajax, WCF,SQL)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Full Stack ...

AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - Investment Management

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?