Copyright ©2010 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

A former detainee at Guantanamo is now a candidate in next month's parliamentary election. Here's NPR's Quil Lawrence.

QUIL LAWRENCE: Campaigning�for next months election is in full swing, but thats not what's bringing people into the streets these days in Kabul.

Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken)

Unidentified People: (Foreign language spoken)

LAWRENCE: Hundreds of mostly young women and men turned out for an anti-American rally recently, spurred by a traffic accident in which an American defense contractors SUV crushed an Afghan car, killing six of the passengers inside, including two women and two children.

SOHIL: (Foreign language spoken)

LAWRENCE: Sohil, a 26-year-old student, says the rally is to condemn the American killing of civilians, as well as the U.S. support for what he calls the incompetent government of President Karzai. And he doesnt stop there, repeating a conspiracy theory that the U.S. is also supporting al-Qaida.

Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)

Unidentified People: (Foreign language spoken)

LAWRENCE: The crowd also condemned neighboring states Pakistan and Iran for interfering in Afghan affairs.

The main organizer of the protest is a party that calls itself Hambastagi, or Solidarity, which does not back anyone in the upcoming election. But it's a current many politicians might like to harness, and there may be no candidate better positioned than Izatullah Nusrat, a 42-year-old village elder from Sorobi, east of Kabul.

Mr. IZATULLAH NUSRAT (Parliamentary Candidate): (Foreign language spoken)

LAWRENCE: I used to believe the Americans were good people, Nusrat says. But that was before American soldiers arrested him and his 80-year-old father in March of 2003, and sent them to Guantanamo.

Mr. NUSRAT: (Through translator) But when they took me to the airplane, when they shaved my beard, I realized that Americans are - these are the most cruel people in the world, and they're very stupid. Someone whose crime is not proved, so you destroy his whole life. So - and then in the world, you are claiming that you are the protector of the human rights, and you're doing such action in there with a human being.

LAWRENCE: Nusrat admits he did once work with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former mujahedeen warlord who once enjoyed American support against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Nusrat says it's been years since he had any connection with the warlord, who is now leading a large insurgent faction.

He made that denial hundreds of times during interrogations in Guantanamo -enduring, he says, solitary confinement and many other privations. After almost five years, American authorities declared that Nusrat was no longer a threat, and he and his father were released.

Mr. NUSRAT: (Foreign language spoken)

LAWRENCE: Nusrat says his community here in Sorobi welcomed him like he had returned from the dead, but not everyone in this part of the country wishes him well. The Taliban have threatened many candidates as well as election workers.

Sorobi is considered the most dangerous spot on the highway between Kabul and the eastern city of Jalalabad. And Nusrat did not want to be seen on the street with a foreigner. He sat for an interview in a small room by a gas station owned by his family, with a Kalashnikov leaning on the wall next to him.

He says President Karzai is an American puppet, but he's slightly better than the return of the Taliban.

Mr. NUSRAT: (Through translator) There are two ways: One is the Taliban way, and one is the government. So I choose the government way. I think it is a better way of serving to the country.

LAWRENCE: It would be a stretch to say that Nusrat has much of a platform. He wants the Americans to leave, but not in such a way that the country falls into chaos. Mostly, he says, he wants an end to the fighting. He cites an Afghan proverb.

Mr. NUSRAT: (Foreign language spoken)

LAWRENCE: Blood cannot be cleaned with blood, he says. He's in favor of negotiating with the Taliban. And if he wins election, his unique resume, as a member of Parliament and a former Guantanamo prisoner, might just make him the sort of politician who can help those peace talks get started.

Quil Lawrence, NPR News, Kabul.

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.