In the days before I met with him, Nader had driven to Arghandab, a restive agricultural district north of Kandahar, to film farmers harvesting pomegranates. It was high pomegranate season, and Arghandab is a key growing area, but Afghan and NATO military operations and threats from the Taliban and other armed groups were making farmers’ lives difficult. While Nader was filming the farmers, an American patrol passed. He joined the soldiers and filmed them walking through the fields. Three days earlier, he told me, he had been driving through Kandahar when he saw some American soldiers talking to local people and shaking hands with kids they had met on the street. “I stopped to film it,” he said. “Lots of the time, Americans are filmed with a gun, and under the gun’s point, they have local people. I took that picture because I believed it expressed that there is not so much of a big gap. These people can work together, and this is the new strategy of Barack Obama.” I asked if he was covering NATO activities more assiduously now than before his arrest. “I was doing that before and I’m also doing it now,” Nader told me. “For me, the important thing is to get accurate, reliable sources due to the rules of journalism. I’m not a judge to decide who’s doing good or who’s doing bad.”
On the night of his arrest, while Nader was out in the courtyard, soldiers searched his house. Nader’s wife and their two children had been sleeping in one room, his elderly mother and adult sister in another. Several Afghan interpreters in military uniforms led the women and children into a room with cushions along the walls, where the family serves tea to guests. “Don’t worry, sister,” one of the interpreters told Nader’s wife. “We are five Afghans with them. The others are infidels.” The interpreters carried the family Korans into the visiting room and gave them to the women, telling them: “Keep these Korans with you so the infidels won’t disrespect them.” The soldiers searched the rest of the house, collecting Nader’s camera equipment and clearing the family’s money from a safe. “They made a mess everywhere,” Nader’s mother told me, wiping away tears. “They took everything from the cupboards and the mattresses were all messed up.” Outside, before they put the hood over Nader’s head, the soldiers blindfolded him and muffled his ears. His sister, who has suffered for years from anxiety and depression, began to cry. The interpreters told her to be quiet, but she wailed even louder. “What are you doing with him?” Nader’s wife asked one of the interpreters. “It’s none of your business,” he told her.
The soldiers led Nader, blind and deaf, to a vehicle and put him inside. After a while, they stopped and brought him into a building. A female Afghan translator explained the rules of the prison: When the soldiers ask you to show your face, show it. When they ask you to hide your face, hide it. Don’t talk to other prisoners. When they took off his hood he saw that he was in a doctor’s office. A foreign doctor examined him. “Were you beaten in your house?” the doctor asked. Nader said he hadn’t been. The doctor said he would be visiting Nader regularly to provide whatever medicine he needed. Nader’s face was covered again and the soldiers led him to a detention room. After about fifteen minutes, a woman came in and greeted him, smiling. “She was very nice,” Nader told me. “The way she behaved, I thought she was a very kind woman.” She said she would begin his interrogation in five minutes.