Fears for Afghan psychiatrist abducted by armed men

·3-min read

One of Afghanistan’s most prominent psychiatrists has been abducted on his way home from work by a group of armed men.

Dr Nader Alemi, 66, who opened the country’s first private psychiatric hospital in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, was stopped by seven men in a white car last week, said his family.

Alemi, whose hospital was featured in the Guardian in 2016, has treated thousands of Afghans, including Taliban fighters, since it opened in 2004. He is believed to be the only Pashto speaking psychiatrist in the north. It’s the language most commonly spoken by the Taliban in the region.

His family said Alemi had received several threatening calls and messages in the months before he was abducted. One chilling message, sent on 21 June and seen by the Guardian, said: “You will be killed soon.”

Alemi is a prominent figure in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan’s fourth-largest city. As well as opening the hospital, he has also built a secondary school in the city, equipped with a library and laboratory.

His daughter, Manizheh Abreen, said her father was being driven home last Monday when the men stopped the vehicle and ordered the driver, Basir, out of the car. They told Alemi to get out of the car and go with them to answer questions at a local police station. “They forcefully pushed him into their car and fled away. They stopped him where there were no CCTV cameras installed and they knew it already,” said Abreen.

The family said they do not know who was responsible for the kidnapping and have not received a ransom note.

Alemi’s son, Dr Fardeen Alemi, said: “Our main concern is that my father is suffering from diabetes and he needs to take regular insulin. We are extremely devastated about this situation. My father has only done sincere service towards the community and he is a brilliant psychiatrist and helped people in need.

“He has always held this idea that I have to serve the people and that’s why he never left his country,” he said.

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The family said there is no active, formal government presence in Mazar-i-Sharif, and fear Alemi’s abduction will not be properly investigated.

Dr Khan Murad Muradi, one of the doctors in Alemi’s neuro-psychiatric hospital, said: “We are all shocked and saddened by this horrible incident. He was a kind-hearted man and I don’t think any doctor could treat patients in a situation like this. No one feels safe here in Mazar-i-Sharif.”

Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director for Human Rights Watch called on Afghan authorities to investigate the whereabouts of Alemi.

“If he has been abducted then those responsible should be held accountable. The Taliban claim to be able to bring security, so they should properly investigate what happened and bring those responsible to justice, while also protecting the rights of those accused of any wrongdoing.”

On Saturday, the Taliban killed four alleged kidnappers in Herat, hanging their bodies in public as a deterrent to others.

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