How the inmates responded to the strict prison conditions and how they behaved among themselves is a fruitful field for study. Here, though, I can examine only its barest essentials. As noted, during the first phase of detention, prisoners were kept under strictly supervised conditions with the possibility at any moment of physical injury and torture; in addition, inmates depended on the authorities for the necessities of life. Yet among inmates the tendency to defiance was strong. Some despaired and submitted, but the majority stood up for themselves, demonstrating their honor by defying a tyrannical agency that they considered an instrument of an untenable puppet regime. Likewise, the solidarity among inmates of the opposition groups (excluding the Parchamis and Khalqis) was also remarkable despite the differences that existed among the organizations to which they belonged. What hurt the inmates most was the degree of isolation. The greater the isolation and the longer the duration, the stronger the pangs of inner pain. Here, too, inmates battled despair by clinging to hope and the feeling of righteousness in their cause. Inmates felt strong in the company of others, even if they belonged to hostile groups. Even the voices of KhAD’s staff was a source of strength. Their distant voices linked the inmates with a humanity at large with whom they felt unity.
Under the changed conditions of Pul-e-Charkhi, however, the inmates behaved differently. In the overcrowded warrens of that prison, discord and divisiveness gradually took the place of the original solidarity. The inmates quarreled over space and food, since the latter was given to representatives of groups who distributed it among themselves alone. In the matter of food, the educated inmates were generally more conscious about their own health and less concerned about others, while the majority were concerned for others, sharing their meager rations in a spirit of hospitality and community. One wonders whether the opposition to the invasion would have been as strong as it was if the more educated and self-centered Afghans had predominated. A factor of considerable significance in creating the atmosphere of divisiveness was the crystallization of group behavior, particularly ideological behavior. The stricter the party, the more rigid its followers. Inmates with no attachment to a party were more open in their behavior toward others. But KhAD played a big role in creating an atmosphere of suspicion.
To forestall disturbances and to collect intelligence, KhAD directed a network of spies. For this purpose it also planted police officers in the guise of prisoners. The appointed heads (bashis), with their many covert and overt assistants and collaborators, worked for the same purpose. In return for concessions in food and scores of other favors, they not only collected intelligence but also played a role in defaming and intimidating others as well as distributing varieties of homemade narcotics and committing homosexual acts. Teenaged inmates were the special target of homosexual acts, perpetrated not only by them but also by others, including some educated inmates. The strict conditions of prison life as well as these other factors adversely affected all groups of inmates. Not a single group of inmates remained as solid as before, but split into rival or hostile subgroups. Scuffles and quarrels among them became common. More common was the recitation of the Quran, when leaders of prayers ended with a plea to God: “So make us victorious over the infidels.”