CNN  — 

Mohammad Zafri says his memory is patchy after surviving relentless beatings by the Taliban.

But one event that’s hard to forget is being summoned last spring to the militant group’s headquarters to collect documents he had left behind, having been an employee of the previous, internationally-backed administration. Not wanting to cause trouble, he went – only to realize too late that it was a trap.

Zafri – whose real name CNN is withholding for security reasons – said he was outside the Taliban’s offices when he felt a sharp punch to the back of his head. He fell to the ground and was then dragged indoors, he recalled.

“There were about 12 Taliban members surrounding me, they tied me to a chair and started beating me from all sides,” Zafri told CNN.

The 36-year-old claimed he was then detained and tortured for nearly four months, after the Taliban accused him of conspiring against them by working with the National Resistance Front (NRF), a guerilla group waging war against the Taliban.

“They tried to choke and suffocate me by tying a plastic bag across my face, telling me to confess to working with the NRF,” he said. “But as I was never part of it, I didn’t confess … Then they hung me upside down, one time by my feet, another by my hands.”

He added: “I screamed so loud, I blacked out because of the trauma.”

Zafri – who remains in Afghanistan and spoke under the condition of anonymity – had tried unsuccessfully to leave the country when the Taliban seized control, fearing what might lie ahead. He now lives in hiding with his family.

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Hear from some of the victims of Taliban's torture regime
03:41 - Source: CNN

Returning to their old playbook

At the time of their lightning takeover in August 2021, the Taliban were quick to present a new, reformed image, one that was relatively progressive, inclusive and restrained in comparison with their previous repressive rule, from 1996 to 2001.

One of the promises the group made was that it wouldn’t seek retribution against its political enemies. But this and other pledges have since been discarded, as the Taliban have mounted a sustained attack on women’s rights, persecuted minority groups and forcibly made ex-officials disappear, according to human rights groups – striking fear into the hearts of most Afghans.