The Wolverhampton father tortured by the Taliban aged 12

It happened 15 years ago but the memory of those terrifying 24 hours still moves Rohullah Yakobi to tears.

The Wolverhampton father tortured by the Taliban aged 12

He was aged just 12 when he was held captive and tortured by the Taliban in his native Afghanistan.

Now 27 and a father of two, he confessed at his Wolverhampton home: "It will stay with me for the rest of my life."

The kidnappers wanted to trace his father Mohammed Riza Yakobi, a commander of the Hazara's Hizb e Wahdat (the Unity Party) who were sworn enemies of the Taliban.

When freed by his captors the next day anxious relatives sent him off on a remarkable six-year journey through Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran to Whitmore Reans during which he was repeatedly beaten up, worked as a child labourer on Iranian construction sites and fell in love in a Pakistani town with a young girl whose family had also fled from the Taliban. Rohullah spoke little English on arrival in England but 10 years later is a proud British citizen in the fourth year of a Politics, Philosophy and Economics degree with the Open University and working full time.

Father – Mohammed Riza Yakobi, bottom left

The Taliban tortured Rohullah in a bid to trace his father, the commander of the Hazaras, in the Jaghori District of Gazni Province in Central Afghanistan, who had just left the area.

He recalled: "My dad was a military commander who had fought against them just like he fought the Russians when they occupied the country. He had left the area Taliban had broken the resistance of the starving community. The Taliban had blockaded the Hazaras, not allowing food or medicine to get to them for a few years.

"The Taliban did not know where either he and his fighters had gone or where their weapons had been hidden. They were desperate to find the stock pile of arms because they did not want to stop them being used against them again.

"They were specifically targeting people connected to my dad and torturing them in an effort to get them to confess where the arms dumps were. They started with distant relatives but were getting ever closer to the immediate family. Although horrific, my uncles took it as a badge of honour if they were beaten by the Taliban because the felt proud of being against an evil force, but I was sick with worry.

"Then they took me to send a message to my dad and kept me overnight. What they did to me in those 24 hours was terrible. I had seen the bruising and burns on the bodies of my uncles and now I had burns and marks too. They were trying to make an example of me by my story is typical of that of many Afghans. They let me go after some negotiations with the local elders. I think they realised that they had over stepped the mark by doing that to a child of my age. My people had submitted to the Taliban after being faced with the choice of stopping fighting them or be massacred but there were limits to the humiliation they could suffer."

Rohullah at the time he was kidnapped

Rohullah explained: "I felt like a dead boy walking. I am not the only person who has been a victim in Afghanistan. Every person born there was a victim of their own existence. Nothing was normal then. There was poverty, malnutrition, lack of both education and security. My dad was not rich. All he had was the ability to to command a group of men to fight the Taliban. Every time he left I was worried that he would not come back." The Hazaras have distinctive Asiatic looks and are Shia Muslims unlike the Sunni Taliban. Rohullah recalled: "They used to have banners that read: 'If you are a Tajik go back to Tajikistan. If you are an Uzbek go back to Uzbekistan. If you are a Hazara go to the graveyard.' They slaughtered many thousands of us."

Unknown to him as he travelled around the badlands of Asia, his father had been granted political asylum in the UK shortly before the twin towers terrorist attack in 2001. He was living among a Hazara community in Iran and earning a living as a construction worker when the news reached him several months after the New York atrocity. It was his first contact with his father for four years. Rohullah learned that other members of his family had got out of Afghanistan and were living in Quetta, Pakistan, where he spent months travelling to link up with them. They were visited by his father – by then living in Whitmore Reans and working in a factory – in late 2003 and started making plans to join him in the UK. Rohullah got a visa and arrived in November 2004 after getting engaged to Tahira, the girl the 17-year-old had fallen in love with, before he left.

Keen political student Rohullah with David Miliband

He went to Wolverhampton College to learn English.

He returned to Pakistan to marry his sweetheart and they now live in Oxley with their two children, Sa-aadat – meaning bliss – their five-year-old son and baby daughter Roya – meaning aspirational dreams.

He became a British citizen in 2010 – a photograph of this proud moment in his life hangs on the wall of their home.

Rohullah said: "For the rest of my days I will do all I can to repay the debt I owe the British people for what they have done for me."

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